Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Before the Steamboat Springs School Board moves forward, its members want to take a few steps back.
At least one retreat for board members, and likely several, was the topic of lengthy discussion at Monday night's meeting. All members agreed that the newly configured board should sit down together, talk through upcoming district issues and discuss techniques for leadership and collaboration. Such a retreat would pay dividends, all agreed, in future debates on topics including salary negotiations for next year, master contract agreements for district employees and a pending lawsuit from the Steamboat Springs Education Association.
"If we're going to be productive, we've got to get off on the same foot," board member Pat Gleason said.
Exactly how to do that was, ironically, a matter of contention.
"I don't want Kumbaya," board member Jeff Troeger said, citing previous retreats he has experienced that he thought were heavy on fluff and light on substance. "Let's get into the actual meat of the process."
Although Gleason supported having a facilitator at the retreat to moderate discussions, Troeger and board member Denise Connelly said the focus of at least one retreat should be logistics and board procedures. Troeger said for new members, learning board regulations after elections can be "like learning to swim by being thrown off a raft."
New board president Tom Miller-Freutel asked board members to contact him with their schedules and with suggestions for the retreat's length, format and content. He said as many as three retreats may be necessary for the board to properly prepare itself for upcoming work.
District Superintendent Donna Howell expressed confidence Tuesday in Miller-Freutel's moderating abilities.
"I think he will be a very, very good president," Howell said. "I think he will hold everyone accountable in matters of respect for each other."
Howell received training in balanced leadership last summer by the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, or McRel. She said Tuesday that she hoped to use that training -- based on the book "School Leadership That Works: From Research to Results" -- during at least one retreat with the School Board.
Howell said a facilitator would be integral to the retreat's effectiveness.
"I think we'll end up going that way," she said. "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."
Howell also said she plans to have a retreat with board members and the 15 district administrators, including school principals, assistant principals and directors of district departments, such as finance, food service, curriculum and transportation.
"I think it's important for the full team to meet with the board," Howell said. "You have to do that in the beginning."
-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org