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El Paso County Colorado District 49

D 49 seeks change regarding board representation

At a special meeting July 16, the School District 49 Board of Education approved, by a 4-1 vote, a resolution to place a question on the November ballot to change board representation from an at-large structure to a director district board of representation. Director Chuck Irons, opposed the resolution.With the current at-large form of representation, constituents vote for school board directors, regardless of where the candidate lives. BOE treasurer Kevin Butcher, who proposed the change at the June D 49 board meeting, said the proposed director district of representation would break D 49 into smaller districts of representation; and people within each district would only vote for the candidate of their choice representing that area, he said.ìThe whole idea was raised because I was trying to figure out what would bring stability to the school board, so we could progress as a community and as a district,î Butcher said. ìI talked to a lot of people I know about how to do it, and we came to the conclusion that if people knew who the people running (for the BOE) were; if they had a closer relationship with them, they would feel more comfortable.îButcher had presented the idea to the board two years ago, so the directors were not surprised when he addressed the issue again this year. He said a couple of the board members at that time were ìadamantly opposedî to the idea.The opposition solidified in Butcherís mind the need for change. ìI call it the ëwho puts the most signs out alongside the roadí kind of win,î he said. The goal of the new method is to shift from the ìmost signsî type of board selection to one where the voters are more knowledgeable about and familiar with their candidates.Brett Ridgway, D 49 chief business officer, worked with Butcher on the proposal to the board. He said his research showed that in the past 10 years, different board members served on the board each year. According to the research, a high turnover in board members resulted in instability and a lack of equitable representation in the district. ìOf those 10 years, there was really only one board for one year representing the district equitably,î Ridgway said.ìWith these smaller areas, the district of representation area, youíre more likely to know the candidates, and you get better candidates that represent the community,î Butcher said.The boundaries for the smaller districts of representation in D 49 are based on the new precincts (within D 49) the county introduced in May.Ridgway said one potential downside is having only one spot on the five-member board for each area of representation. There is a possibility where one or two districts could have several strong candidates, while another district might have a weaker candidate or none at all, he said. However, Ridgway said the upside is that they are aware of that risk and can address it from the start, if the ballot measure passes.According to the districtís map, each smaller district represents about 14,500 residents. If the ballot measure passes, the districts of representation will go into effect for the 2017 board election.

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