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School board zones to stay in place following split vote
School board members reiterate the need for more involvement from the community
February 04, 2013
With a split vote, the Crook County School Board made the decision last Monday to keep the current zone system status quo for the elected school board members.
The final decision came down to board members Patti Norris and John Lang voting for the change in zones, and Scott Cooper and Doug Smith voting to keep the current system status quo. School board vice chair Doug Smith commented Friday that the last few elected school board positions have had very few applicants, and some board members in the past have been elected with less than 100 votes. Despite this fact, the board couldn’t come to consensus on the issue.
“The board welcomes more involvement from anyone in the community who wants to get involved in this stuff, there is plenty of work to go around,” said Board member Scott Cooper. “Tough decisions are going to need to be continually made.”
Smith explained a big concern was that abolishing the zones left the board vulnerable if several successful candidates took control of the board on specific agendas. Board Chair Patti Norris also reflected this point of view.
“The biggest issue was the concern that without the zones, you could have three people from anywhere, or any given area who had a particular axe to grind, and would be able to run for those positions,” noted Norris.
All of the board members struggled with the decision, and the result was a split between the four members in attendance at the January board meeting.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any particular system that makes it impossible for people to abuse the system,” Norris added.
The original intent for the proposed change was to provide a larger and more qualified candidate pool without the geographic requirements. The board has considered this revision before, but up until now and including the present vote, the board has decided against it.
“I am hopeful that we get some good candidates to apply from all of the areas, and can have a true community election of the candidates,” Norris said hopefully.
In addition to the decision on the zone system, the school board also came to consensus on the issue of whether to elect a temporary board member to fill the vacancy left by Rich Mires (Zone 3), or wait until the position comes on the ballot in May. The decision was made to hold the position until the May ballot.
Smith commented that if they would have moved to open the position in February, it would have been opened for 20 days. He indicated that the temporary board member would only have a chance to attend one board meeting before they made a decision to file before the March deadline. In addition, he felt that they should let the voters make the decision on this position, allowing the other board members to focus on the many issues before them between now and May.
“It takes time to train a new board member,” he said. “We have a lot of things on our plate.”
“We decided at this point, there wasn’t really any added value in having somebody serve for just a couple of months and then be replaced by someone who was elected in May,” said Norris.