Understanding Roaring Fork School District’s school board: members weigh in on upcoming election, what a board member’s role is
With two members declining to run again, Roaring Fork School District will have two open seats on its school board this fall.
Board members Jennifer Rupert and Jennifer Scherer will both be leaving the board following the November elections.
Rupert said six years ago when she first joined the school board, she was approached by other community members who thought she’d make a good fit.
“I didn’t know much about the role when I was first approached, but as I learned more about it I was drawn to it because I thought it was a place where my skill blend, or what I had to offer matched a role,” Rupert said.
She works as a trainer and ski pro for Aspen Ski Company and runs an excavation company with her husband. Becoming a school board member is a volunteer role, but Rupert said it is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling opportunities she’s ever had.
“Sometimes really great leaders shy away because they think they don’t have the experience or the education to serve in this role. … To those people I would say, if their heart is in it then that’s really the most important thing,” Rupert said.
Angie Davlyn, Senior Project Manager and School Board secretary for RFSD, said the board has four major roles: board governance, by making and updating policies; district oversight, through strategic planning and identifying educational priorities; hiring and evaluating the superintendent, who is their sole employee; and communicating with the public.
“They have a big role in keeping community members informed and also a big role in informing themselves about the concerns of the public,” Davlyn said.
The district’s executive team will provide informational packets to the board prior to meetings so members can prepare any questions or concerns they may have. Davlyn said the guidance of board members should come from a place of addressing community needs and relying on the pillars of education they believe the district should adhere to.
“The board strives to establish an educational system that upholds the mission of the district, which is to ensure every student develops the enduring knowledge skills and character to thrive in a changing world,” Davlyn said.
Board President Natalie Torres said she ran for a position on the school board because she was looking to get more involved. Torres said there are often misconceptions about who would be fit for a school board candidate, but emphasized diverse membership only makes the board stronger.
“For anybody who’s interested in running, it’s really great to have a diverse group. And in some cases people think, well I’m not board member material or I’m not … whatever they think a board member should look like,” Torres said. “And the truth is, the board members should look like anybody that lives in our community, because we all bring our own experiences and our own values to the table. And that lends itself to a really strong team.”
Davlyn said the responsibility of board members comes down to attending two meetings a month that can vary in length based on discussions or participants from the public forum. It also means reading the provided materials ahead of time and keeping communication with the public, especially by phone and email, open and being responsive to what they hear.
Board member Jasmin Ramirez said she came to be a part of the school board really as just a parent with some concerns. She said the work comes from a place of compassion and it requires an open-minded person who can empathize with experiences that may be different than their own to represent all community members when on the board.
“I think a lot of people don’t know what we do, but it’s actually really important — I mean everybody needs an education, right? Everybody needs access to education, everyone needs great teachers to thrive and to be inspired by so I hope we get two new board members that are ready to work and they really want to join the district in a path forward together,” Ramirez said.
Rupert said being on the school board taught her the importance of community awareness and that the team succeeds when a group of leaders come together and monitor the district’s work with all students, families and faculty in mind, not just joining with a one-track goal or exclusively based on personal motivations.
“The eagle-eye view means that you are a steward for the community. You are looking at things from as many angles as possible before you make a decision. And that is very different from coming in with one hot agenda, for example ‘I want my child to succeed, that’s why I’m on the board,’” Rupert said.
Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Equity, and how that plays into school district communications with primarily Spanish-speaking families, became a topic of discussion as the Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education approved the 2021-22 district budget Wednesday night.