Election 2017: Q & A with Katy Lee, Steamboat Springs School Board candidate
October 14, 2017
Please describe any involvement you've had with the local school district or any background or experience you have with education?
I have three children in the school district. They have attended Soda Creek Elementary, the middle school and the high school. I have been very involved in the high school theater program for the past three years. We have also been in school districts across the United States as well as in the United Kingdom, and I hope that this outside experience can benefit the board.
What do you believe the role of a school board member should be in relationship to administration and staff? To parents and students?
I believe a school board member’s primary role is to help determine how the public schools can best serve the community given the constraints of budget, resources and time. We should consider the diverse needs and desires of the administration, staff, parents and students as well as the impact of our decisions on the community as a whole. As this board governs by policy, we focus on the big picture and try to stay out of "the weeds." The board trusts the administration and staff to implement those policies and should only intervene when necessary. The members of the board earn the confidence of the parents and students as well as staff, administration and community, through responsible, reasonable and non-biased consideration of issues and effective communication.
Montessori and North Routt charter schools are currently serving around 280 students, which has helped with Steamboat's facility capacity issues for the time being. Going forward what is your long-term view of the three public schools in the Steamboat School District?
I feel that both the Montessori and North Routt charter schools are providing a valuable service to the community. Public schools should provide a variety of learning styles to suit the variety of students we have in the district. Additionally, schools at these locations benefit families in these areas. Our charter schools complement our traditional schools and I don't see this changing long-term.
What do you think is the most important issue facing the Steamboat Springs School District in the coming years?
Finding a solution that is acceptable to the community for the current overcrowding and potential increased growth in our public schools. While I think most of us directly involved with the schools are aware of the current space issues (if not, consider visiting the middle school at lunch or the temporary modular buildings at Soda Creek), the majority of the voters do not have children enrolled in the district. Not only do we need to ensure that the voters are aware of the overcrowding, they need to be convinced of the value of our highly-rated public schools to our community as a whole. In addition, we must determine exactly what our plan for expanded facilities will be. It's clear from our previous efforts that there is no easy answer.
In what academic or programmatic area do you think the school district should focus more resources?
There is a shortage across America of skilled trade workers. I think that school districts nationwide should offer more opportunities for students to be exposed to or even certified in a wider variety of trade skills. Looking at our local classified ads demonstrates the need here at home with consistent openings for either skilled workers or those who are willing to train on the job. A four-year university degree no longer provides guaranteed employment, and I believe a trade skill can provide additional opportunity to our students and benefit to our community.
What would be your top three priorities as a newly elected board member?
My first priority will be to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible. While I feel my engineering and project management background will serve me well, I know I have a significant learning curve. My second priority will be to establish good working relationships with my fellow board members and district staff. Solid teamwork will be critical to effective board performance with the challenges of the coming years and finding common ground is key to being able to maintain mutual respect when opinions differ. My third priority will be to ensure as part of the board I have dependable means of open communication with the community. I think the recent plans to offer "coffee with the board" as well as having each member "adopt" a school is a great start. I will be looking for additional opportunities to make sure we understand Steamboat's priorities.
In the last school board election, some of the candidates who were running received money from out-of-town interests. Are you accepting or aware of any special interests funding you or your campaign has received or will be receiving?
I have personally financed my campaign and do not plan to accept funding from any other sources.
How do you think schools should measure student achievement?
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I appreciate data, but only when it's useful. One of our children's previous districts weighted the outcome of standardized testing so heavily that it became their primary educational goal. Though the schools were highly-rated, they produced poorly preparWd students who could not think creatively or problem solve. While more difficult to measure, these skills are more important for long-term success. When we lived abroad, standardized testing had been completely eliminated from elementary education. Instead, pairs of teachers did assessments on a yearly basis. I feel this method is far more effective for younger children, where standardized testing more likely determines the child's ability to withstand tedium rather than measures their actual abilities. That being said, I do think nationally recognized tests like the ACT/SAT administered to older children can help uncover gaps in the curriculum, keep kids from falling through the cracks, and be beneficial to those applying to college.
Why are you seeking a seat on the Steamboat Springs School Board?
For the past few years, I have been thinking about how I can better contribute to the community. I feel very fortunate that my family has been able to be a part of Steamboat Springs. There are so many things to appreciate about the people, the school system, and the lifestyle. I feel that my experiences and background can positively impact the board. I am a chemical engineer with 20 years of experience in the oil industry, 15 of which were in refineries. I am a naturally creative problem solver. I have solid experience in project management and budgeting, and I have worked in a team environment with diverse groups of people. I am data driven but I feel that one of my strengths is to be able to consider not only hard numbers but "people" issues as well. I am willing to spend the time required to be prepared and productive. Finally, I hope that having a person with knowledge of schools outside the Steamboat District will provide a fresh perspective and will be advantageous to the board.