Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs Kiwanis Club continued an election season tradition Monday when it hosted the four candidates running for the Steamboat Springs School Board for a lunchtime forum at Colorado Mountain College.
Less than a month from Election Day in Routt County, District 5 candidates Rebecca Williams and Sandra Sharp, and unopposed candidates Wayne Lemley and Robin Crossan, fielded questions from Kiwanis members about school finance, academic achievement and the viability of school consolidation at the hour-long forum that featured friendly exchanges between the candidates.
Citing an editorial published Sunday in the Steamboat Pilot & Today that said Routt County school districts should consider consolidating in the wake of declining enrollment in South Routt and Hayden, a Kiwanis Club member asked the candidates how they felt about the issue.
Williams and Sharp said they were open to looking at the possibility of consolidation, while Crossan said she opposed it.
“We need to look at it and study it, but we need to approach it with great caution,” said Sharp, a teacher at CMC. She added that Routt County’s three school districts already are sharing resources such as transportation and information technology services.
Williams, a former Steamboat Springs High School teacher who now is doing consulting work with Christian Heritage School to implement technology into its classrooms, said Steamboat should look into what benefits consolidation would provide.
Incumbent School Board President Crossan, who is running unopposed for her second term, said Steamboat should not consider consolidating with Hayden and South Routt.
“South Routt and Hayden don’t want to consolidate, and Steamboat has agreed in theory with that,” Crossan said. “If we consolidate, our Steamboat students would lose.”
She said the cost of increasing some teachers’ salaries in a consolidated district would be more than the savings gained by cutting two superintendent positions.
The candidates were then asked what they would do as School Board members to ensure students succeed academically as the district’s revenues continue to decline.
Williams said the board needs to outline more specific desired outcomes for students, and Sharp said it’s possible to maintain student performance at a reduced budget.
Lemley, who previously worked in the biomedical field and owned a financial information business, said as budgets decline, he wants the district to focus more on core curriculum such as reading and math.
Kiwanis member Bud Romberg, who organized the candidate forum, said there will be a steep learning curve for the candidates running for their first term on the board, but he said they all seem dedicated and knowledgeable.
“By having the candidates here in small groups like this, I really feel like they get to say more and we get to learn more from them,” he said.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email ScottFranz@SteamboatToday.com