Candidate Q&A: Chris Waters |

Candidate Q&A: Chris Waters

Editor’s note: Steamboat Pilot & Today has asked each of the local candidates in the 2021 Election on Nov. 2 to participate in a Q&A to better inform voters, asking the same questions related to each specific office. Visit for the latest election news and information.

Chris Waters is running for Steamboat Springs School District Board of Education.

Chris Waters.
Courtesy photo

Why are you running for school board?

I am running for school board because I believe the board needs diversity of thought and ideas, someone who is willing to challenge the superintendent to elevate the district and elevate every student’s performance and academic achievement. This board does not issue proactive and measurable guidance to the superintendent nor challenge the status quo of district performance, which, while better than average, is currently declining and could and should be much greater. During the 2020 academic year, I was very frustrated by the board’s approval of the superintendent’s decision, which effectively limited our kids’ class attendance to only half of the available school days in a full academic year. I want to serve to ensure we make up for these district-incurred academic shortfalls and to raise the district’s performance framework rating to where it belongs — to an elite and sustainable tier of excellence, commensurate with our massive potential.

What improvements would you make to better facilitate communication and the exchange of ideas between parents and the school board?

Foremost, the school board should hold meetings in person, with the option for virtual attendance. We can easily achieve this safely, and the district has plenty of auditorium/gymnasium space and resources for successful audio visual support. This will permit parents and taxpayers to attend in person and dialogue before, during and after the board meeting with their elected officials. And it will permit both parties to get a personal sense of the passion we all share. I would also adjust public comment protocol so that after three minutes each commenter would then receive an alert to conclude within 15 seconds versus the current disrespectful, hard microphone mute procedure. Finally, there should be a formal board requirement to ensure that all taxpayer/public concerns are appropriately acknowledged and addressed, assessed for legitimacy and then sufficiently added to future board agenda. These will maintain parent/taxpayer confidence in elected board accountability.

Where do you stand on introducing critical race theory into our schools?

CRT has absolutely no place in our taxpayer-funded academic classrooms. Any “theory” that dictates to children 1) that the singular defining characteristic in their life is their immutable skin pigmentation and 2) that their immutable skin color confines them to permanently defined groups as either oppressor or victim is by very definition racist and immoral. CRT directly defies American beliefs that all people are created equal, and every American has the right of self-determination — the liberty to be whatever they choose. Our schools should cater to every child as an individual and teach our kids to treat everyone with individual dignity and respect and to assess one another only on character and merit. Our nation’s history, in all of its majesty and ugliness, has long been well-documented in fact and should be taught as fact to students. Moreover, we have legitimate, pressing academic shortcomings to address.

How will you ensure that curriculum and its delivery is fair, balanced, and aligned with Colorado state curriculum guidelines?

Our school board should run periodic district curriculum workshops — annually or as new curricula is proposed by teachers/schools — for review to ensure all curricula meets state guidelines and is ethically and morally aligned with our collective American values enshrined in the constitution. This review would also ensure that all curricula subject matter is appropriate to the academic environment. Our curricula should address the academic subjects of reading, writing and English and foreign language arts; math, the sciences and history; civics and government; music and the arts; and other tangible hard life skills/electives, such as typing, computer science/technology, personal finance, health and fitness, economics, industrial arts and athletics, etc. Subjective cultural issues, such as social justice, DEI and politics, belong to parents and have no place in the taxpayer-funded public education charter. Our schools should prepare students for post-secondary education and law-abiding workforce citizenry.

Steamboat Schools rank well in the state, where do you see opportunity to improve academic performance?

Our district should have measurable and attainable goals for specific grade levels and academic areas (math, science, English language arts), and we should assess and tailor specific individualized interventions of tutorship and additional instruction for select students, based on known underperforming need and shortfalls as a result of AY2020. While our district is Accredited with Distinction — the highest ratings bracket — the overall district performance framework rating dropped in 2019 from 2018 from 82 to 78, with all subratings below the 80th percentile in the Academic Growth arena. And measurable scores have continued to drop since the pandemic, particularly in math. Certain grade levels currently have nearly 50% of students not meeting grade-level expectations in math. In both CMAS measurable testing (ELA, math and science) and in academic growth and performance at all three school echelons (elementary, middle school and high school), we can and should improve drastically.

How would you rate the school districts’s response to COVID-19, and what would you have wanted to see done differently?

Grade D: The academic year 2020 decision for students to attend school (in person or virtually) for only half of available days in a full academic year was simply unacceptable. The board did not issue proactive guidance to maximize five days per week classroom learning nor did they challenge the superintendent to develop a better plan. Extraordinary times dictate extraordinary measures, but our school board deferred to unelected health officials and accepted mediocrity in the name of too difficult. Meanwhile, teachers and staff received full compensation and budget-surplus bonuses, while our children received less than half of a normal academic years’ rigor, not to mention additional shortfalls in maturity growth, social development and extracurricular (sports and arts) enrichment that were incurred without recourse. Most recently, the board hasn’t been transparent or intentional with a plan to address 2020 academic shortfalls or the documented decline in performance ratings since 2018.

What is the primary purpose of the board of education, and in your role, do you feel you represent/speak for a particular group (faction, party, constituency, etc.)? If so, who?

The primary purpose of the school board is to hold the district accountable, via the superintendent, for the academic learning, achievement and growth, and the post-graduation preparedness of every single student in the district. As a parent, other parents are certainly critical constituents. But I also endeavor to represent all taxpayers within the district, whether or not they are parents or have children in the school system whom have funded the right to a reasonable expectation that our district is meeting or exceeding our extremely high potential for academic education for our kids. That expectation — my expectation — is that our district performs in the top tier (top 10%) of school districts within the state, based on the fact that we are a tremendously well-funded and well-resourced district with superlative teachers and staff buttressed by engaged, passionate families and an extraordinarily supportive and educated community.

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