Tuesday, November 8, 2005
The Steamboat Springs School Board should enlist a facilitator to help its members work together better. That's not meant as criticism, but as support for an idea broached at the board's first meeting.
The School Board, like the City Council, is configured anew after an election that was passionate at best and rancorous at times. It's too soon to say that individual members are unwilling or will be unable to set aside philosophical differences and personality clashes.
It's not too soon, however, to recommend they get some help in doing that.
Some evidence of the need was presented Monday night when the board was unable to agree about the details of holding a retreat meant to help members become an effective governing body.
The retreat is a good idea.
It would, for instance, allow members to talk about things that unite them -- their dedication to the schools, their broad, mutual responsibilities as elected officials -- before the discussion turns, as it must, to more divisive issues.
It also is inevitable that individual board members will disagree about such issues as salary negotiations, a union effort to win a master contract, and many things nobody has even thought of yet.
It's important that board members enter those discussions without any hard feelings or ill will. Debate, even heated debate, among elected officials about public policy matters is a good thing.
What wouldn't be good is for the board to get bogged down in conflict that really stems from lingering election grudges or simple personal dislike for one another.
Board members must remember they are charged with ensuring quality education for our children, and wise stewardship of our tax dollars.
Superintendent Donna Howell said Monday that a facilitator would make the retreat more effective.
"You can spend hours talking and not come to a consensus about what the issues are, if you don't have somebody skilled to help you work through it," she said.
Howell is right.
There's nothing for the board to lose, and perhaps a lot of cohesion to be gained by having an outsider moderate its first retreat.