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Steamboat school board holds heated, divisive discussion on board leadership

Teresa Ristow
School Board President Margie Huron is sworn into office in November 2015.
Courtesy photo

SSEA speaks out

The Steamboat Springs Education Association, the district’s employee union, drafted a letter to the editor of the Steamboat Today last week supporting Huron and expressing their concerns for Good, Andrew and Rush’s attempts to remove her as president. Read the letter here.

— Steamboat Springs Board of Education President Margie Huron banged her gavel and raised her voice during a meeting Nov. 7, when three of her fellow board members tried to usurp her as leader of the board.

“You are out of order,” Huron yelled at board director Joey Andrew after he made an unexpected motion to re-elect all the board’s officers, including president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer.

The board was holding what could have been a quick discussion to select a new board vice president after board member Sam Rush asked to be relieved of the position, citing personal issues.

Board member Michelle Dover first attempted to nominate Andrew, then herself, for the position, but both nominations were voted down, with Huron and Dover in favor and Andrew, Rush and Roger Good opposed.

Seeing an impasse, Huron attempted to table the topic when Rush questioned whether it might be a good time to re-elect all officers.

Andrew moved for the re-election, and Good seconded, but Huron ended the conversation before a vote was called, accusing the other members of “gamesmanship” in an attempt to have her removed as president.

Huron cited a Colorado Association of School Boards opinion and said she was elected to her position for a term of two years, leaving no precedent and no reason to re-elect all officers.

The hostile discussion during a meeting with staff and members of the public present is the latest display of poor collaboration from the board, which has struggled to work together since Huron, Dover and Rush joined Good and Andrew on the board in November 2015.

Rush said Thursday her actions during the meeting, which she participated in via telephone, were driven by concerns about Huron’s leadership style.

“I want a collaborative, cohesive board,” said Rush, who has found herself as the tie-breaking vote on many issues, with Good and Andrew on one side and Huron and Dover on another.

In the past year, Andrew and have Good voted against Huron’s election as president, were opposed to employee raises and voted against the budget and putting the kindergarten mill levy on the ballot. Huron and Dover were in favor of all.

SSEA speaks out

The Steamboat Springs Education Association, the district’s employee union, drafted a letter to the editor of the Steamboat Today last week supporting Huron and expressing their concerns for Good, Andrew and Rush’s attempts to remove her as president. Read the letter here.

Rush voted in favor of each item, but typically expressed views on both sides.

While she said she sometimes encounters differing opinions from other members, she added she’s been able to work collaboratively on projects, such as creating a new superintendent’s evaluation rubric, something Rush and Andrew worked on.

“You find commonality, and you create that working relationship,” Rush said.

Rush said Huron’s inability to work well with Good and Andrew in a non-assuming, non-judgmental way led her to questions about Huron’s continued presidency.

“I wanted to open up a discussion about all the officers. I wanted a rich discussion,” Rush said.

While Rush and Huron often fall on the same side of issues at meetings, tensions have often arisen between Huron and Andrew and Good when the veteran board members surprise Huron with actions or discussion topics.

The duo first advocated re-electing all the officers in November 2015, after discovering Dover was still on the district’s substitute teacher list and, therefore, shouldn’t have voted during the first election, a revelation that sparked an unexpected discussion and led to the board abruptly ending the meeting.

In another instance, Good invited a panel of experts to a meeting to discuss medical marijuana without informing Huron of his plans.

Huron said late last week she was feeling befuddled with how the Nov. 7 meeting went and didn’t understand what specific concerns the other board members had with her continued leadership.

“I don’t know what their complaints are,” Huron said. “It all seems so nebulous to me. I don’t know what it is they’re protesting.”

Andrew specifically pointed to Huron’s tweaking of a public comment policy without board input as an example of unilateral leadership.

Huron added a component to public comment that asks commenters to fill out a yellow or blue slip of paper at meetings, depending on when they’re interested in talking. The slips ask whether the person would like to be contacted by the board for a response in the future.

Huron said she was following the suggestion of Superintendent Brad Meeks when she introduced the slips, primarily so she could follow up with commenters, something that doesn’t always happen during meetings. The policy has been discussed by the full board several times in the past few months.

Another specific concern about Huron was that she doesn’t always allow other board members to discuss a topic before discussing how she feels, Andrew said.

Andrew said Sunday he didn’t think Huron had the experience to be president and believes it’s well within the board’s rights to re-elect all the officers if that’s what a board majority wants to do.

Huron said Thursday she planned to reach out to each board member individually to discuss what happened Nov. 7.

Rush and Andrew said they would support a separate new meeting to discuss the issues of board leadership and officer positions.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


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