Chatting with School Board VP Jeff Troeger

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Jeff Troeger is a professor at Colorado Mountain College and the vice president of the Steamboat Springs School Board. He was our guest for an online chat Friday on steamboatpilot.com.

Below is a portion of his conversation:

Q: Hi Jeff, do you feel the technology tax is being used to the fullest extent in the district yet?

Jeff Troeger: Well, it's a moving target. Technological innovation hasn't exactly slowed down. It's the people part that's the hardest. How do you adapt? I think we're spending a lot more time and energy on helping the individual teacher effectively use technology. I'm encouraged.

Q: The School Board approved putting a mill levy override on the ballot for teacher pay increases. What's that going to cost taxpayers, and how much will salaries be raised if it's approved?

Troeger: The aim of the override is to attract and retain the best teachers and staff. Right now, we're below the average. The bond issue for both the override and the new Soda Creek Elementary School and Strawberry Park Elementary School addition looks like this: Median Single Family Homeowner, about $94 more per year than they're currently paying; Median Commercial property owner, around $250 more per year.

Q: The School Board also approved putting a bond issue on the ballot to build a new Soda Creek Elementary School. You appeared to be the most reluctant board member. What were your hesitations with the plan?

Troeger: Building a new school involves a lot of compromises. I was initially uncomfortable with some of them. I wasn't sure that the Soda Creek site was the best because of the property size. (The district's) west of town (site) is larger, but a lack of utilities, road expansion and transportation would be problems. The Whistler site has access problems (the need for a new road accessing U.S. Highway 40), and congestion (Walton Creek/Whistler roads would probably need widening and a traffic light). The area really doesn't have sidewalks, so you would be mixing pedestrians and cars - never a good idea. After looking at it a long time, I think building on the Soda Creek site is probably the best solution. I like the idea of community schools and not encouraging sprawl. There are traffic problems, but I think they can be mitigated.

Q: There has been a lot of change on the School Board in the past year. How is the new board - the one elected last November - different from the previous one?

Troeger: I think there's more discussion and a desire to ask questions and debate things. It may look from the outside that it's a free-for-all at times, but representative democracy - and school boards are at grassroots level - is messy by nature. You can't say that all opinions aren't being heard.

Q: Board president Tom Miller-Freutel has left the board. Can you tell us about the process to select a replacement for him? Do you have any names for us?

Troeger: We haven't really talked about the process yet. I'm VP now, so I suppose I'll be acting president for the next meeting or so or until we can decide. I don't know who is interested (everyone kind of averts their eyes). Being president of the School Board is a huge time commitment. If you're thinking about taking it on, you have to decide what you're going to give up in your current life. I don't have much that I'm willing to give up right now.

Q: The newspaper's Editorial Board recently suggested that the school district and city work together to move the after-school program to one of the elementary school campuses. Is this something you would support? Why or why not?

Troeger: I support it fully. It's something we used to do and then kind of drifted away from. To me, schools are community resources and should be used beyond the time that classes are in session. Also, schools seem like the logical place for "after school." Why transport a lot of kids to another facility?

Q: If you had to list three priorities that you, as a School Board member, wanted to see accomplished in the coming school year, what would they be?

Troeger: 1. Passing the bond issue; 2. Start the Soda Creek and Strawberry Park schools building projects; 3. Attract and retain quality staff. We've got a number of long-time teachers who are coming up on retirement. We've got to start finding ways to replace them with likewise excellent new teachers. Once we get these teachers, we need to keep them.

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