Our View: Will a committed volunteer please stand up?

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Tom Miller-Freutel's decision to resign from the Steamboat Springs School Board just 13 months after his appointment is disappointing, but it also presents an opportunity for a committed community member willing to take on the demands of such an important position.

Miller-Freutel announced his resignation last week in an e-mail to fellow board members and Superintendent Donna Howell. His stated reason for leaving the board is the workload brought on by his position with Dial411/CBC, a California-based telecommunications company.

While we applaud Miller-Freutel's service to the district -- being a School Board member is time-consuming volunteer work -- we can't help but be a little disappointed in his decision to leave so soon after taking over as the board's president. Also, this is just nine months after an election that brought broad changes to a School Board that had long been controlled by a unified group of members.


School Board opening

Our viewAfter the disappointing resignation of Tom Miller-Freutel, the district needs a committed, thoughtful volunteer to fill the void

Miller-Freutel, former Strawberry Park Elementary School principal John DeVincentis and retired teacher Denise Connelly were elected in November 2005. They joined a board that already included Colorado Mountain College professor Jeff Troeger and board veteran Pat Gleason.

Shortly after the election, the board identified a list of about 30 issues it wanted to address. But micromanagement and the minutia that often plagues board meetings seem to have stalled progress on many of those items.

We urge the School Board and whomever assumes its presidency -- likely Troeger, the vice president -- to come up with a manageable "to do" list and a timetable for which to accomplish it. At the top of that list should be a decision on district facilities, specifically how to address the aging Soda Creek Elementary School. That decision is exactly the type of big-picture issue for which school boards exist.

But before the board can go on with its business, it must appoint a member to replace Miller-Freutel, whose resignation is effective Sept. 1. Make no mistake -- being a School Board member is no easy task. It's a volunteer job that involves long meetings and a steep learning curve. And board members are easy targets for district critics.

The School Board is arguably as important as any governmental board. Public education represents the largest tax burden for residents, and the Steamboat Springs School District is responsible for educating 2,000 local children -- about one-fifth of the city's full-time population. When you consider the number of parents, teachers, support staff and others -- i.e. taxpayers -- with a vested interest in our public school system, the importance of school governance becomes even clearer.

The Steamboat school district is one of the highest achieving districts in the state, and it has been that way for years. But a successful track record doesn't mean there's not room or need for improvement, and the School Board should be ground zero for identifying and carrying out improvement plans for the district.

We hope there's someone in District 5 willing to invest the time and dedication the taxpayers and children deserve. If you have children in the schools and have a passion for how their education is delivered, this is your opportunity to step forward. The School Board is an important public service that needs a committed public servant.

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