Steamboat school board incumbents reelected to serve 4 more years |

Steamboat school board incumbents reelected to serve 4 more years

The Steamboat Springs Board of Education will remain the same after voters reelected Chresta Brinkman and Katy Lee in a contest that — in a way — became a referendum on the board’s leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Incumbents Brinkman and Lee defeated challengers Ken Mauldlin and Chris Waters. Brinkman led all candidates with 4,205 votes followed by Lee with 4,200. Mauldin and Waters received 1,452 and 1,261 votes, respectively.

“I’m honored that the community has put their trust in Chresta Brinkman and me to help guide the district for another four years,” Lee said. “What this election shows is that there is a segment of our community that does not feel represented by our board, and I am committed to ensuring that we have diverse input as we move forward.”

The campaign focused on issues such as how the board responded to sexual assault allegations, requirements to wear masks in schools and the district’s state standardized testing scores, which did dip last spring.

While there were occasional meetings when the board was hounded by public commenters criticizing how they handled the pandemic, board members often said there was a silent majority that supported their decisions. Lee and Brinkman said that majority showed up Tuesday.

“I feel like the collective voice of the Steamboat Springs School District’s constituents really was heard at the ballot, and I am so thankful for their confidence and their support,” Brinkman said.

Mauldin thanked the community for considering his ideas and congratulated Brinkman and Lee in a statement to Steamboat Pilot & Today.

“I will continue adding my ideas to our school board as a community member and look forward to working together to build the best possible educational experience for our students,” Mauldin said.

“I don’t have a lack of confidence in any individual board member as much as I just haven’t been satisfied with the entire board’s collective decisions,” Waters said, congratulating Brinkman and Lee. “This district is not suffering. I just think we can do better, but I’m confident in who was elected and how they’re going to proceed.”

While their campaigns were unable to gain enough support to win a seat on the board, Mauldin’s and Waters’ candidacies are a clear sign that not everyone, and even a sizable minority, of the district feels their voices are not represented on the board.

This dissenting voice is something that Brinkman and Lee said they want to ensure is heard over their four-year terms.

For Brinkman, that starts right away Wednesday when she will be available to have coffee with constituents at Off the Beaten Path bookstore in downtown Steamboat, reviving an effort that was supposed to have started prior to the pandemic.

She also encouraged parents to serve on district accountability committees at the school their children attend.

“That’s a great place for people to be able to bring that information forward,” Brinkman said.

Lee said she’d like to see more people get involved in the strategic planning process.

“There are pieces of that that require more time, but there’s also just listening sessions where it’s more of a one time thing that I think is a great way to make sure that we’re getting everyone’s input,” Lee said.

Looking forward, Brinkman said she believes shifting from a pandemic to an endemic is the biggest issue facing the district, especially when looking beyond academic support to focus on the students socially and emotionally.

Integrated within that transition, Brinkman said she wants to better communicate the work the district has done around culture and climate to students and expand that work to encompass all schools in the district, not just the high school.

While there may not be a solution, Lee said by the end of her new term she also hopes the district continues to improve school climate.

“I hope that we make significant strides in climate and culture and that the strategic plan gives us a good direction as a community as a whole,” Lee said.

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