Election Guide 2013: Joseph Andrew
Occupation: retired substitute teacher, Raindrop Water distribution manager, EZ Storage daily operations manager
Hometown: Steamboat Springs
Years in Steamboat: fifth-generation resident
Family: two brothers and a sister, along with their families, live in Steamboat
Civic involvement: Elk Mountain Lodge 118 A.F. & A.M. est. 1904, chair of Local Scholarship Committee, Young Professionals Network
Q. Voters here will decide in November whether to approve new statewide tax increases to provide more funding for public education (Amendment 66). Do you support this ballot initiative? Explain why.
A. Amendment 66, if passed, will mean so many different things to a wide range of people across the state. In Steamboat, it will mean an increase of about $1.5 million per school year depending on taxes collected in the fiscal year. According to the Colorado Association of School Boards, Steamboat is one of approximately 35 district in the state of Colorado where more money will leave the district than will be returned to it for the State Board of Education. Rather, I would like to see the state use Amendment 23 and part of the $1.1 billion it already has set aside for 2012-13 and an estimated $290 million in 2013-14 to fund Senate Bill 12-213 until an amendment with stronger protection for the funds generated and less of an impact on working families can be written.
Q. The Steamboat Springs School District spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the half-cent sales tax for education on teachers needed to maintain its smaller class sizes. Is this the best use of the money? If you don’t think so, what do you think should be the funding priorities from this tax for education?
A. My experiences as a substitute teacher have clearly demonstrated to me the true impact and benefits of the smaller class sizes we enjoy in our district. The hands-on experiences and the possibility for increased one-on-one instruction/interaction between students and staff are, in my opinion, one of the major reasons our schools are constantly accredited with distinction by the Colorado Department of Education. Aside from the half-cent sales tax being used to maintain smaller class sizes, I would like to see an increased portion of this tax being used to fund vocational training/preparedness programs ranging from CAD drawing, A+ certification and programming to business management and welding providing an additional way for our students to transfer their academic studies to real world situations.
Q. Students in the district consistently score above state averages on standardized tests, and the district has been ranked among the top 10 percent in the state academically. In what ways do you think the School Board can help to foster even more academic growth? Where would you like to see improvement?
A. With any great achievement, the question always arises “where do we go from here?” This same question has been asked by the current board and must continue to be asked by parents and the school boards to follow. In my opinion, we have several options to answer this question. First of all, the district can work to raise its national rankings. Second, we can focus more of our attention on helping our students reach proficiencies sooner in their education, opening up their later studies for the pursuit of collage credits/vocational studies. Third, and most important, we can continue our current path with an increased focus on any number of things, including but not limited to community, globalization, self-advocacy, real world preparedness, language and citizenship.
Q. In what specific ways do you see yourself impacting your school district as a School Board member?
A. The Coffee and Chalk Talks I have hosted over this campaign season have reaffirmed my belief that as a district we have some of the most passionate educators, parents and students of any district in the state of Colorado. From the teacher who uses her own money to buy more books for her students to read to the parents who cut fire wood for the schools’ boilers in North Routt and the parents who are currently trying to turn the dream of a field house at Steamboat Springs Middle School into a reality. The greatest impact I can bring to the board is to help all of these varying voices be heard, and to truly dedicate my time on the board to supporting the passion within our district.
Q. The school district wants to oversee its own special education program and end a long relationship with the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services that manages this program for several rural districts. District officials say the move will create more efficiencies and result in cost savings. BOCES worries it would hurt other districts. Do you agree with the district’s move, and why?
A. I will not approve of the district severing its ties with BOCES until the district has a clear plan of implementation with stated goals, measuring effects on students, opinions of students, parents and district employees prior to leaving BOCES. Then will I support the board’s withdrawal. During the Aug. 26 School Board meeting, the BOCES finance director was unable to provide the board with the actual cost of the programs and services utilized in Steamboat. This combined with the 2009 BOCES bailout of $317,000, under a former director’s leadership, and a surprise $70,000 bill later reduced to $50,000 for preschool last year, has left me wondering if the School Board could do better at handling these funds and increase services to our students. By separating from BOCES, Steamboat can hire its own director of special education as well as supporting staff, increasing direct contact time with students.
Q. The school district has endured an athletic funding crisis in recent years as it costs more to shuttle students to sports. To mend it, the district will implement higher fees and cut back on some programs. What should the future of athletic funding in the district look like?
A. With our geographical proximity to our competitors, our athletes spend several hours traveling just to get to their events. The cost of this to the district is high but worth it as education takes place both in and out of the classroom. The issue here is how much is too much to ask in fees and what can fairly be requested from already cash-strapped families in the district. Athletics not only encourage our students to keep up their grades but encourage teamwork, sportsmanship and physical activity. Personally, I would like to see the district take on more and more of the athletic budget funding thus decreasing student fees and over time reinstating the lost programs.
Q. How can the School Board foster more parent involvement in the school district?
A. I believe the School Board could foster more parent involvement by utilizing varying forms of media to inform parents about the School Board’s upcoming agenda, meetings and workshops. The Routt County Board of Commissioners publish its upcoming agenda in the local newspaper to inform the public at large about issues, which will come before it in the proceeding days. The School Board should publish its agenda in the local newspaper as well as create a Facebook page listing the School Board members’ contact emails, meeting and workshop dates with corresponding agendas and links to the district Web page. Bringing all this information together in socially accepted and widely used forms of media to engage the community at large with the school district outside of the district’s Web page, in essence expanding the board’s community outreach program.
Open-ended statement: When I first decided to run for the Steamboat Springs School Board, I knew that I needed to do so on my own terms and pursue what I felt was not only for the good of the board but the community of Steamboat Springs. My terms are simple: work hard, listen to others, be myself, attend every board meeting prior to the election, study as much as I can and value transparency and fairness in my campaign.
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Editor’s note: The story was updated at 8:33 p.m.