Bethany Aurin: Fallout shameful
I am writing to express my extreme distaste regarding the current state of affairs with our School Board. I am a 33-year resident of this school district, a 1977 Steamboat Springs High School graduate, the proud parent of an Strawberry Park Elementary School third-grader and Steamboat Springs Middle School sixth-grader, and a six year employee of the district as a school bus driver.
My familiarity with the schools, beginning with George Sauer and continuing to our present administrators, is lengthy and yet until recently has never been a source of embarrassed frustration or disdain.
Three years ago, I began to allow my then-kindergarten and third-grade daughters to accompany me to School Board meetings. The atmosphere with Paula Stephenson as president was so demoralizing toward parent/staff/community speakers that I had to routinely field questions from my daughters about manners, empowerment and courtesy; sadly, all asked with a negative slant. We attended one meeting with the sole purpose of allowing my eldest to speak in support of the third- through fifth-grade Spanish funding. Unfortunately, she witnessed such rude and degrading treatment of a community member speaker just prior to us that she tearfully stated she could not address the board. Thankfully, the community has elected a more speaker-friendly board and my children’s attitudes have adjusted much more favorably towards meeting attendance.
This being said, there are other variables that must blend well in order for a School Board to run both smoothly and effectively. Although the meeting atmosphere has been much more cordial and inviting of community/staff input, the fallout from internal dissention magnified almost beyond belief by skewed press coverage is an embarrassment for us all. Although this is not the forum, I need to at least mention the extremely poor use of three pages in our newspaper to humiliate and degrade a School Board member for personal comments made two years in the past is incredulous to me.
The accomplishments of Dr. D as a valued member of our community are only exceeded by his tireless and passionate dedication to the SPES students throughout his tenure as principal on that campus. Why were three pages not spent on the boundless efforts he invested toward developing Strawberry Park into the school of excellence it is today or the outstanding success of the Virtues Program or the exemplary scores on the CSAPs or the tremendous respect and admiration held by his staff during his employment? Those in glass houses should not throw stones. We are modeling Harper Valley, not the Yampa Valley with this unprofessional and juvenile behavior.
We are so blessed to live in a community where the virtuous attributes instilled to elementary students under Dr. D’s watch are pervasive in all community members, with the apparent exception of the aforementioned parties. Millions of dollars have been generously granted by our community to improve the physical facilities for our cherished students, yet a single three-year-old personal opinion of one individual seems to be overshadowing the largest capital expenditure we will see for the district in decades to come. Is this the legacy we wish to leave?
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Work to form a new strategic plan for the Steamboat Springs School District will start next week with the first sessions of a listening tour aimed at getting broad community feedback.