School board

Telluride R-1 School District Board of Education members Cheryl Miller, Stephanie Hatcher, Dylan Brooks, Jill O’Dell and Jenni Ward. The board has canceled the Nov. 2 school board election as the sole candidates filing positions were incumbents Hatcher and O’Dell. The move will save the district between $10-20,000. (Courtesy photo)

The election to fill two Telluride R-1 School District board seats scheduled for Nov. 2 has been canceled. The seats, each with four-year terms and occupied by board members Stephanie Hatcher and Jill O’Dell, were set to expire this fall. Since they were the only candidates to submit petitions by the Aug. 27 deadline, the two will retain their positions.

Last Friday at a special school board meeting, the board voted to formally cancel the planned election, saving the district between $10-$20 thousand dollars in associated costs.

Of the five school board seats, three are officer positions with two-year terms — president, vice president and treasurer/secretary — nominated and elected by other board members during a special meeting in December following an election. Hatcher, board president for the past four years, is ready to “turn over the reins.”

“It’s a job that takes a ton of time and homework and a lot of diplomacy,” Hatcher admitted. “I know that any of these board members will do a good job.”

The next school board election is in 2023 when the three other seats, occupied by Jenni Ward, Dylan Brooks and Cheryl Miller, will come up for election.

“This board has a history of working together well and we’ve accomplished a lot,” Hatcher noted.

In addition to overseeing district finances, Hatcher explains, managing John Pandolfo’s transition into his second year as superintendent is the board’s most important function.

“While it was an awful year with COVID for John to start as superintendent, what was important to the board was creating a path for longevity,” said Hatcher.  

When she ran for the school board four years ago, O’Dell had “serious concerns” about the direction of the district. 

“After four years I’m absolutely thrilled with our current direction,” O’Dell said. “Our leadership teams have implemented new systems to improve our academic and social-emotional curriculum and supports and our dual immersion program.”

O’Dell plans to spend the next four years improving these systems, supporting recruitment and retention of teachers and support staff, while supporting Pandolfo in his superintendent role. 

“I also want to work with our admin team and teachers to adopt a research-based reading curriculum in both English and Spanish,” she added. “I want to continue to improve our methods of identifying students with reading disabilities at an early age and provide appropriate and science-based interventions.”

Later this week, on Sept. 9 and 10, the board will attend a retreat at the Wilkinson Public Library where they will address policy governance.

“Currently our policy governance is a mish-mash, which is why we need to review it and decide philosophically how we want to manage our relationship with our superintendent,” explained Hatcher. “We’ll have a representative from the Colorado Association of School Boards present at the retreat to help guide us through the process.”

School board members will also start the process of crafting a new mission statement for the district, which will eventually include input from the entire school community. Currently the mission statement reads: "Through quality education, our students will achieve personal success."

“It’s been a long time since that has changed and we want a mission that reflects the traits and skills that we want a Telluride graduate to have and value when they leave our district,” said Hatcher.

She anticipates that a refreshed mission will center around achievement, excellence and equity.

“We’re looking across the school district to make sure achievement shores up based on what transpired last year where there was a dip in achievement,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity to make sure that all students are achieving to the best of their abilities and are engaged at a level that makes them excellent learners. We also want to broaden the pathways that are available to students to reach their goals and the goals that we want for them as a district.”

In terms of school finances, Hatcher is encouraged that Colorado voters repealed the Gallagher Amendment last year, which, she says, crippled public schools for a decade.

“It doesn’t add new money but it stops the drain,” she said. “We’re ending the 2020-21 school year with a surplus of about a million dollars. That said, the future is uncertain.”

That’s because Telluride is viewed at the state level as being well-resourced locally, which can impact district funding.

“We don’t hold the purse strings for state funding which has slowly moved from half, to 40 percent to now about 30 percent of our funding since I’ve been on board,” Hatcher observed. “Any move by the state to decrease our allocation would fall on our local community which translates to another mill levy or bond issue or loss of revenue if we keep the same expense budget.”

Oct. 1 is the date the state records district-wide attendance for budgeting purposes. The latest review of enrollment numbers indicates an increase of 38 students from last year, mainly in the middle/high school.