School Board District 5
Steamboat Springs Laura Anderson and Jerry Kozatch have faced off before.
In October 2006, both applied for the District 5 School Board seat vacated by the resignation of Tom Miller-Freutel. The Steamboat Springs School Board voted, 3-1, to appoint Kozatch to fill the remainder of Miller-Freutel's term. Now, it's up to voters to decide who occupies the District 5 seat for the next four years.
Anderson, a former engineer who describes herself as a "volunteer mom," said her desire to challenge Kozatch for the seat is partly due to the board's buyout of former Superintendent Donna Howell's contract.
"I was disappointed by the board's recent decision regarding the superintendent, and I feel their actions have hurt the credibility and trust the school district has within the community," she said.
On Aug. 10, the School Board voted, 4-0, to buy out the remaining two years of Howell's contract, paying Howell $270,000 in exchange for her immediate resignation. The total of that decision is $348,490, including taxes, fees and benefits Howell would have received regardless of when she left her position.
Kozatch said that despite the turmoil surrounding Howell's buyout, the district is not divided.
"If there is (division), it is not directed toward me," said Kozatch, a former Education Fund Board member.
"I am trying to remain focused on my current responsibilities," he said. "I continue to monitor the climate at all the schools and the administrative office. We can always do better, make improvements and provide a better educational atmosphere for our students."
At a Wednesday candidate forum, Kozatch said Howell's firing was necessary for the health of the school district, which he said had a "toxic environment."
Anderson, who has two children in the district, said that to ensure children have the best education possible, the board needs to be more accountable to the community.
"Our first task will be to hire a superintendent who can unify our many viewpoints and open dialogue with parents, teachers and community interests," she said. "This will build trust where our staff will feel supported and will begin to open up communication and create a respectful and user-friendly education system where all parties are valued."
Kozatch, whose daughters have graduated from the district, said his inspiration to run for the School Board stems from a lifelong desire to be a teacher and help students develop a "great, untapped potential."
"Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I see so many opportunities to make what is good about our schools great, and what is great, even greater still," he said. "I would like to remain part of a winning team. : I think that the continuity, flexibility and creativity I can offer would be a positive quality for our district."
Both candidates said they support all-day kindergarten, and agreed that more research must be done to determine how to fund the program.
"We could see this new program in place as soon as the facilities are ready if we can identify a reasonable funding source," said Kozatch, who noted all-day kindergarten space was planned in the new Soda Creek Elementary School and in the expansion of Strawberry Park Elementary School.
"I would aggressively look for any available district funds, grants, gifts from the community and gift proposals to the Education Fund Board," he said. "Many parents have told me that they would be very willing to contribute their own money since the state currently will only fund half-day kindergarten."
Anderson said she too would look at a variety of funding sources.
"Whether it's a mill levy or parents pay their way, I'm concerned with the kids who need it the most being able to afford it," she said. "I would like it to be a thoughtful process involving all interested parties."