Division emerges among candidates in Steamboat school board race | SteamboatToday.com
YOUR AD HERE »

Division emerges among candidates in Steamboat school board race

Union donations put spotlight on perceived political motives

Front Range group steps in

An independent expenditure committee formed Oct. 4 out of Thornton has funded a radio advertisement in support of Michelle Dover and Margaret Huron that is playing locally.

Every Student Deserves Opportunity funded the ad, but the group isn’t required to report its revenue and expenditures until January.

ESDO also paid for print advertising running Wednesday in Steamboat Today that includes a photo of Huron and Dover.

Huron, Dover and union president Carol Harris each said they were unfamiliar with the group and weren’t involved in running the advertisements. Huron said the photo could have been taken from her campaign website.

Dover said she was surprised when someone told her about hearing the radio advertisement, and Huron said Monday she had yet to hear it.

“It was a surprise to me, but if it’s positive, then I’m OK with it,” Huron said.

Multiple calls to a phone number listed on the secretary of state website for ESDO were not returned Monday and Tuesday.

— The Steamboat Springs School District employee union’s decision to financially back two school board candidates and not endorse two others has put a spotlight on perceived political motives of the candidates and school board president Roger Good.

The candidates who were not endorsed by the union counter that it’s the union bringing politics into the race.

The Steamboat Springs Education Association used a Colorado Education Association small donor committee to gather Steamboat union member donations and give $1,750 each to the campaigns of Michelle Dover and Margaret Huron, while explicitly not endorsing candidates Lindsay Wert and Anne Lowe. The group also endorsed two-year candidate Sam Rush, who is running unopposed, and has not taken a stance on incumbent Joey Andrew, who is seeking his second term.



Front Range group steps in

An independent expenditure committee formed Oct. 4 out of Thornton has funded a radio advertisement in support of Michelle Dover and Margaret Huron that is playing locally.

Every Student Deserves Opportunity funded the ad, but the group isn’t required to report its revenue and expenditures until January.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.



ESDO also paid for print advertising running Wednesday in Steamboat Today that includes a photo of Huron and Dover.

Huron, Dover and union president Carol Harris each said they were unfamiliar with the group and weren’t involved in running the advertisements. Huron said the photo could have been taken from her campaign website.

Dover said she was surprised when someone told her about hearing the radio advertisement, and Huron said Monday she had yet to hear it.

“It was a surprise to me, but if it’s positive, then I’m OK with it,” Huron said.

Multiple calls to a phone number listed on the secretary of state website for ESDO were not returned Monday and Tuesday.

Local union representatives said that, while the group has made endorsements in the past, it became financially involved for the first time this year due to concerns it had after pro-reform school board members took over board majorities on the Front Range, an example of education reform happening nationwide.

“We’re very concerned for the future of public education,” said SSEA President Carol Harris, who has spoken at school board meetings over the past year about actions taken by Good that union members found concerning.

In January, Good was photographed during a restaurant meeting with school board presidents from Jefferson, Douglas and Thompson counties, all places with boards controlled by a conservative majority and all boards embroiled in controversy.

School reform in Douglas County has included a school voucher program that allowed tax dollars to be used to send students to private schools, while Jefferson County was in the spotlight after the board tried to modify AP history curriculum to promote patriotism and dissuade civil disorder, a move that led to student walkouts last year.

Good said his January meeting was strictly to discuss urban renewal authorities and was no different than casual meetings he has with other board members across the state.

Harris and union representative Deirdre Boyd said other actions taken by Good, including his sudden proposition earlier this year that the local board consider cutting its ties with the Colorado Association of School Boards — something Jefferson County has done — led union members to believe Good is keeping in contact with those district boards. Good said he isn’t.

“First and foremost (the union) shouldn’t be concerned at all,” Good said. “I’m the last one that wants to do anything that would let our district’s academic accomplishments suffer.”

Perceiving Good’s behavior as suspect and because of school reform elsewhere, union representatives sent out an email seeking board members to run in what began as an election with few candidates.

Once candidates emerged, the union invited them all to answer a questionnaire and meet for an interview — only Huron, Dover and Rush answered and participated.

Lowe said Tuesday she felt the private interviews would go against the transparency she wants to provide if elected, while Wert said he felt the union’s subsequent endorsements were a reflection of Front Range pressures.

“I don’t have a problem with them not supporting me as a candidate,” Wert said. “It’s really the teacher’s union outside of Denver.”

When told during an interview that Steamboat union representatives said it was local union members choosing not to endorse Wert, he responded, “Whatever.”

Local union representatives said Dover’s and Huron’s willingness to meet with district teachers, coupled with their support for public education and their interest in keeping controversial reform out of Steamboat led to the endorsements and donations.

Union members each donated $41 on top of regular CEA dues to be used for the small donor committee, Harris said.

Aside from Wert’s and Lowe’s decisions not to meet with teachers, Harris and Boyd said their non-support of the two candidates was also based on group affiliations of Lowe, who is a graduate of the Leadership Program of the Rockies — as are two Jefferson County board members up for recall this November — as well as Wert’s public comments about the possibility of raising student-teacher ratios.

Boyd also brought up posts on Lowe’s Twitter account from 2012 and 2013 that share an article about Douglas County’s school reform efforts and a retweet of a post negatively portraying public educators.

Lowe said the two- and three-year-old tweets only show her interest in learning about a variety of educational concepts and shouldn’t suggest she is interested in privatizing education. She said the union is turning the board race political.

“I’m not out to privatize the school system — we can learn from good things that other individuals or groups are doing. We can learn from them. We can make things better,” Lowe said. “I know that there’s a fear on the teachers union’s part that they’re going to lose control, and they’re spreading fear and concern where it’s not just. They claim to not want to politicize this, and that’s what they’re doing.”

Still, union representatives worry about a possible alignment of Wert and Lowe with Good.

Lowe said she discussed her candidacy with Good before deciding to run, but his encouragement wasn’t the only or deciding factor.

“I had some discussions with Roger, but I am not controlled by Roger,” said Lowe, who alternatively thought the union set their candidate interviews with the intent of finding board members they could influence.

“The indication was they wanted me to go with their agenda,” Lowe said.

Good was less upfront about his influence on the candidates’ decisions to run.

“Everywhere I went prior to the election, I would say ‘we need candidates.’ To answer specifically if (Lowe and Wert) were in the room — maybe so,” Good said.

Good said he would rather emphasize how pleased he was that so many candidates ultimately decided to run.

“We’ve had extraordinarily high turnover on the board — the fact that we’ve got a number of people running can be considered nothing but good news.”

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

 

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User