District 5 candidates meet again | SteamboatToday.com

District 5 candidates meet again

Mike McCollum

— Laura Anderson and Jerry Kozatch have faced off before. In October 2006, both applied for the District 5 School Board seat vacated by the resignation of Tom Miller-Freutel.

The School Board voted 3-1 to appoint Kozatch to fill the remainder of Miller-Freutel’s term. Now it’s up to voters to decide who occupies the District 5 seat for the next four years.

Anderson, a former engineer who describers herself as a “volunteer mom,” said her desire to challenge Kozatch for the seat is partly due to the board’s buyout of former Superintendent Donna Howell’s contract.

“I was disappointed by the board’s recent decision regarding the superintendent and I feel their actions have hurt the credibility and trust the school district has within the community,” she said.

On Aug. 10, the School Board voted 4-0 to buy out the remaining two years of Howell’s contract, paying Howell $270,000 in exchange for her immediate resignation.

Kozatch said that despite the turmoil surrounding Howell’s buyout, the district is not divided.

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“If there is (division), it is not directed toward me,” said Kozatch, a former Education Fund Board member.

“I am trying to remain focused on my current responsibilities,” he said. “I continue to monitor the climate at all the schools and the administrative office. We can always do better, make improvements, and provide a better educational atmosphere for our students.”

If elected, Anderson said she wants to be part of a board that focuses on what’s best for students and is fiscally responsible.

“I have the experience and talents to be a board member who can respectfully work as part of a team to accomplish common goals,” she said. “And I will support our staff, which works so hard to provide our kids with an academically successful year.”

Anderson, who has two children in the district, added that to ensure children have the best education possible, the board needs to be more accountable to the community.

“Our first task will be to hire a superintendent who can unify our many viewpoints and open dialog with parents, teachers and community interests,” she said. “This will build trust where our staff will feel supported and will begin to open up communication and create a respectful and user-friendly education system where all parties are valued.”

Kozatch, whose daughters have graduated from the district, said his inspiration to run for the school board stems from a life-long desire to be a teacher.

“I wanted to be a teacher when I was in college, but was never confident that I would be a great teacher, so I have always been a teacher wannabe. I also think that the system of free public education we have in the U.S. is an extraordinary institution.”

Kozatch added that students have a “great, untapped potential.”

“Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I see so many opportunities to make what is good about our schools great, and what is great, even greater still,” he said. “I would like to remain part of a winning team. :I think that the continuity, flexibility, and creativity I can offer would be a positive quality for our district.”

Both candidates said they support all-day kindergarten and they agreed that more research must be done to determine how to fund the program.

“We could see this new program in place as soon as the facilities are ready if we can identify a reasonable funding source,” said Kozatch, who noted all-day kindergarten space was planned in the new Soda Creek Elementary School and in the expansion of Strawberry Park Elementary School.

“I would aggressively look for any available district funds, grants, gifts from the community, and gift proposals to the Education Fund Board,” he said. “Many parents have told me that they would be very willing to contribute their own money since the state currently will only fund half-day kindergarten.”

Anderson said she too will look at a variety of funding sources.

“Whether it’s a mill levy or parents pay their way, I’m concerned with the kids who need it the most being able to afford it,” she said. “I would like it to be a thoughtful process involving all interested parties.”

Laura Anderson

Age: 48

Occupation: Engineer by training, volunteer by choice

On the issue:

Do you favor all-day kindergarten? If so, how do you propose funding the program and when do you see the program starting?

“Yes. I do have a concern how it is going to be funded. Whether it’s a mill levy or parents paying their way, I’m concerned with the kids who need it the most being able to afford it. I would like it to be a thoughtful process involving all interested parties. (It should begin) at the very earliest, when the building construction projects are completed.”

Is there divisiveness in the school district? If so, what would you do to help improve the climate?

“Yes. It was the main topic at the School Board retreat with the new superintendent on (Oct. 1). I want to be part of a board that focuses on what’s best for our students and is fiscally responsible. I have the experience and talents to be a board member who can respectfully work as part of a team to accomplish common goals. And I will support our staff, which works so hard to provide our kids with an academically successful year.”

Jerry Kozatch

Age: 54

Occupation: Co-owner of Ambiente Home Accents and Gifts

On the issues:

Do you favor all-day kindergarten? If so, how do you propose funding the program and when do you see the program starting?

“Yes. One of the primary responsibilities of a school board member is to assess the needs and desires of their community. The Steamboat Springs parents I have listened to are very much in favor of a choice for all-day kindergarten and would like to have it available as quickly as possible. :We could see this new program in place as soon as the facilities are ready if we can identify a reasonable funding source. I would aggressively look for any available district funds, grants, gifts from the community, and gift proposals to the Education Fund Board.”

Is there divisiveness in the school district? If so, what would you do to help improve the climate?

“No. If there is, it is not directed toward me. I am trying to remain focused on my current responsibilities. I continue to monitor the climate at all the schools and the administrative office. We can always do better, make improvements, and provide a better educational atmosphere for our students.”