Our View: Mr. Meeks’ challenge is to go from good to great

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Editorial Board, May 11 through Sept. 21, 2011

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Laura Schmidt, community representative
  • Jim Miller, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— Bradley Meeks is poised to become superintendent of one of the highest-performing public school districts in Colorado. His challenge will be making a very good district even better. To do so, he’ll need the Steamboat Springs School Board to give him the latitude to be progressive in his approach, something that’s not easy to accomplish in the world of public education.

Meeks was the School Board’s unanimous top choice to take over for outgoing Superintendent Shalee Cunningham. That clear message of support from board members is important to a successful start for any superintendent, let alone one in a community as passionate about its schools as Steamboat is.

We’re also pleased that the School Board plans to negotiate a one-year contract with Meeks, which not only doesn’t encumber a future School Board to a chief executive officer it might not approve of, but also puts the pressure on Meeks to quickly impress the community with his ability to lead our school system to new heights.

Provided contract negotiations are successful and Meeks is named superintendent of schools here, he’ll have big shoes to fill. Cunningham was a strong leader who achieved political stability and balanced budgets at a time when the district sorely needed both. Our loss is Novato Unified School District’s gain.

There is no reason to think Meeks can’t be a similar leader. He received broad-based support from the local interview committees. His most recent position was as superintendent of the 6,400-student Farmington Area Public Schools in Minnesota. He also has experience in smaller districts in South Dakota.

It should be noted that he resigned from the Farmington position in February, citing a difference of opinion with members of the school board. But that doesn’t concern us. The truth is, such is the nature of superintendent/school board relationships. And it also speaks to the biggest challenge that Meeks — and any other superintendent — faces when taking the reins of a school system. Few positions in government are as politically unstable as that of superintendent, and there may be no other public institution as difficult to push in a new direction as school districts. That could be particularly true in Steamboat, where our biggest obstacle to innovation and improvement might be our consistent success. Good is often the enemy of great.

So we ask this of Meeks:

■ Navigate looming budget cuts while minimizing the impacts in the classroom.

■ Be unafraid to challenge the status quo.

■ Make decisions that are in the best interests of the children, not the adults. There’s a tendency to do the opposite in public education.

■ Push for greatness on behalf of students. Greatness is providing a path to individual success for every child, regardless of their future goals.

And finally, good luck, Mr. Meeks. We look forward to seeing your vision for the Steamboat Springs School District.

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