Our View: Vote ‘yes’ on Referendum 3A | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Vote ‘yes’ on Referendum 3A

When it comes to choosing new School Board members, what’s most important to the Steamboat Springs School District? Is it ensuring each of the geographic regions of the district are represented? Or is it attracting the most qualified candidates no matter where in the district they live?

That’s the question being posed to voters in the Nov. 5 election by Referendum 3A.

The Steamboat Springs School Board agreed by a 4-1 vote in June to go to voters and ask whether all five seats on the board should be designated at-large beginning with the 2015 election. Passage of 3A would mean there would be no restrictions on where candidates for specific seats must reside within the district. Presently, candidates can run for only the seat assigned to the defined area in which they live.

For example, current School Board President Brian Kelly lives in and represents North Routt. His district within the larger school district runs from the northern city limit of Steamboat Springs to the Wyoming state line. Yet, Kelly told Steamboat Today in March that it doesn’t feel like his job is to specifically look out for the particular interests of the residents of his district.

We supported the School Board’s decision in June, and we support passage of Referendum 3A.

For too many election cycles, we’ve seen too many uncontested School Board races, where the track records of incumbents and even the positions taken by new candidates are unchallenged. In the best American political races, opponents don’t attack one another, but they do put up a challenge by offering varying philosophies and practical solutions.

The past School Board election cycle in 2011 involved one contested race and two uncontested races.

Incumbent Robin Crossan and newcomer Wayne Lemley ran unopposed in 2011. Fortunately, there were two well-qualified contestants in the third race in which former Steamboat Springs High School teacher Rebecca Williams prevailed against Colorado Mountain College adjunct professor Sandra Sharp.

That isn’t to say Crossan and Lemley weren’t qualified for School Board. What was missing in those races was a thought-provoking debate between opponents that would have provided voters with a choice.

We acknowledge the democratic intent underlying the current system of assuring representation for people living in geographic areas within a larger political boundary. And on the local level, we still consider that system to be vital to the selection of county commissioners, for example.

However, in the Steamboat Springs School District, we think geographic differences on how best to offer a high-quality education to our children are less pronounced.

Instead, we think the more urgent need is to tweak our system in order to ensure we attract strong candidates every two years to engage in a lively discussion on the path our schools are following.

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