Thursday, February 8, 2001
Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs School Board is losing its treasurer after a discussion at a school board retreat Thursday afternoon.
The mood in the small room was somber as Matt Hermes declared his resignation and Dan Birch asked for the unvarnished truth of his competency as president.
Hermes, a board member for more than three years, said that he was moving out to coastal South Carolina in the near future and thought it best for all that he remove himself from his current position.
"I don't feel like I can keep up my commitment to the board," Hermes said. "When I was gone the month of January, I noticed how much of a load the board had to carry. I knew then that I wasn't capable of carrying my weight."
As a surprise to some board members, Birch questioned his responsibilities to the board and asked if any board member felt the image or work of the board was unsatisfactory, he was willing to resign.
Negating his worries, board members praised his loyalty to serving the board and said they understood his need to spend more time with his family and career.
Birch made it clear that school board business was consuming too much of his time and wanted other board members to be honest about his competency.
"I have a lot of other demands and I'm not able to spend the amount of time needed on this board," Birch said.
Although he did not resign, Birch asked that he would not take it personally if he was asked to step down and that he would not run again in a school board election when his term is over in November 2001.
Paul Fisher, vice president of the school board, said he was surprised to think that Birch had received mixed signals from other board members about Birch's performance.
"I think you've served the board tremendously, absolutely well," Fisher said.
Birch reassured Fisher and the others that no one had given him bad feelings about his job as president, but that he knew he hadn't been giving the board the time it deserved.
While making his point that family, career, business and school board are, in order, his list of priorities, other board members and District Superintendent Cyndy Simms tried to negotiate with him. If his responsibilities became too much in the future, things may need to change, they said. But Birch said he already had made up his mind that things need to change for him now.
Birch said he was assured that any other board member wishing to take over as president would be highly competent, but Fisher said he also is not in the position to take on any more responsibilities.
"I'm at my limit at what I'm willing to give to the board," Fisher said. "We're spending a lot of time on school business these days. My hope is that we're at the pinnacle, not at the valley."
Tami Havener, secretary of the school board, said she hoped Birch would reconsider running for the upcoming November election.
"Dan has served as a really thoughtful president. His demeanor is very calm and he is very balanced," Havener said. "The board consumes a lot of time, and I'm not surprised (at his announcement)."
Birch said the president and the superintendent have an important relationship, but that sometimes Birch was conversing more with Simms than his wife.
Hermes said Birch's announcement was not a surprise to him because Birch had made it clear for some time that he has many other responsibilities. Hermes, a chemistry professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, said that keeping his school commitment from a distance is not fair to the community or to himself.