How to help
To sign up for the community planning committee, call the Steamboat Springs School District offices at 879-1530.
Steamboat Springs When Superintendent Shalee Cunningham asks what the Steamboat Springs School District stands for, it's not a rhetorical question. But she has found that district administrators and officials often have a hard time coming up with an answer.
Cunningham hopes to change that by establishing a set of three to five broad goals for the district, and she wants the community to be part of the process. Cunningham is organizing a planning committee comprised of 30 community members who will help identify the district's goals.
"I am recognizing as the new superintendent in town that people can't answer for me what the beliefs are and what the desired outcomes are for the 2,000 kids in this district. And without that, I'm floundering," she said last week.
Cunningham is organizing a three-day brainstorming session this month. Volunteers will meet to develop ideas of where the district should devote its time and resources. With input from community members from a cross-section of society, Cunningham said the results will represent the community's desired direction for the school district.
"Some people I definitely want be sure they are involved (including) the police department, the fire department. I want somebody representing the different faiths in the community, child care, First Impressions. There are some elements of the community that really need representation," she said.
Two members of the Steamboat Springs School Board also will be part of the planning.
District priorities and community desires have been oft-mentioned subjects at recent School Board meetings.
"We need to make sure we're representing the community and that we have that information," School Board Vice President Denise Connelly said at a board workshop Jan. 24.
Cunningham said the goals presented by the community planning committee will be integrated with the budget to make sure any expenditures are used to further the long-term goals.
"This logistical plan will also translate into the budget so we will no longer have goals and a budget. They are blended so when we develop the budget every year it's based on the priorities of our logistical plan," she said.
Examples of broad themes from a plan Cunningham helped create in the Orinda Union School District in Orinda, Calif., include "improved learning environments by accomplishing a limited number of high-impact facility improvement projects," implementing a new technology plan, finding new funding sources and the creation of a writer's workshop for students.
The goals the community comes up with could take three months to three years to complete, Cunningham said.
School Board members have expressed concern that whatever comes of the process is seen to fruition. This is not the first time the school district has sought community input. In 2003, superintendent Donna Howell met with business owners and parents to create a similar plan.
"We don't want policies that the next person can come in and easily change," board President Robin Crossan said, referring to a future change in district leadership.
Cunningham said she has no plans to leave the district and that she would like to include a sustainable element to the plans so that any future superintendent would be able to continue the work.