Superintendent seeks input

'We need to engage the community in terms of the direction of the district'

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— Just one month into her superintendency, Donna Howell is becoming well versed in Steamboat Springs School District history.

Taking a page from the past may be just what the district needs for a successful future, Howell said.

"We need to engage the community in terms of the direction of the district," Howell said Wednesday, citing the positive effect of the 10+2 Committee in the mid-1990s.

"Steamboat is a different place eight years later," she said. "There's a different environment nationally, statewide and in the local community."

The 10+2 Committee formed about eight years ago after voters rejected a $42 million bond to build a new high school south of the city. Through the committee and a series of community forums, the district was able to set goals for the future based on the desires and direction of the community, in-cluding a successful bond issue to remodel the existing high school.

Before she left for Mercer Island, Wash., former Superintendent Cyndy Simms called the 10+2 Committee one of the best things to happen to the district.

With a new leader, increased interest in the district and in the wake of several controversial issues, Howell thinks the school system might be well served to go back to the community for input.

"I feel very strongly about re-engaging the community," she said. "This is an opportunity we need to take advantage of with new leadership and energy. People in this community value education and want us to be better. I think it's important that we're clear on what the community expects from the district."

Howell used a variety of planning processes to help align communities and school districts in previous jobs, and she said she is in the process of meeting with Steamboat leaders to help her determine which process will work best here. Howell has discussed the issue with some Steamboat Springs School Board members and will continue to work with them on it.

School Board President Paul Fisher said re-engaging the community will serve several goals, including taking policy governance to the next level.

"(The School Board) spends so much time with board duties," he said. "One of the things you can miss is making sure you develop and have healthy relationships with all the stakeholders. We haven't done as good a job as we should with all the stakeholders."

Establishing and maintaining a healthy link between the district and its stakeholders should be a goal of the current and future school boards, Fisher said.

The release of a final report from the National School Public Relations Association on a community audit it performed earlier this year also will help shed light on issues the community feels are important, Fisher said. The district expects NSPRA's final report soon.

Howell said she hopes to have a more specific plan for community re-engagement within the next month.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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