Q&A with Joseph ‘Joey’ Andrew, candidate for 4-year term on Steamboat Springs Board of Education
Brief bio: Joey Andrew is a fifth-generation resident of Steamboat Springs. He received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Denver in international studies and history after having lived, worked and studied in Vienna, Austria, and Tirana, Albania. Though travel is in his blood, the Yampa Valley curse beckoned him to return home where he is currently employed in the hospitality industry. As a former substitute teacher in Steamboat Springs School District and at North Routt Community Charter School, Andrew enjoyed teaching his favorite subjects: world and American history, economics, geography and international studies. Andrew strongly believes in teaching students self-advocacy and the need to educate local youth to not only be successful in secondary education but also adulthood and everything that entails. He is seeking a third-term on the school board.
Q. Why are you running for school board?
A. Having spent the last years six years serving on the Steamboat Springs School District Board of Education, I choose to run for office again as I feel I have more to contribute to our schools. I will be able to bring a historical perspective to the current challenges that this district is facing as well as aid in the development of ongoing and future projects.
Q. Please describe any involvement you’ve had with the local school district or any background or experience you have with education?
A. My first involvement in local education was as a K-12 student in the Steamboat Springs School District. After college, I returned to Steamboat and worked as a substitute teacher. In 2013, I was elected as a director for the Steamboat Springs Board of Education. At that time, I joined the Education Fund Board as the school board’s representative for the next two years. During that time, I was also involved in the creation of the 2014 District Facilities Master Plan as well as the board’s representative for the district’s first strategic plan. In 2015, I was elected to a four-year term to serve as an at-large director and became the vice president of the board of education. From there, I was on the campaign committees to fund all-day kindergarten, the 2017 facilities mill levy and 2015 broadband initiative. For the past two years, I have served as school board president and board representative to the alternative schools in the district.
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. School board members are voluntary representatives of the community to the school district. With so many stakeholders, our primary focus should always be student centered and driven. It isn’t a board member’s role to teach classes or engage in daily district operations. It is our responsibility to ensure a strong working relationship between the school district and community, that needs are met, goals surpassed and to plan for the future. Additionally, board of education directors should also advocate and work with the state legislators for the district’s needs on a state level should issues arise, which can only be resolved by the state.
Q. How do you think schools should measure student achievement?
A. Students should take tests that will impact and direct their own education. With test results being available next day, not next school year like the current state assessments, this will allow teachers to measure growth and address gaps in learning. In the past the school district has used MAPs and a few other tests, depending on grade level, to accomplish this. In an ideal setting these same testing systems would also be used nationally in all school districts. This would limit the amount of tests students take, speed up results, allow for program intervention and give the state and federal government a system of checks and balances.
Q. School districts continually have to grapple with budget and funding shortfalls. Are there areas where you think the district can trim its budget?
A. The 2019-20 general budget for the Steamboat Springs School District is $30,360,000 of which $24,910,000 will go toward payroll expenses. Meaning that payroll accounts for 82% of the general budget. Included in that number is the state mandate that the district’s portion of PARA continues to rise this year to 20.40%, capping at 22% of staff’s salary. Additionally, our staff must contribute an additional 8% of its own annual salary to their PARA account resulting in less buying power for our staff and the district. With this in mind the district needs to look at the inflation of costs that it can control and continue to make subtle corrections in all areas to trim the budget in fine strokes where it can in order to fund the district, retain highly qualified staff and limit additional fees on parents while growing student achievement. An example of this was when the board ordered an energy audit of all of its facilities and was able to save over $500,000 in utilities by implementing smarting systems and technology.
Q. What are the three greatest challenges facing the Steamboat Springs School District?
A. 1) Since 2008, the Steamboat Springs School District has been shorted an average of $2 million dollars per year in funding from the state of Colorado. This budget shortfall is known as the budget stabilization factor and is a major contributing factor to the reason why the district’s buildings need repair. Continued investment in the district’s facilities will play a key role in providing the best environment for students, staff, and the community. 2) Finding ways to greater utilize the existing resources and budget to provide for staff compensation, health care, pensions, supply budgets, raising utility costs and general upkeep of the district’s resources. 3) Providing facilities that enable educational programing rather than limiting them.
Q. Describe your vision for a new pre-K through eighth-grade school.
A. I believe that the new school must be designed to flex, expand and grow on an as-needed basis and reflect the evolving nature of educational instruction. Recognizing that opportunities for learning take place both inside and outside of the classroom, the building should reflect that and provide an opportunity for the public to utilize its resources when school is not in session. Additionally, it should be a choice school and rather than pulling seventh- and eighth-grade students from the Steamboat Springs Middle School, it must ease the transition and allow the inaugural sixth-grade class to become the first seventh- and eighth-grade class, while providing equal educational opportunities to all students no matter the location of their school.
Q. If the school bond fails, what do you think are the school district’s next steps?
A. Having taught in a classroom that didn’t have direct access to running water and toilet facilities, I understand the impact that our students and staff are facing when teaching in the trailers. I think the school district must act to resolve that issue, even if it means spending money on a temporary fix until the additional issues can be resolved. From there the district must look at how to improve the operations of the buildings and what measures can be put into place that will decrease utility costs and utilize the savings to reinvest in the district.
Q. The district continues to be ranked among the top 10 districts in the state academically. In what ways do you think the school board can foster even more academic achievement? Where would you like to see improvement?
A. The district needs to continue to recognize that while it is rated highly in Colorado we must not rest on our laurels and need to push for higher student achievement in compassion to the rest of the nation. To do this we must continue to focus on continuing to lower the rate of students requiring remedial instruction at in state colleges, raising the average SAT and ACT scores for our high school students. Further, not all students are destined for college, and the district needs to continue to work with the local and state business community to ensure that our students are ready to join the workforce.
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