School candidates debate | SteamboatToday.com

School candidates debate

Potential board members discuss taxes, class sizes in forum

Susan Cunningham

— The two candidates for the only contested Steamboat Springs School Board race have similar priorities for the future.

District 1 incumbent Michael Loomis and challenger John DeVincentis said they want to improve trust and the relationship among teachers, staff, the community and the School Board. They also said they want the district to retain good teachers and staff members, a goal that often means paying those employees more.

The two candidates shared those priorities during an election forum Wednesday sponsored by the Steamboat Pilot & Today and KRMR Radio.

Loomis, who has served on the board for two years, said planning for the district’s future facility needs also is a priority. DeVincentis said he wants to work with the Education Fund Board, which administers the city’s half-cent sales tax for education, so that its gifts to the school district are maximized.

Loomis said his School Board experience has taught him that fostering a good relationship among the School Board, district staff and the community takes time.

“Like any relationship, it’s not a goal that is done and crossed off the list, but it is a continuing process where listening is more important than speaking your mind,” he said.

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The school district faces a number of challenges, DeVinc–entis said, but key to all of them is serving the district’s “owners” — its parents, staff and community members — and ensuring that the students are the priority.

“The biggest issue is how to provide the best education … for our children,” he said.

Loomis told the Centennial Hall audience that he brings to the School Board an open mind, a broad outlook and an ability to listen to different perspectives, as well as 20 years of business management experience and the experience of having two young daughters in the school system.

DeVincentis, who has been endorsed by the Steamboat Springs Education Association, said he brings years of experience in education, including 21 years as principal of Strawberry Park Elementary School, to the table.

DeVincentis spoke passionately about class sizes, advocating no more than 20 students per classroom at the elementary level, with smaller kindergarten classes. Small class sizes and attracting and keeping good teachers are key to giving children the best possible education, he said.

Loomis did not advocate a specific size for district classes, but he said keeping classes small, especially in elementary schools, was important and was one of the reasons he got involved with the School Board. He also cautioned that the district has limited funding.

Denise Connelly, who is running unopposed for the School Board’s District 3 seat, also addressed the audience. She described her background, which includes working for nearly 30 years as a teacher and having three children who are students in the district. She said she won’t “change” after the election, will remain open-minded and will treat people with respect while maintaining a focus on what’s best for students.

Tom Miller-Freutel, who is running unopposed for the District 5 seat on the School Board, did not attend the forum.

— To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com