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Meet the Candidates

Del Norte School Board Election 2021

Election season is almost here!

The Del Norte Rotary Club and the Del Norte Chamber of Commerce presents the 2021 Meet the Candidates for the Upper Rio Grande School District School Board.

Please take a few minutes to get to know the following candidates before you place your vote at the November 2nd election: Nellianna Edelen, Bridget Kreutzer, Fedele "Phil" Paccione, Jr., Thomas Tichy, Leroy Trujillo, and Donna Velasquez. Thank you for your participation. Best of luck to each of the candidates!

Election Day

2021 Candidates

Del Norte School Board Election

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Nellianna Edelen

My name is Nellianna Edelen most of you know me as Nellie.  I moved to the valley in 2006 when I graduated pharmacy school and married my husband Brent who most of you know as Shaggy.  I have worked at City Market, San Luis Valley Heath, and currently Rio Grande Hospital as a pharmacist.  We moved to Del Norte in 2015 and love the community.  We currently have 3 children in the Upper Rio Grande School District. 

I have been involved with the school since 2016.  I joined the PTO (parent teacher organization) to be more informed on what was going on in the school, meet the teachers and be involved.   I worked with teachers and staff to start the science fair club to get the children back into science fair.  It is an after-school club that helps the children decided on their project, help them understand the steps, and present at the valley science fair.  We had two girls go on to the state science fair.  This year I helped coach middle school volleyball. 

I would like people to know that I always have put our kids interests first.  Open communication between our community, the school board and the school is very important.  I will work on facilitating communication between the Upper Rio Grande School District, communities, and parents. 


Bridget Kreutzer

I am a fourth generation Colorado native, born and raised in the San Luis Valley. After graduating from college (B.S. Mathematics) and working in the Denver area, I returned to Del Norte in 2011 with my husband, Will, to join the family business with Pam and John Bricker. My husband and I work and live in Del Norte with our two boys who are proud to call themselves

Del Norte Tigers.

I have served on the Upper Rio Grande School District Board of Education since 2017 and am looking forward to continuing to serve. I have learned so much over the past four years and believe URGSD is on the right track, moving in the right direction. I would really like to continue the work I started, especially now that I have a full term of experience. Now that URGSD has a new facility, we can really focus on other areas of need to ensure that we are providing the best educational experience for our students.

In addition to helping with the family business, Three Barrel Brewing Company, I currently work as the Director of Technology for Colorado Digital Learning Solutions (formerly Colorado Online Learning) and have since its inception in 2002. Colorado Digital Learning Solutions (CDLS) is the state-funded online learning program that works cooperatively with district/schools and students across the state to provide supplemental online course options. I work with over 80 districts throughout the state which gives me unique knowledge and understanding of the issues that small, rural districts face.

As a parent of children who both began their education at Headstart and are now at the Elementary and Middle School in Del Norte, I am deeply involved and invested in the future of families and students in Del Norte, South Fork, and other surrounding communities.

After being away from the San Luis Valley and then returning (almost 10 years ago now!), I have a deep appreciation for rural communities and the quality of life here in Del Norte and the rest of the Valley. I feel privileged to being raising my family here and am excited about the growth and direction of our community.

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Fedele "Phil" Paccione, Jr.

Hello, My name is Fedele Paccione Jr but most people call me 'Phil' , My wife and I moved to Del Norte over 5 years ago when I first retired. After we moved here I spent a couple of years building my house, then after my house was complete I decided to come out of retirement and start a new business that I love because it enables me to meet great new people every day, and I get to talk with them about community issues.

I am running for Upper Rio Grande School District Board of Education to ensure that our school stays on track to deliver future generations a quality education that is needed to be successful in life. I feel that the thirteen years I spent teaching for a well known vocational school, where I earned the National Association of State Administrators and Supervisors of Private Schools Award for higher education, has given me a uniqe perspective on the skills students need to develop in order to enable them to succeed

after high school, and how to provide them with the tools to acquire those skills.

If elected to the school board of education I would like to use community input to help guide decisions to ensure that our students have every possible opportunity to excel in academics, athletics, and life after grade school.


Thomas Tichy

Tom Tichy has spent his life in Colorado, growing up in the Denver area and moving to San Luis Valley Colorado in 1998, returning to Colorado after a 2 year stint teaching high school in rural North Carolina as a member of Teach for America. Tom has a BA in Political Science and a BS in Biology from Fort Lewis College, a teaching degree from Eastern North Carolina State and Masters degrees from Adams State University in English Language Acquisition/ Educational Leadership.  Recently retired in 2020, Tom currently volunteers on the Del Norte Planning and Zoning commission. In  his professional career, Tom dedicated himself to working with young people through first becoming the director of a local non-profit youth organization and then as a middle school science teacher, president of the MV Educators Association, district wide instructional coach and finally middle school principal in the local Monte Vista School District.


Tom has extensive experience in working with Valley students and families from many cultural, economic, academic and ability backgrounds. He believes that although always a challenge, that there are no excuses when it comes to expecting student academic growth and success, for a quality education is the best leg up for youth to achieve positive lifelong outcomes. Tom is proud that he showed what students with opportunity gaps can achieve when the MV middle school earned a “Performance” rating from the state of Colorado in his first year as principal after multiple years of it being rated in the “priority improvement” category. He is acutely aware of how difficult continued success is in that although growth rates fluctuated from year to year, his schools upward trajectory culminated in it earning the  “School of Excellence” distinction from Colorado Department of Education.  “I have always felt that all students have the right to obtain an excellent education that fits their needs.


In order to realize this, nothing is more important than recruiting, training, supporting and empowering quality teachers as lifelong learners”. Although 2020 presented schools nationwide with unique challenges in meeting the needs of their students, Tom understands how a collaborative data based problem solving and decision making approach that includes all stakeholders (students, parents, teachers and community) will be needed to fill in the gaps in learning created by necessary responses to the pandemic.  As a future school board member, Tom hopes to bring his pragmatic competence and data based decision making outlook to the district in creating workable solutions to the challenges in ensuring that our community's children graduate ready to compete in the global economy.

Image by Element5 Digital

Leroy Trujillo

Please click below for Mr. Trujillo's interview.

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Donna Velasquez

My name is Donna L. Velasquez and I was born and raised here in Del Norte. I married my high school sweetheart, John (Pato) Velasquez. We have two amazing kids, Tessa and Johnathan and two grandchildren, Brennan and Kaitlyn. I am very proud to say that next year in 2022, my Velasquez family will have completed five generations of graduates from the Upper rIo Grande School District. I have school board experience, as I served on the board from 2015 - 2019.

Nellianna Edele
Bridget Kreutzer
Fedele "Phil" Paccione Jr.
Thomas Tichy
Leroy Trujillo
Donna Velasquez
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