Our View: Change needed to encourage School Board candidates
July 31, 2013
Lack of candidates for Steamboat Springs School Board
Compensation, at-large seats can help attract larger field of candidates.
For the second time this year, the Steamboat Springs School Board is faced with a vacancy. Board member Jim Kissane announced his resignation because he is moving out of the district he represents. Kissane's departure underscores the School Board's ongoing challenge to attract and retain members.
In speaking about his resignation, Kissane said he regretted having to leave the board because he was just starting to understand what was going on with the board and because he had gained appreciation for "what goes on in the district." Like in business, turnover is costly. Experience is lost, and a new board member must be recruited to serve.
In response to Kissane's resignation, School Board President Brian Kelly wondered whether financial incentives could help attract strong School Board candidates. Currently, Steamboat School Board members receive a $20 cellphone stipend. By comparison, Steamboat Springs City Council members are paid $625 per month for their service.
We're not advocating a particular dollar figure, but we do contend increasing the compensation School Board members receive could create a message of value and worth, which in turn makes a seat on the School Board more attractive to service-minded individuals who are weighing whether they want to invest the time it takes to be an effective board member.
The idea of financial incentives falls in line with the Steamboat Pilot & Today's previous endorsement of the School Board's decision to seek voter approval to make all five board positions at-large seats.
Increased compensation and the redistricting plan are aimed at attracting more engaged, committed School Board candidates, which is vitally important to the future of the Steamboat Springs School District.
The district is the largest taxing entity in Steamboat Springs with an annual budget of $22 million. If the Steamboat community wants to see significant improvements continue in its educational system, the first step is recruiting and retaining dedicated School Board members. Consistency of leadership on the School Board will translate into strength of leadership at the administrative level, which is key to the school district's vitality.
It's imperative residents recognize the importance of School Board service and support and encourage candidates who want to create a culture where change is possible. Board members need to feel effective and supported, and they need to think they can make a difference.
Creating the right environment to entice engaged residents to run for School Board begins with a few small steps, such as compensating members for their time and opening up the election process to a larger field of candidates through at-large seats.