The Steamboat Springs School Board's inability to appoint a new member during Monday's meeting was disappointing for both the lack of leadership and the unwillingness of board members to openly and honestly discuss the public's business in public.
Now with just one week until they are obligated to appoint a successor for former member Tom Miller-Freutel, we urge the board's four current members to use Friday's special meeting to discuss the two applicants candidly and move on with the business of appointing the best available person for the job.
The vacancy in question was created by the Sept. 1 resignation of Miller-Freutel, who cited personal reasons for his departure just 10 months after being elected in November 2005. According to state statute, school boards have 60 days to appoint a replacement member. If an appointment is not made within that time frame, the board president is tasked with making the decision.
Miller-Freutel, who was the board president, submitted his letter of resignation in mid-July even though it wasn't official until Sept. 1. The school district began advertising the board position shortly after the July announcement. Three months of searching yielded just three applicants, and that shallow pool was narrowed to two when it was discovered that one of the candidates lived outside of the seat's District 5 boundaries.
Fast forward to Monday night. After interviewing applicants Jerry Kozatch and Laura Anderson for 15 minutes, board members sought to meet in private to discuss each candidate. Superintendent Donna Howell correctly advised the board that such discussions must be held in public. Then the meeting got a little awkward.
Board member Jeff Troeger made a motion to nominate Anderson. Pat Gleason seconded the motion. But because board President Denise Connelly and member John DeVincentis voted against Anderson, the motion died.
DeVincentis then made a motion to nominate Kozatch. His motion was not seconded.
The board members - we presume because they were fearful of hurting the feelings of one or both candidates - never attempted to hash out their differences or discuss the merits of the applicants. Such a discussion at least would have let voters know what their elected representatives thought about the issue. Instead, board members scheduled a special meeting Friday to take up the issue again. We can't imagine how an additional three days will make the decision any easier, particularly when all discussion among board members about the appointment must be made during the open session of a public meeting.
Kozatch and Anderson are qualified candidates. Kozatch is a longtime Education Fund Board member and has served on the District Accountability Committee and the Parent Information Committee at Strawberry Park Elementary School. Anderson, the mother of two high school students, is actively involved in district parent information committees and is a former member of the District Accountability Committee. She created PEAKS, a support group for parents and teachers of high-ability students.
We think Kozatch and Anderson are big enough to withstand any potential criticism or questions about how they might fit on the School Board, and more importantly, we expect our elected representatives to make honest remarks and tough decisions in public. Indeed, it is the role of elected officials to talk openly and frankly about the public's issues. Steamboat Springs School Board members did neither Monday night. We hope they don't make the same mistake Friday.