Election 2017: Q & A with Andrew A. Benjamin, South Routt School District School Board candidate
October 14, 2017
Why are you qualified to serve on the school board?
As I am running in the only contested seat in the race, it will be the voters that ultimately decide if I am qualified or not. I have been a resident of the Yampa Valley since 1999 and have one child, age 14, attending the middle school currently. Along with my wife of 16 years, I have previously been a business owner in the Town of Oak Creek. I believe that I am a critical thinker and have used this trait frequently during my time on the Oak Creek and Routt County Planning Commissions. I am definitely not a “yes man” and tend to approach discussions from outside the train of thought of my fellow commission members. I am a supporter of teachers but do not believe in any way that they are solely responsible for educating our students. Education does not just occur in the classroom.
What do you think is the most important issue facing the South Routt School District and what can be done to address it?
I believe that declining enrollment from the continued acceptance of out-of-district students by the Steamboat School District is the single largest challenge facing the South Routt School District. This phenomenon has been exacerbated by the decades-long shift of South Routt towns becoming bedroom communities for Steamboat Springs. This is not unique to just South Routt. One possible solution to student retention could be the construction of an elementary school campus in the Stagecoach area for the parents who work in Steamboat. One of the greatest challenges facing our residents is the coordination between school and work schedules. This has been planned for many years and has been identified in the Routt County Master and Sub-Area Plans.
What strategies would you suggest for the South Routt School District to address declining enrollment?
First, I would suggest a strategic focus on better marketing for our district that highlights the many advantages South Routt School District may be able to provide. Our ag program is top notch, our athletic teams are contenders at the state level every year. The teachers and staff are an integral part of the community and engage the students both inside and outside of the school environment. The four-day school week is an asset that should attract additional students whose parents seek a far more concentrated academic schedule. Second, I would like to see other municipalities within the county consider passing a half-cent sales tax like the one collected in Steamboat. The monies collected should then be pooled together and distributed more equitably among the districts that contribute to the fund. As it currently stands, the Steamboat Springs School District takes the lion's share of the monies collected.
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Would you support putting a mill levy override to support salary increases for teachers and staff back on the ballot in 2018? Why or why not?
I would absolutely support placing the mill levy override back on the ballot in 2018 specifically for supporting salary increases for our teachers. The overall cost and impact of taxes collected on the residents of the district is very small when compared to benefits that are gained by having informed and educated citizens. The attraction and retention of qualified educators is paramount to the future success of the district.
What role do you think the South Routt School District and/or school board plays or should play in the overall South Routt community?
Current and past members of the South Routt School Board have always played an active role in the fabric of the South Routt community, and I don’t see why this should be any different in the future. We are a collection of small towns that are connected through the various activities that take place at the school. School staff and board members are regularly seen out in the community during the Fourth of July and Labor Day celebrations helping in every way that is needed. We are stronger together than apart.