Steamboat Springs In an election season when Steamboat Springs School Board candidates have remained mostly on script, Wednesday night's election forum gave the public some off-the-cuff answers.
Teen alcohol use, attracting and retaining teachers, religious doctrine in classrooms, the dropout rate and providing contraceptives in district schools were among topics raised by audience members at the Parent Information Committee forum.
All five candidates agreed that teen alcohol use in Steamboat is at unacceptable levels and that attracting and retaining teachers needs to be a priority, but differences emerged when candidates addressed the more controversial topics.
High school parent Roxanne Miller-Freutel asked the candidates whether they would support a Judeo-Christian Bible class in the high school curriculum or a class from a single religious view.
"I would not support that because I think school is not the place to try to educate anybody about any single religious issue," District 5 candidate Jerry Kozatch said.
Laura Anderson, who is challenging Kozatch for the District 5 seat, said she would address the subject on a case-by-case basis.
"I think in this situation, I would take the approach of seeing where it fits within our curriculum," said Anderson, who is a member of the High School Curriculum Committee.
"I would have to look at the specific class, and I can see something as in religious history, but not religious gospel," she said.
Lisa Brown, who is running unopposed for the District 2 seat, said she would not support inclusion of any religious doctrine in district schools.
"If we looked at it academically, we could maybe have comparative ethics in the curriculum," she said. "It would be about codes of conduct among religions."
District 4 candidate Robin Crossan said she approached the School Board about three years ago to speak on behalf of having a religion class in the schools.
"No matter what the class may be, we need to ensure it goes through proper channels," she said. "My son last year, in world history, learned about all different religions. Anything can be taught in many different ways. I would not agree with one specific idea."
Char Rusk, who was appointed in June to fill the District 4 seat, said she would not support a religion-themed class.
"Even the challenge of picking out a bunch of religions, a big variety, you are going to leave something out and I don't know if you are going to teach it right," she said. "The board is supposed to stay out of the day-to-day stuff in the district because we are not the educators and we are not the professional educators : no matter what they did they wouldn't do it quite right."
The forum's host, Shannon Lukens, referenced a controversy in Portland, Maine, where school officials plan to make birth control pills available to middle school students.
"Here's an issue, like alcohol, that is bigger than the district," said Rusk, who is a registered nurse at Yampa Valley Medical Center.
"I don't think it's the school's place, but education needs to happen in the community," she said.
Crossan, Anderson and Brown said they too would not support contraceptives in the schools, but Kozatch said he would consider the program if the community demanded it.
"For me it's a community question because the role of the School Board is to represent the community," he said. "So if this is something the community was telling us loud and clear that they wanted, then I would, if it was something I believed in."
Prior to the question-and-answer session, the candidates answers prepared questions about how to regain the trust of the community, what to do if the city's half-cent sales tax fails to be renewed next year, and the role of School Board members.
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