Vail Daily editorial: What do we do now?
The headline above is the last line of the 1972 movie “The Candidate,” starring Robert Redford. The line comes after Redford’s character’s improbable path to get elected, and he’s now facing the prospect of actually doing the job he’d sought.
Here’s hoping there’s a lot more than “What do we do now?” going through the minds of Carolyn Knox Keep, Tessa Kirchner, Kevin Kottenstette and Felicia Battle, who were all elected last week to the Eagle County School Board.
Kirchner and Battle are incumbents, so they know what they’re getting into, but board work — which is unpaid — will be a new experience for Knox Keep and Kottenstette. That work is sure to get more difficult throughout the coming months and years.
Beyond the usual work of managing the district, and facing near-constant pressure from parents about one thing or another, this group has to come to grips with some a few other realities.
The big one, at least during the campaign, was how to build student diversity at the Eagle County Charter Academy, which is funded by, and chartered through the district. There was a lot of frankly odd talk that Charter Academy parents were trying to pack the board and, perhaps run off Superintendent Jason Glass. The math on that particular rumor never panned out, given that the supposed charter cabal might get a maximum of three people elected to a seven-member board.
None of the four people elected last week were among that alleged group, but all were in fact endorsed by what passes locally for a teacher’s union. It will be interesting to see how that relationship evolves over the next few years.
The relationship between teachers, administrators and board members will probably quickly focus on financial matters. State funding for public schools is likely to drop in the next couple of years, thanks to constitutional quirks in the way the Colorado Legislature is allowed to raise and spend money.
That fiscal fact, in addition to others including a growing backlog of deferred maintenance needs at the district’s schools, is almost certain to lead to a tax-increase question for voters next year.
How the board approaches the always-delicate topic of asking voters for money may tell us a lot about how the group operates. That’s especially true in light of the district’s train wreck of a ballot question in 2011. That proposal — ill-defined, badly backed, and seemingly supported only by the board and an imperious superintendent — was soundly defeated.
If this board crafts an intelligent plan that earns broad support and succeeds at the ballot box, then we’ll all know this group started it’s work with a lot more than “what do we do now?”
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