School board candidate Michelle Hartel Stecher in her own words
Incumbent seeks to support all aspects of individual student lives
The Vail Daily is running Q&A’s with the 11 candidates running for five seats on the Eagle County Schools’ Board of Education. The questionnaires will run in the order that the candidates appear on the ballot. All school directors are voted on at large in the county election, meaning eligible electors of the school district vote for one candidate from each director district. Ballots were mailed out Saturday.
Name: Michelle Hartel Stecher
Occupation: Executive Director of Mountain Youth
Place of residence: Wildridge, Avon
Length of residence in Eagle County: 16 years
Director District: District F (Avon Elementary, Edwards Elementary, Berry Creek Middle School and Battle Mountain High School)
Have you served on any other boards/commissions/councils in Eagle County or otherwise? Paul Cuthbertson Memorial Foundation, Colorado Prevention Specialist Board, Healthy Kids Colorado Survey Statewide Advisory Board, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health Advisory Committee, Total Health Alliance Advisory Committee, HOA board
Tell us about your volunteer experiences, involvement in education and service to the community that you live. How will these experiences enable you to bring value to the board? Before my current role with Mountain Youth, I managed educational and mentorship programs for SOS Outreach. I have volunteered with Buddy Mentors through Bright Future Foundation and coached soccer through Vail Valley Soccer Club for over 10 years. My two children attend Eagle County Charter Academy, where I serve on the Diversity and Outreach Committee.
Daily, I seek to better understand the strengths and needs facing youth and lead community strategies to improve the health and safety of the community. These experiences tie into my school board work, helping to navigate and support all aspects of child health, wellness and development.
What has been your interaction so far with Eagle County School district? I have served on the Eagle County School District Board of Education for the past three years. I am currently the treasurer and secretary of the board. I also serve on the district’s Wellness Committee, Calendar Committee and Family Engagement Subcommittee.
Professionally with Mountain Youth, I collaborate with district-level leaders, principals, teachers and school counselors continuously on various health, safety and wellness initiatives for students.
What is the value that you will bring to the school board? I will bring my robust experience with community engagement, passion for serving children and families, commitment to equitable and rigorous academic achievement, professional and respectful mannerisms, and personal and professional dedication toward building a healthier, safer community.
Why do you want to serve on the school board? My priorities include academic achievement, student wellness, behavioral health supports and collaboration to support all aspects of individual student lives. I believe that public education offers a unique and powerful mechanism to build supports for all children and families in an equitable manner.
What has the current school board done well? And what could it have done better? A critical problem facing our district is insufficient funding. As treasurer of the school board for the past year, I have an intimate understanding of both the challenges and the innovative efficiencies our CFO and fiscal team have recognized. While we have done an outstanding job managing our limited resources, we could seek to explore additional creative revenue sources.
If elected, what’s the main thing you’d like to see the school board accomplish throughout your term? I believe in the district’s strategic priorities of equity, student wellness and multitiered systems of support. A main priority for me moving forward is to balance sufficient supports for all students — academic, counseling and otherwise. I have seen students struggle to keep up academically due to stressors at home, language barriers, learning disabilities and other challenges. I will continue to prioritize collaborating to meet student needs and to ensure an effective and safe learning environment.
Over the past few years, Eagle County Schools has prioritized equity practices in its classrooms. Do you feel that the district is equally serving the needs of all students? What could it do better to address any achievement gaps between students? We have made great strides toward more equitable practices yet there is much work to be done. We continue to see stark disparities in academic achievement, enrollment in high-level classes and participation in recreational opportunities and clubs. I deeply value the vision that, one day, a student’s ZIP code, home neighborhood or native language will not be a direct indicator of their GPA.
To get there, we need to continue analyzing data, investing in training opportunities for staff and students, and building stronger pipelines for student voice in decision-making processes.
What advancements can be made to address staffing challenges within the school district? District housing, creative compensation and incentives, focus on recruiting and retaining guest teachers
What specific improvements would you like to see made in the area of student learning/curriculum?
- Rollout of equitable grading process, which is in progress
- Increased focus on project-based learning, CareerWise and Career X
- More opportunities for student voice and engagement in determining learning pathways and curriculum