The Buena Vista School Board met for an informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 31 to inform the public about what it means to be a school board member and exactly how interested citizens can run for the five open seats in the upcoming November election.
The meeting featured District Election Official Hannah Jayne and featured information about the requirements to run, the timeline for the election, and perspectives from current board members about what it means to be on the Board of Education.
About twenty people attended the informational meeting, promising enough candidates to fill the five open seats currently up for election. Two of the seats, Suzette Hachmann’s in District 3 and Tracy Storm’s in District 4, are term-limited and will have no incumbent candidate.
The District 1 seat held by Brett Mitchell, an at-large seat with a two-year term, and an at-large seat with a four-year term are also available during this election.
Candidates running for the at-large seats must declare whether they are interested in the two or four-year position. Board Members Lynn Montoya and Jessica Crites are the only two whose Buena Vista Board of Education seats are not in play during this election.
General Information – What Does the School Board Do?
During the Monday evening meeting, the Board handed out a forty-seven-page packet filled with information about the Buena Vista School Board, an overview of policy governance, and other details that a candidate will need to know. The full Resource Guide is available on the school’s website here.
Board President Suzette Hachmann provided an overview of the information at the start of the meeting. She explained that school boards are made up of citizens and are meant to guide the vision of the school district.
The main responsibilities of the board include oversight of general education, safety and welfare of students, acquisitions, maintenance, disposal of school property, matters relating to school employees and contractors, and joint agreements and cooperative arrangements. School boards also provide oversight of the curricula and courses taught in school, employ the superintendent, adopt a budget, provide oversight of district transportation for pupils, and provide oversight of salaries, schedules, and other conditions of employment.
“Boards work together to define and delegate rather than react and ratify,” said Hachmann. “We’re up here to set policy that staff can go to and know what they need to be doing and what they can do.” Essentially, the board provides guardrails through policy but does not participate in day-to-day decisions.”
The Buena Vista School Board operates under the Policy Governance model developed by John Carver. Policy Governance is essentially a method of operation for the board to follow. The packet includes an outline of this model from Caroline Carver’s book Boards that Make a Difference. Carver defines Policy Governance as “a comprehensive set of integrated principles that, when consistently applied, allows governing boards to realize owner-accountable organizations.”
Board Treasurer Jessica Crites emphasized the need to understand this system, recommending that candidates focus on and understand Policy Governance to be best prepared to step into the position.
Qualifications for a School Board Position
Some qualifications are necessary for someone to run for a board position.
- Must be a resident of the school district and a registered voter for at least twelve consecutive months prior to the election;
- Must be a resident of the director district for the vacancy if applicable;
- Must be eighteen years or older;
- Must be a United States citizen;
- Never have been convicted of a sexual offense against a child.
Hachmann and Vice President Brett Mitchell also emphasized the need for commitment to the role, which is unpaid. “My advice for anyone looking to join the board is to believe that our school system can work functionally for the kids,” said Mitchell. He continued that any interested candidates must be “willing to fight for the kids no matter what.”
Mitchell also said that anyone wanting to be on the board will need to have a lot of heart and be prepared for some negative consequences of making decisions in the public eye. “You’re going to have people that don’t like you,” said Mitchell. He described losing friends due to disagreements when someone disliked a decision, adding that he had lost business due to his position on the board.
Despite any downfalls, the board members seemed in agreement that their volunteer position was all worth it for the kids.
The required paperwork for interested candidates is available in the Administration Office at 113 North Court Street in Buena Vista. The nomination petitions will be handed out stapled and cannot be unstapled. If the original staple is removed, the petition will no longer be valid.
Election Official Hannah Jayne encouraged anyone with lingering questions to reach out. Though Jayne can typically be found at Avery-Parsons, she will be spending more time at the Administration Office during the election. She can be contacted by email to HannahJ@BVSchools.org with inquiries or to schedule a meeting.
Expectations of a Board Member
Buena Vista School Board Members must attend the regular meetings twice a month on the second and fourth Mondays.
Packets for these meetings with the supplemental information go out the Thursday prior to the regular meeting, leaving a long weekend to review the information. Board members Brett Mitchell and Olivia Bartlett explained that it often took several hours to review the packet thoroughly.
Other potential responsibilities include joining a sub-committee if one is needed. For example, there is currently a building special committee dedicated to the new preschool on which board members Stacey Moss and Lynn Montoya serve. Mitchell currently serves on the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), and one member must serve on the District Accountability Committee (DAC), which adds an additional meeting per month. Board members also do walkthroughs of the school buildings once a month. Study session meetings occur prior to regular board meetings, typically around 5:00 p.m.
The current board members all emphasized that this position is a serious time commitment, which should not be taken lightly.
The first day that the nomination petitions, needing seventy signatures, may be circulated.
1:30 p.m. Friday, September 1 is the deadline for the nomination petitions and accompanying forms to be filed with the Election Official.
Deadline to file as a write-in candidate.
First date a school district may cancel an election if there are no candidates for any positions.
9:30 a.m. determination of the ballot order by lot drawing by the Election Official.
While the School Board does not hold any public forums for candidates, local organizations (like the League of Women Voters of Chaffee County and the Truth Has A Voice Foundation) typically invite candidates to public forums to answer questions before election day. Hachmann also encouraged candidates to attend the School Board meetings between now and the election to familiarize themselves with what is going on and how meetings work.
Other Important Information for Interested Candidates
Each candidate must file a candidate affidavit with the Secretary of State within ten days of becoming a candidate.
Packet forms that require notarization are the Affidavit of School Director Candidate on Qualifications for Office, Acceptance of Nomination to be a Candidate, and the Circulator’s Affidavit. Each petition packet containing signatures must be notarized. Any signatures received after the notarization of the form will be void.
The Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) has a Frequently Asked Questions page that provides more in-depth information about Colorado school board elections. One of the first things that a new school board member will do is attend the CASB conference, which is typically at the beginning of December.
2023 election information is available and will continue to be updated on the Buena Vista School District’s website here.