Aspen school board term limits headed to November ballot
ASPEN – The Aspen Board of Education will ask voters in November to eliminate term limits for future school board members.
Under the Colorado constitution, school board members can serve two consecutive terms; in Aspen, terms are four years.
“So the question is, do we want to go to the voters with this?” school board president Fred Peirce asked, framing a discussion at Monday’s board meeting on the topic.
“What I like about doing so is the timing … that we’re not trying to affect this next board being elected,” said board member Laura Kornasiewicz. “Rather, it’s for future boards; to protect the interests of the district for the future.”
Term limits became a point of concern due to the potential composition of the board in coming years – years that are likely to be challenging for school districts.
Two seats in Aspen are up for election in November – Peirce’s and the one occupied by Kornasiewicz, who also cannot seek re-election due to term limits.
Then, in 2013, term limits will force Charla Belinski and Elizabeth Parker to leave the board. Bob Glah could run for re-election in 2013.
Thus, the current best-case scenario down the road – if institutional memory is an important foundation for success – would be a board comprising one member with four years’ experience (Glah, if re-elected), two members with two years’ experience, and two members with no experience. Conversely, the board could ultimately comprise three new members and two members with only two years’ experience in 2014.
In a 4-1 vote, with Glah dissenting, the school board agreed to let voters decide whether it should eliminate term limits – and, in turn, choose from the broadest possible slate of candidates.
“In a small community, I am not worried about term limits and political machines on the school board. I am worried about turnover in the context of our policy governance model, however,” said Peirce, speaking in support of the proposed ballot question. “We’ve spent 15 years on this, and it is working really well.
“I would hate to see that disappear, and as we’ve seen it can disappear, and it can be bedlam.”
Glah, however, disagreed.
“My sense, in reference to the institutional memory standpoint, is that there is a lot of this in the various committees and various schools,” he said. “Plus, I am very interested in making sure all schools have representation on the board; it is our job to recruit and try to find new board members.
“I guess, generally speaking, I am not opposed to term limits. I understand the risk in having them, but it is one I am willing to accept.”
Ultimately, though, the board favored letting the community decide if it wants term limits for its school board.
“It’s completely up to the citizens and I like that approach,” said Parker. “So let’s throw it out to the voters and let them decide.”
Friday is the deadline for candidates to submit nomination petitions, with the signatures of 50 valid registered voters, for inclusion in the Nov. 1 election. Petitions are available through the district office. Three people have thrown their hats in the ring thus far: Shelia Wills, Carmen Dowley and Sandra Peirce, Fred’s wife.
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