A challenging workload and communication gaps were among the surprises the two newest Durango School District 9-R board members cited as eye-opening in their first three months on the job.
The new board members, Kristin Smith and Andrea Parmenter, plan to meet the public from 4:30 to 6 p.m. March 4 at the College Drive Durango Joes, 732 E. College Drive. All board members plan to hold public coffee talks throughout the year.
The meetings are part of an effort to increase the board’s accessibility.
“We want feedback. We want to know what people like about the district, what they would like to change. We want to hear their concerns,” Smith said.
Smith and Parmenter said the need to improve communication was brought home by the controversy over the district’s policy about providing partial meals to students whose parents had fallen behind in meal payments.
“We’ve had a lot of negative responses from the community. And people were up in arms without full information,” Parmenter said.
District officials are examining the Boulder Valley School District’s policy to see whether it can adopt language that could eliminate objectionable, offensive and confusing wording in 9-R’s policy.
The district board is expected to a hear a review of its meal policy at its meeting Tuesday.
“As a district and a community, we need to make sure kids are taken care of no matter what’s going on at home,” Smith said.
The district is considering partnering with nonprofits to deal with parents’ debt, she said, adding that the program’s total debt has decreased to about $1,400, compared with $18,000 four years ago.
Beyond the meal policy controversy, Smith said renewal of The Juniper School’s charter gave her an early example of the intensive study and time required as a board member.
Increased accessibility will begin with coffee talks, but Parmenter said anyone may contact board members anytime about their concerns and ideas to improve the district.
“Our doors are always open, and we will always respond,” she said. “We want to have an open dialogue with the community.”