Occupation: small-business entrepreneur
Hometown: Velva, N.D.
Years in Steamboat: 10
Family: wife, Laurie; daughter, Erica (sophomore at Steamboat Springs High School)
Civic involvement: seven years as a volunteer in SCORE, six years as a member of the Education Fund Board, six years as a member of Routt County Economic Development Council, four years as a member of Steamboat Springs Economic Development Council, numerous volunteer committees for the city and the county
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188 total votes.
Q. Voters here will decide in November whether to approve new statewide tax increases to provide more funding for public education (Amendment 66). Do you support this ballot initiative? Explain why.
A. I believe a more relevant question is, “What does Amendment 66 mean to Steamboat Springs?” Using a very conservative analysis, Amendment 66 will increase state income taxes on residents of Steamboat Springs by $6.5 million. According to information from the school district, in exchange for that increase in income taxes, our district will receive about $1.5 million in additional funding. Simply stated, an additional $6.5 million of our money will go to the state and only $1.5 million will come back to our school district. If your goal is to increase funding for schools statewide, this may be a good amendment. If your goal is to increase funding for our schools, this is not a good amendment.
Q. The Steamboat Springs School District spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the half-cent sales tax for education on teachers needed to maintain its smaller class sizes. Is this the best use of the money? If you don't think so, what do you think should be the funding priorities from this tax for education?
A. The half-cent education sales tax is administered by the board of directors of the Steamboat Springs Education Fund. The mission statement of the SSEF states: “To enhance academic accomplishment in Routt County through student facing investments in staff, facilities, infrastructure, technology and curriculum, made available through our public schools.” In Colorado, approximately 58,000 students attend schools in districts that are “Accredited with Distinction.” Of that number, approximately 49,900 attend schools with an average student/teacher class size ratio of 22:1. Steamboat’s ratio is 19.1:1. Small class size is very important, but it’s not the only factor that contributes to a great education. Recognizing that reality, 45 to 50 percent of the funds provided to Steamboat from the SSEF have been for factors other than class size.
It’s important to focus on the goal of increased academic accomplishment, then prioritize funding on areas that help raise the bar.
Q. Students in the district consistently score above state averages on standardized tests, and the district has been ranked among the top 10 percent in the state academically. In what ways do you think the School Board can help to foster even more academic growth? Where would you like to see improvement?
A. The journey to being in the top 10 percent in the state academically required a great deal of consistent effort on the part of every component of the school district — students, parents, teachers and support staff. The challenge when you reach a goal is to maintain that drive while setting a new, equally ambitious direction. I believe the priority of the School Board should be to define a set of local standards that move us beyond Colorado and set us on the path to being nationally recognized.
Q. In what specific ways do you see yourself impacting your school district as a School Board member?
A. I will approach all decisions based on how they will improve student achievement. Rarely are there simple answers to an issue. Most issues are comprised of a host of interdependent factors, and I am passionate about finding the data that supports those factors. As a School Board member, I will listen to all sides in order to fully understand the issue and the positions of everyone who is impacted by the issue. This approach, combined with my ability to break complex issues into a series of understandable smaller decisions, will make me an effective board member.
Q. The school district wants to oversee its own special education program and end a long relationship with the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services that manages this program for several rural districts. District officials say the move will create more efficiencies and result in cost savings. BOCES worries it would hurt other districts. Do you agree with the district's move, and why?
A. A more correct characterization of the school board decision is they voted to request permission from the Colorado Department of Education to withdraw from BOCES. During the time between requesting permission and it either being granted or denied, the questions that need to be answered are: What student population is currently not being served adequately by BOCES, and is there an objective measure that BOCES can strive to accomplish during the period? If BOCES cannot or does not meet the performance standard, what plans and processes does the school district have to ensure the student needs are better met by moving the program out of BOCES? Once the above questions are answered, cost differences can be evaluated and an appropriate decision can be made on how it impacts the students.
Q. The school district has endured an athletic funding crisis in recent years as it costs more to shuttle students to sports. To mend it, the district will implement higher fees and cut back on some programs. What should the future of athletic funding in the district look like?
A. There are three school districts in the state that field as many sports teams as Steamboat Springs. Cherry Creek, a district of 53,000 students, is one of them. Steamboat has eight sports programs with less than 15 participants and seven with more than 40. There is no doubt that the education students derive from individual and team sports provides a lifelong benefit. Whether it’s athletics, music, foreign languages, reading, writing or math, more money for “X” results in less money for “Y.” An analysis of any organization, academic or nonacademic, would result in the fine-tuning of program offerings. Some programs will need to be strengthened, and some may need to be reduced or eliminated. Athletic funding should be treated the same as every other program the district provides. Some programs will be the beneficiaries of increased support and others will be reduced as resources are shifted.
Q. How can the School Board foster more parent involvement in the school district?
A. Let’s start with a thank you for the parental involvement we already have!
Parental involvement has been a key factor in obtaining the Accredited with Distinction designation. Every day, parents are involved in our classrooms, libraries, athletic events, etc. Additionally, the Parent Information Committee, Challenge Fund and Steamboat Springs Education Fund are staffed with volunteers. All volunteers want to feel their time and effort is valued and that they can make a difference. We have a community rich with expertise in many areas. We should actively recruit parents with the knowledge we need on various issues and involve them in the decision-making process.
Finally, it’s disappointing that in this year’s school board election no one has chosen to run in District 3. If elected, I will work to find ways to make school board positions more rewarding and enjoyable so that we attract candidates in the future.
Open-ended statement: It is critical that academic practices in Steamboat Springs be competitive with the best practices in the world. Students graduating from American schools enter a global workplace and must be prepared to compete for jobs against a global workforce. Already one of the best in Colorado, our school district should set a goal of being one of the best in the world. My first involvement in education policy was when I was recruited to join the advisory board to the College of Business at Colorado State University. That experience, coupled with my business career, convinced me that we have a responsibility to educate our children to the highest degree possible. Setting the bar to compete worldwide is one of my strengths. In my previous career, I had the privilege of doing business in countries around the world. In that capacity, I became familiar with the education systems of numerous countries and hired people who were the products of those systems. I believe my experience working with teams across cultural boundaries gives me a unique perspective and will benefit my work with all members of the education team — parents, teachers, administrators, community members and fellow board members.
Election Guide 2013
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