Our View: Steamboat Springs School Board makes right move with ballot question

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Editorial Board, May and June 2013

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Tom Ross, reporter

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At issue

At-large School Board districts

Our view

Kudos to Steamboat Springs School Board for pushing forward with ballot question.

The Steamboat Springs School District took an important step Monday toward encouraging more active participation on its school board. With a 4-1 vote, the Steamboat Springs School Board’s current five members will put on the November ballot a question asking district voters whether all five board seats should be designated at-large beginning in 2015.

As we recently said, a move to at-large seats is the most logical way to tap into the exceedingly rare civic volunteers who want to serve on the board. By not being tied to geographic districts determined by population counts, at-large seats offer anyone interested in running for school board the chance to do so during any given election. That’s not the case now, with only residents who live in a particular director district eligible to run for that specific seat when it comes up for election every four years.

The ongoing problem in Steamboat Springs and other area school districts is that there typically aren’t enough candidates for contested races. And as we’ve often repeated throughout the years, contested races are the best ways of provoking serious discussion about school-related issues come election season.

During Monday’s School Board discussion, board member Robin Crossan said varying philosophies about education from people in different parts of the district could be a reason to leave at least some seats tied to geographic boundaries. We understand the sentiment, but we’re skeptical of the actual philosophical variances from North Routt to Milner to west Steamboat to Steamboat Springs to areas south and east of Steamboat. Unlike larger cities, Steamboat doesn’t have neighborhood schools that truly define the areas they serve. The North Routt Community Charter School is the closest thing to a neighborhood school in Routt County, and it operates with relative autonomy from the school district and even has its own board.

It’s also worth noting that the Steamboat Springs School District wisely is forgoing a redistricting process in light of the pending ballot question. There’s no need to slightly adjust director district boundaries based on population changes if future board seats won’t be tied to those districts. That’s money well saved by the board.

We think it’s a no-brainer that Steamboat move toward at-large board seats. By moving forward with a ballot question to that end, the School Board now leaves it up to voters to decide. It should be an easy choice.

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