Q. With Paul Fisher stepping down as School Board president, who do you think should take on that position? What responsibilities will the president need to fulfill and will that role differ from the way Fisher operated it?
A. Paul has left very large shoes to fill. He spent a remarkable amount of time tending to district business. Minimally, the president needs to set the study session and meeting agendas (with input), chair all meetings, sign a variety of contracts and letters, be available to the press, attend a variety of other meetings, make presentations, serve as the primary contact for the superintendent and tend to myriad other occasional duties. Paul not only fulfilled all of these responsibilities, he performed them with dedication, passion and foresight.
In thinking about who would be able to fill those shoes, I believe that not one of us will be able to devote the kind of time that Paul did. So we probably will try to divide more of those responsibilities among board members. I know that I am planning on nominating Paula Stephenson as president Monday evening. I believe she is quite capable, skilled and competent to lead the board and that she will do the job with enthusiasm and energy.
Q. In Michael Loomis and Jeff Troeger, the School Board is welcoming two new members. How long do you think it will take for the new members to be brought up to speed on district issues and past School Board decisions and stances?
A. They definitely have a steep learning curve ahead of them. How long it takes will be somewhat dependent on how much homework Mike and Jeff are willing to do. There is plenty to be gained by reading policy notebooks, the Board Policies as well as Administrative Policies. There are minutes of all the past School Board meetings, reports on student achievement, DAC minutes and reports, Education Fund Board minutes, school newsletters, CBT (collaborative bargaining team) notes, budgets and audits, etc. And, of course, there is the very tiny print, very thick book of Colorado School Law.
Some things you just learn with on-the-job-training. For instance, the process used when the School Board has to preside over an expulsion hearing. Or the procedure and strategies needed for a bond election.
The upcoming Colorado Association of School Boards annual conference has a new board member track that includes training on the School Finance Act, among other items. Our BOCES is conducting a training next week for all Board members in Northwest Colorado. I hope our members will take advantage of both of these opportunities.
Q. What were some of the obstacles or challenges you faced as a new School Board member after you were appointed in November 2000?
A. I think the challenge then as well as the continuing challenge is helping people understand that just because you disagree with them, it doesn't mean you haven't listened or heard them. Any decision maker is faced with the task of examining the facts, listening to competing opinions, and then making the best decision she or he is able to while balancing the needs of all concerned to meet the mission. Often, when the decision is not joyfully received, the dissenting party assumes it is because the decision maker didn't understand the argument; but the truth is, there is just disagreement.
Q. Do you foresee any of the School Board's major stances or approaches to issues, such as its opposition to a Montessori charter school, changing under the makeup of the new School Board?
A. Recent analysis of student achievement, including this week's 2003 National Association of Education Professionals Press Release, which stated that Colorado is above national averages, and given that Steamboat is in the top 10 percent of Colorado, shows that we are on the right track. But there is always room for improvement, and I'm excited to see where the community forums being held will direct us.
Q. What will the School Board, the district and the community lose with the stepping down of Paul Fisher and Tom Sharp?
A. As previously mentioned, in Paul we will be losing a dynamic tireless worker for public education. We are losing a wealth of knowledge and perspective without Tom on the board. As well as free legal advice -- he has saved the district thousands of dollars, I'm sure. I will miss their good humor, wisdom and commitment to every child. But the good news is, neither one is dying, and I'm sure they will continue to support our community and the district in numerous ways.
Q. What are your goals for the final two years of your term? At this early stage do you foresee running again in 2005?
A. My goal is to actually have Steamboat Springs "Leave No Child Behind." It's not just rhetoric for us. I have learned during a year of appointed service and two years of elected service that I value the luxury of being able to advocate for special issues.
One of my heroes is Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the Children's Defense Fund. She says that advocates are like fleas on a dog, which just keep biting until the dog finally scratches. As a board member you can't indulge in only being that flea. You have to consider everyone's needs and the well-being of the entire organization. Sometimes this puts you at odds with yourself.