Our view: Another call for board unity | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Another call for board unity

At issue:

A year after it was elected, the Steamboat Springs School Board remains deeply divided

Our view:

This division is hampering the board’s ability to do its job, and individual directors need to lay aside their differences and unite in a common goal: bettering our school system

In an editorial published June 1, we expressed our deep concerns about an apparent rift that had developed within the Steamboat Springs School Board. This rift appears to have arisen following the November 2015 election of Margie Huron, Michelle Dover and Sam Rush to the board, and the subsequent election of newcomers Huron and Rush as board president and vice president, respectively.

At issue:

A year after it was elected, the Steamboat Springs School Board remains deeply divided

Our view:

This division is hampering the board’s ability to do its job, and individual directors need to lay aside their differences and unite in a common goal: bettering our school system

In that editorial, we spoke to several manifestations of this division most notably, the board’s May-June impasse that temporarily stalled approval of a teacher compensation package, a plan developed and negotiated by the district’s collaborative bargaining team through the course of almost a year. In light of that impasse, as well as others, we called upon board members to move their differences to the back burner and unite in tackling the job they were elected to do — ensure our children have the best educational opportunities available.

That was six months ago, and we wish we could report that board members had found a way to bridge their differences and move forward with the business of guiding our schools. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened; to the contrary, the division appears to have widened and deepened.

Evidence of this became all too apparent during a Nov. 7 board meeting, when what should have been a simple election to select a new board vice president after Rush asked to be relieved of the position devolved into yet another petty squabble about board leadership. After two attempts to elect a new vice president were voted down by Andrew, Good and Rush, Andrew moved to re-elect the entire slate of officers — a suggestion that was gaveled down by board president Huron.

It should be to the board’s shame that a video of the meeting chronicles the exchange in all its awkward glory.

We’re not sure precisely where the rift — which, without fail, pits Good and Andrew against Huron and Dover, with Rush generally the deciding vote — originates, because motives have not been vocalized. It’s our guess the division can be traced back to the November 2015 election, which was characterized by a struggle between conservative and progressive ideologies about which direction the district should take.

Or maybe the board members simply don’t like each other.

We don’t know for sure, and honestly, we don’t care. Measured alongside the enormous responsibility these individuals accepted when they ran for and were elected to the board — the responsibility of guiding our children’s education — whatever differences they may have come up woefully short.

This is about the kids and doing what’s best for the kids, not the petty squabbles of a group of people who should be old enough to know better.

It’s high time the school board prioritizes its overarching mission — to act in the best interests of the students, a mission that should always take priority, but is now of particular import.

First, the board is deficit spending, a practice that is sometimes necessary and acceptable, but is also, in the longterm, unsustainable. With that in mind, perhaps the board should stop squabbling over minutiae and instead direct its energy toward figuring out the district’s budget challenges.

Second, it is likely the district will need to approach voters next year with a bond issue to address building and maintenance needs, and a clearly dysfunctional board is hardly the best rallying point from which to ask voters for millions of dollars.

And finally, such public — and honestly, petty — board disputes present a poor face to the community and to those observing and evaluating the community from outside.

It is somewhat ironic to realize that — despite their own daunting challenges and considerably lesser operating budgets — Routt County’s other two schools boards, Soroco and Hayden, seem to buckle down and get things done. Both recently mounted successful mill levy increase campaigns, and we think both districts stand head and shoulders above Steamboat in terms of board leadership.

The Steamboat Springs School Board could take a valuable lesson from this.

So, as in our June 1 editorial, we call upon the school board directly: Stop squabbling and start working together for the betterment of our school district. It’s the very least you owe the constituents who — by electing you in the first place — entrusted you with their most valuable resource: their children.

It’s time you begin earning that trust.

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