Summit School District prepares for November election with 4 seats up for grabs
Colorado Association of School Boards representative provides insights into forming a quality board of education
As the Summit School District Board of Education prepares for an election in November, a representative from the Colorado Association of School Boards spoke with members about their role and what new candidates could expect should they be elected.
During the board meeting Tuesday, July 27, Matt Cook, director of public policy and advocacy for the Colorado Association of School Boards, said that prospective board members might be concerned about a lack of experience or knowledge around education. But he said that shouldn’t be a deterrent.
“Obviously you can’t understand and be an expert in every facet of an organization the size of a school district,” Cook said. “What the board does need to do, though, is be able to understand their role; understand the needs, wants, desires of the community and then ultimately … we want students to be successful.”
Colorado is a local-controlled state, meaning school boards generally have a lot of power. Cook said the Colorado constitution notes that locally-elected boards of education have control of instruction within their school district.
“School board is an important job for a number of reasons,” Cook said. “… We want the future generations to be well educated and understand their role. The second thing is school districts are typically one of the largest employers in a county.”
Cook said oftentimes folks will take interest in joining the school board based on one issue they want to address, but they quickly realize that unless you have a coalition on the board one member doesn’t have much power.
“We all come in with a thought of what we think it’s going to be, and then we realize that there’s just so much learning,” board President Kate Hudnut said in the meeting.
Cook joked that there’s “nothing emotional” around students, tax money and education policy, and he said working with school boards has been some of the most important work in his life. He then asked the board members to reflect on why they joined the board and what has been the most meaningful part of the experience for them.
“We’re here to shape future generations to be successful citizens,” board member Lisa Webster said. “It’s really fulfilling.”
Board Vice President Consuelo Redhorse emphasized the importance of teamwork among the board and encouraged anyone interested in running to reach out to current board members.
Hudnut added that it is easier now than ever to learn about board work since everything for the past year and a half has been done virtually with recordings posted online.
“If you’re doing your homework and want to get a sense of what a day in the life looks like — what meetings look like, what our agendas look like — all of that is more accessible than ever on our website,” Hudnut said.
Webster also noted that with new policies due to the pandemic, board members can now be active participants in a meeting virtually, which provides more flexibility for those with full-time jobs. She said previously, if you missed a certain amount of in-person meetings you would be ineligible to continue as a member of the board.
Molly Speer, executive assistant to the board and superintendent, will serve as the district’s designated election official. Candidates for the board have to be a registered voter in Summit County for 12 consecutive months.
This year, there will be three four-year positions on the board up for election along with a two-year position, which will finish out the term of Virginia “Gini” Bradley, who resigned last year.
Speer said she will require prospective candidates to pick up election information packets from her so she can speak one-on-one with everyone. Prospective candidates are required to get 50 signatures from registered Summit County voters, which Speer will work with the county clerk’s office to verify.
Speer also discussed some fair campaign practice laws in Colorado:
- Candidates cannot use district emails or public resources to campaign.
- Campaign materials cannot be distributed on school district grounds.
- Candidates cannot campaign at school activities like sports games or back to school nights.
- Acting board members cannot act on behalf of a candidate and cannot endorse candidates in any place they are identified as a school board member.
Speer estimated that packets will be available for pickup from Aug. 4-25, and Election Day is Nov. 2.
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