Our View: Move to at-large districts is a smart move

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Editorial Board, May and June 2013

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Tom Ross, reporter

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The Steamboat Springs School Board should move forward with a plan to make all five of its seats at-large positions instead of seats tied to specific geographic boundaries within the school district. Likewise, we encourage voters in the Hayden School District to approve a similar change there during a special June mail-in election.

Officials in both school districts are considering moving away from traditional boundary-based director districts because of a general lack of interest from potential school board candidates. Many recent board races in both school districts have been uncontested, and it’s fair to conclude that the geographic restrictions of the director district system is at least partly to blame. We know of at least a couple of recent board elections in which candidates have been sought not entirely on the merits of their qualifications and actual interest in the position, but on their physical addresses.

Serving on school boards is thankless enough as it is. There’s no reason to put up unnecessary obstacles to attracting strong candidates who have an interest in serving their communities. While there might have been a time when it was important for specific geographic areas within our local school districts to have individual representation on their school boards, we don’t think that’s still the case. In the at-large system, candidates can run for office regardless of where within the district they live. That alone should spur increased interest.

That’s certainly the hope in Hayden, where voters will decide June 18 whether to move to an at-large system. If the Steamboat School Board decides to pursue a similar course of action, it would put the question to its voters in November. If approved by voters, the first at-large seats in Steamboat would be up for election in 2015.

“I think if it helps get people involved, it’s good for us,” Steamboat School Board member Jim Kissane said during a Monday meeting.

We completely agree, and we urge the board to recommend such a move to voters this November.

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