Group will seek candidates

Political action committee looking to bolster School Board election

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It's been seven years since the last contested Steamboat Springs School Board election.

That streak likely will end this fall.

Two members of Citizens for Education, a group of parents concerned about Steamboat Springs public school issues, on Thursday signed a state committee registration form, which officially designated the group a political action committee.

As a political action committee, Citizens for Education can legally receive and spend money to support or oppose candidates or ballot issues in an election, though state law limits dollar amounts. Scott Crouch, the committee's treasurer, said most campaign donations probably will be in the form of small, individual contributions.

The goal of the group is to identify, fund and support candidates for the upcoming School Board election in November, Crouch said.

Ideally, Citizens for Education hopes to have three candidates to support by November, when School Board members Paul Fisher, Tom Sharp and Pat Gleason are up for re-election.

School Board members are elected according to director districts, of which there are five for the Steamboat Springs School District.

"We want open-minded candidates, ones that are willing to work with their constituents," Crouch said.

Crouch said several possible candidates have expressed interest in running for a School Board seat, but he declined to provide names. Of those interested candidates, there is at least one representing each of the three districts up for re-election, Crouch said.

"We're still looking (for candidates)," he said. "People are still starting to come out."

Citizens for Education is non-partisan and "fairly platform-independent," though it is concerned about policy governance, small class size and the large number of administrators employed by the district, Crouch said.

Monday's School Board decision to reject a small class size gift from the Education Fund Board infuriated many community members and indirectly led to Thursday's formation of the political action committee, Citizen for Education members said.

However, the group's desire to support new School Board candidates isn't a knock at sitting board members, Marci Valicenti said. Valicenti is registered as the secretary for Citizens for Education.

"This is a statement that people will be running for the School Board, which is a good thing. There won't be anything that's not contested," she said. "This is not a statement against the present School Board members. I really appreciate the time these people have put in. They've given a lot of time on the School Board."

Reached Thursday, Fisher, Gleason and Sharp said they haven't decided whether to run for re-election. None has established a timetable for a decision, they said.

School Board members are elected to four-year terms in odd-year elections. In the 2001 election, board members Tami Havener and Paula Stephenson were elected in uncontested races. Gleason was appointed to the board in January 2002 after member-elect Gary Buchan relocated to Baltimore just weeks after the election. Fisher and Sharp were elected unopposed in 1999.

The last contested School Board election occurred in 1997, when incumbent Dan Birch easily defeated challenger Tom Reuter.

Contested elections will be good for the school district, Fisher said.

"I am always a proponent of competition and debate," he said. "I highly support the idea that we'd have contested elections. What will be interesting is what the community will think about the candidates."

Fisher said he disapproves of candidates who run on a single or personal issue because "their focus is far too narrow and not thoughtful about how to make the whole district succeed."

School Board elections are districtwide, but candidates must live in the director district for which they are running to represent. Hence, candidates looking to unseat Fisher in the Director District 2 position must live in that district.

Aug. 29 is the deadline for School Board candidates to file a nomination petition and written notice of intent to be a candidate with the Routt County clerk and recorder. Sept. 2 is the last day for School Board write-in candidates to file an affidavit of intent to be a candidate. Election day is November 4.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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