Members of the Durango School District 9-R school board chose well in picking Joe Colgan to fill a recently vacated seat on the board. Colgan's experience, judgment, temperament and character all will benefit 9-R.
The District E seat had been that of Tammy Capdevielle. She recently resigned to move to Boulder. Colgan will serve in the interim capacity only until the November election. It is heartening to note, however, that Colgan had said before he was picked that, if chosen, he will run for the seat.
District 9-R needs good candidates, and Colgan is clearly qualified. An accounting professor with long ties to Fort Lewis College, he served as District 9-R's interim finance director from February to August of 2008. Before that, he was on the Durango City Council, serving from 1997 to 2005. He is involved in economic-development efforts, and in several civic groups.
Board member Jim Callard expressed it well in saying Colgan has an "intimate understanding" of government work and a good grasp of "what the public will support and what they won't." Colgan's years on the City Council included several successful citywide ballot measures, the fruits of which we enjoy today - the Durango Community Recreation Center being perhaps the best example.
With 9-R, Colgan is not taking on a school district in crisis. But neither is this job without challenges.
Education is a constant source of controversy, so while much of 9-R's operation is on a solid footing, there still will be issues. Enrollment, for example, is down districtwide and, under Colorado's system of school financing, that affects the budget. Whether that is a blip or reflects a demographic trend will determine how much it hurts and for how long. And if further trimming is needed, deciding where and how to cut back will not be easy choices. Colgan's experience will be invaluable in situations like that.
In part, that is because Colgan also brings a first-class temperament. In the stressful situations all boards encounter from time to time, that can be the difference between a meaningful, if excited, exchange and a heated one that leaves too little accomplished.
The Herald can confidently predict that School District 9-R will be the better for Joe Colgan's presence on its board.
Along with Joe Colgan, the 9-R school board considered two other candidates: Bill Bowlby and Nancy Mead. Both should be encouraged to run in November.
Bowlby has been a strong critic of standardized testing of long standing. Mead reportedly has a background in designing those tests. That alone could make for an educational discussion.
They may be coming at the issue of testing from different perspectives, but that very diversity could be enlightening. The school board never should be a battleground, but it is large enough in size and should be big enough in spirit to accommodate principled disagreement.
Anyone else considering school board service also should be encouraged. Four seats will be up for grabs in November and even if Colgan, both incumbents, Bowlby and Mead run, that still is only five candidates for four seats. They all likely would be good candidates, but students, parents, teachers and employees of District 9-R and the district's taxpayers all deserve a better discussion and more choice than uncontested races provide.