Q. & A. with Michelle Dover, Steamboat Springs School Board at-large candidate
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs School Board, at-large
Occupation: Circulation services manager, Bud Werner Memorial Library
Hometown: Steamboat Springs; I grew up in Denver
Years in Steamboat: 22 years
Family: My immediate family includes myself and my 7-year-old son, but my four grown children and their friends are frequent visitors.
Civic involvement: Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer coach, elementary school classroom volunteer, fundraising and donating for charity on a local and global level.
Q. Do you support the proposed $92 million bond measure? Why or why not?
A. I am aware of the issues on both sides of the Steamboat Springs School District’s $92 million bond measure. I believe in adequate facilities for our children. I am ready to support whatever decision the community decides upon as a member of the Steamboat Springs School Board. I strongly encourage citizens to educate themselves with credible information by looking at both websites that represent different perspectives on the bond measure. Read, think critically and vote with informed confidence.
Q. What direction do you believe the district should take if the bond measure fails?
A. A community conversation would be necessary if the bond fails. As a board member, I would advocate for implementing targeted public engagement conversations to get at the core of how the community would like the board to proceed. As much as we will want to move quickly because of space needs, I’ve learned from participating in the expansion of the Bud Werner Library that it’s better to start slowly and have voices heard in order to achieve a fiscally responsible plan.
Q. How would you describe any involvement you’ve had with the local school district or any background or experience you have with education?
A. I graduated from Manual High School in downtown Denver. I have an undergraduate and graduate degree from Colorado State University in English with an educational focus, as well as a K-12 teaching certificate. My four grown children all attended Steamboat Springs schools and my second grader currently attends Soda Creek Elementary. I calculate that I have had children in the Steamboat Springs School District for 19 of the 22 years I’ve lived in the valley. My degree as an educator led me to teach composition at Colorado Mountain College off and on for more than a decade.
Q. What do you believe the role of a school board member should be in relationship to administration and staff? To parents and students?
A. A school board member is a trusted elected official. Parents, students, administrators, staff and the community need to trust that their democratically elected school board is going to listen and represent the values of their community. School board members are responsible to their constituents to act in a bipartisan manner without political agendas or commercial incentives. Being a member of a school board is part of a trusted American tradition.
Q. Why are you uniquely qualified to serve on the school board?
A. I am well prepared to listen and advocate for our families, teachers, schools and community while remaining fiscally responsible. My diverse experience allows me to view issues from multiple perspectives. I am an educator, a manager, a parent and was an active participant in the expansion of the Bud Werner Memorial Library. I may be Steamboat’s biggest fan when it comes to my tax dollars supporting public libraries, public outdoor space and public education.
Q. Do you think the new state law requiring school districts to hold collaborative bargaining meetings in public has had a positive or negative impact on the negotiation process? Why?
A. I support transparency and good-faith negotiations with our local education association to produce an employment contract acceptable to all stakeholders. I am unaware of changes locally either positive or negative. The teachers I’ve spoken with reported that the meetings were poorly attended, but a step in the right direction.
Q. What do you think is the most important issue facing the Steamboat Springs School District in the coming years?
A. Everything seems to be revolved around infrastructure at this point in time. Maintaining adequate school facilities for learning outcomes to be reached will be a top priority. We must ensure that students can continue to distinguish themselves within the state and continue to gauge the district against national achievement levels. Whatever the outcome of the bond issue, the board will have to focus diligently on the infrastructure issues facing the district.
Q. In what academic or programmatic area do you think the school district should focus more resources?
A. The school board’s commitment to our children acquiring 21st century skills is evident in the recent hiring of a robotics teacher. We will need to continue to make choices based on the world our students will enter upon graduation. That being said only some will become mechanical engineers, but everyone needs critical-thinking skills for participation in our communities as well as our global society. We must retain great teachers who not only have a firm grasp of content but are also adept at educating the whole child.
Q. What would be your top three priorities as a newly elected board member?
A. As your school board representative I will focus on students and student achievement, keeping public education local and not controlled by outside interests, ensuring resources are dedicated to students and classrooms, protecting the integrity of our curriculum, providing equal opportunity for all students and attracting and retaining excellent teachers.
Q. How do you think schools should measure student achievement?
A. Our children are much more dynamic than language arts and math scores that standardized tests reveal. Currently, we have state mandated tests for third grades 3-10. The most relevant testing information with the most reliable data for a student and the teacher is the internal assessment system. It’s outstanding to have the validation of the state for our district, but teachers assessing students and adjusting teaching strategies while creating personally learning goals will best meet individual student’s needs.
One thing most agree upon on is that we want an educated populace capable of thinking critically, writing clearly and exhibiting scientific and mathematical know-how. The Steamboat Springs Strategic Plan reminds us that we also want to prepare our young people to be “caring, responsible, ecologically conscious, self-reliant citizens who thrive in a dynamic global environment.” I also believe we must nurture mindfulness in our young people. No matter what scores, grades, successes or struggles any student experiences, empowering them with strategies to handle the stressors and demands of the 21st century will smooth the way for them to pursue success and happiness.
This is something to remind ourselves as we come together as a community and engage in solving the infrastructure needs of our district. This is a solvable issue and an opportunity to model community cooperation for our children. Let’s be the example for our young people and offer them opportunities to excel.
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