School Board District 4
Steamboat Springs The two candidates for the Steamboat Springs School Board's District 4 seat put their passion for education to work long before seeking election.
Char Rusk, who was appointed to the School Board in June to finish the term vacated when Pat Gleason resigned, is a classroom volunteer and former Parent Information Committee chairwoman.
"After being appointed this summer and serving this short term, I know I have a lot to offer the school and our community," she said. "My passion lies in supporting the staff. I know how hard it is to make it here, and I know the value of a quality educator, and I feel that the staff has not always received the amount of respect, support and freedom they deserve."
Challenger Robin Crossan, a retired facilities director and disaster recovery planner for Macy's in New York City, is president of the city's Education Fund Board, which administers a half-cent sales tax for local education needs. Crossan said she became dissatisfied with the School Board during her work with the Fund Board.
"I started going to School Board meetings and seeing a board that was not moving forward and making good decisions," Crossan said. "I started to consult with many community members and decided that, with my management, fiscal and (Fund Board) experience, I would be a positive, contributing member of the School Board."
Crossan said that if elected, her priorities would be to conduct a nationwide superintendent search, work to complete the ongoing major construction projects on time and under budget, work through the challenge of starting a full-day kindergarten program, set up a means for district-wide accountability and better communicate with the community.
"In doing this, I'll always ask, 'Is this best for our kids, and is it fiscally responsible?'" she said.
Rusk said she would work on improving communication and developing an honest, working relationship between all district stakeholders, along with demanding accountability to and from all.
"In striving to meet these three goals, we will have put in place a culture that is prepared to work collaboratively and inclusively to confront the many challenges we will face together as a district in the future," she said.
Mending a rift
Important to both Rusk and Crossan is improving the divisiveness that the candidates said has emerged in the Steamboat Springs School District.
One source of the perceived divisiveness is the August buyout of former superintendent Donna Howell's contract, a decision that is costing the school district more than $340,000.
At a Wednesday candidate forum, Rusk said the fiscally irresponsible move was not firing Howell, but giving her an unprecedented contract with a large buyout clause two years ago.
Mike Loomis, who spoke on behalf of Crossan, said Crossan disagreed with the decision to fire Howell.
Regardless of their views about that decision, both candidates have expressed a desire to move the school district forward.
"It sounds like there are a lot of issues that need to be resolved, and trust among the board, administrators, teacher and staff needs to be re-established," Crossan said.
Rusk said she too would work to improve communication among district stakeholders.
""There needs to be open, honest communication between all involved parties," she said. "All need to be heard, valued and honored."