Steamboat Springs School Board struggling to work as a team
May 24, 2016
Steamboat Springs — Poor communication and collaboration may be causing a disconnect between old and new members of the Steamboat Springs Board of Education.
During a board meeting Monday, member Sam Rush, who was elected to the board along with Michelle Dover and President Margie Huron in 2015, said it was clear that the group wasn't working together well as a team.
"I don't feel like we are united in many things," Rush said. "It's very disconcerting to me."
Earlier in the meeting, the board had begun a discussion on medical marijuana use in schools when board member Roger Good, who along with member Joey Andrew has served on the board since 2013, suggested the group invite up all of the experts in the room to act as a panel for a discussion.
Rush said later that she felt sidelined and was unaware that experts, which included two law enforcement leaders, the owners of a medical marijuana dispensary and a pediatrician, would be attending the meeting as part of a panel.
"It feels very disconnected," Rush said.
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Huron and Dover also indicated they were unaware that the board was inviting experts for a panel discussion, and Dover said she may have invited someone had she known.
Good said he hadn't invited all the panel members but acknowledged Tuesday he could have communicated better with other board members about the meeting.
"I didn't know who was going to come and who wasn't," Good said. "I didn't mean to cause any distress."
Later at Monday's meeting, as the board began a conversation on the proposed employee compensation plan, Andrew disclosed that his sister was a district employee, but the board quickly agreed they didn't believe the relationship presented a conflict of interest.
When Huron then disclosed her daughter was a district teacher and a member of the bargaining team, Good suggested the board take public comment on the possible conflict of interest, which led to three community members stating they believed Huron's relationship with her daughter presented a conflict of interest.
"It certainly does have the appearance of a conflict," said audience member Chuck McConnell.
Huron, Dover and Rush had indicated at a previous meeting the likelihood they would support a compensation package that included step increases, while Andrew and Good expressed their reservations about approving steps if they led to deficit spending.
Following public comment, Huron recused herself from the vote on the employee compensation plan.
Rush and Dover voted "yes" while Good and Andrew voted "no."
Differences of opinion between old and new board members have come up in the form of 3-2 votes in the past, including a 3-2 vote to elect Huron as board president, with Good and Andrew voting "no."
Good and Andrew in November were also the two board members who pushed for a discussion about Dover's potential conflict of interest with being a district substitute teacher and serving on the school board.
Dover resigned her position as substitute immediately following her first meeting on the board.
Good said Tuesday he believed any disconnect that might exist between he and Andrew and the other three members is probably just a reflection of the members' varying levels of experience serving on the board.
"None of the new members of the board attended a full board meeting prior to the election — their learning curve is going to be pretty steep," Good said. "We have a lot more in-depth knowledge of the subject material being discussed."
Huron said Tuesday evening that she disagreed with Good’s assessment of the disconnect being about experience.
A retired teacher, Huron said she had attended board meetings prior to the election.
Huron said she believed Good and Andrew were responsible for some of the divisive comments made during public comment at the meeting, including when former school board candidate Lindsay Wert brought up how some of the board members had accepted funds from the employee union during last November’s election and how that could also be a conflict of interest.
“The election has long passed and I’d like to move on,” Huron said. “This is diverting attention away from major issues we have to face as a district.”