School Board, charter school contract close

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Former Steamboat Springs School Board President Tom Miller-Freutel asked the current School Board on Monday to set aside its differences for the betterment of the district's children, including his daughter, a junior at Steamboat Springs High School.

"My request to you is simple," Miller-Freutel said. "Set aside previous difficulties, previous agendas, forgive mistakes that have been made and move forward on behalf of our children. We have an environment that is becoming counter-productive for our children.

"There is no blame to be laid before anybody. I want to request, as a parent in this community, that we put aside differences and move forward. I realize all of you seated before me have had challenges. I respect the diversity and different points of view of this board. I implore you to put those differences behind you."

Miller-Freutel thanked the board members for their time and dedication to the district. He added that he was speaking on behalf of himself and his family, but his opinion that recent School Board disagreements are counter-productive for the district was shared by others in the community.

Board President Denise Connelly responded to Miller-Freutel's comments.

"I think your goals that you so eloquently voiced are our goals," she said. "As a board, we are operating under many constraints. Some have been laid on us by a previous board in terms of plans and personnel, and it has been difficult for us. We have had a couple of different facilitations. Working on roles and responsibilities, communication and climate are some of our main goals. We are trying to move forward with those goals."

Connelly added that the policy governance framework the district follows has broken down, and that the board is trying to implement a better approach.

"It is the focus of our April workshop," Connelly said.

- Melinda Mawdsley

— The Steamboat Springs School Board and the North Routt Community Charter School appear close to a new operating agreement for the school in North Routt County.

"If you're happy, I'm happy," Steamboat School Board member Pat Gleason said during a board study session Monday.

"We are close to being happy," said Bob White, North Routt Community Charter School board member.

Colleen Poole, head of school at the charter school, said there are "word-smithing" things that still need to be ironed out in the contract during the next few weeks.

The School Board is scheduled to approve the charter school's operation agreement for the next three years during its April 16 meeting at Centennial Hall.

The charter school in Clark is part of the Steamboat district but operates as a separate entity with the district.

The School Board has been kept informed throughout the renegotiation process, but another reason for the lack of questions Monday stems from the progress the charter school has made since the district and the school negotiated an operating agreement three years ago.

"This time three years ago we were on the ropes," White said. "We had leadership issues. We had a hard time finding the students."

The charter school has since hired Poole, the former Hayden Middle School principal, and increased enrollment from approximately 20 students to nearly 50 in kindergarten through eighth grade.

"Having the leadership Colleen brings us allows us to implement our dreams," White said. "We had our first graduating class last year and they are at the (Steamboat Springs High School) now, so there is a method to our madness."

White and Poole have been negotiating with Superintendent Donna Howell and district director of finance Dale Mellor on the new contract.

Many changes were made because the charter school has changed substantially in three years, Poole said.

First, the charter school is more financially stable. Second, the charter school is performing at a higher level.

Those improvements have improved the relationship between the Steamboat district and the school.

"I'm most proud of listening to my kindergartner read," said parent and board member Erick Knaus when School Board President Denise Connelly asked board members what they were most proud of. "My kid loves going to school, and I'm very proud of that."

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