The Sheridan district will pay its school board members

Students begin the 2020-21 school year in-person on Aug. 17 at the district’s alternative high school, SOAR Academy., Colorado
The five-member Sheridan school board voted unanimously on Nov. 1 to allow its members to get paid. Students in the photo are at the district’s alternative high school, SOAR Academy. (Courtesy of Sheridan School District)

The school board in Sheridan, just south of Denver, voted Monday to allow compensation for board members, becoming one of the first in Colorado to do so.

The five-member Sheridan board voted unanimously to allow its members to get paid $150 for a full day of board work — such as attending  board conferences or retreats — or $75 for a half day of work for other board assignments. No public members showed up to comment.

“It’s to give people an incentive to run for the board,” said Sally Daigle, Sheridan board president, or to offer an incentive to attend board member training outside the district. “I learn so much. There are people out there that wouldn’t have the option to take the time off or have a whole lot of time off built up.”

Board member Maria Delgado, who is a full-time college student working part time, said she would benefit from compensation for days she skipped her job for board duties.

“I didn’t realize how much work goes into it, it’s a lot to take on,” Delgado said of becoming a school board member. “It’s hard sometimes to make the time.”

Board members said they did not intend for members to be paid for regular board meetings, and were more concerned about board work that interfered with their paying jobs. 

Board members will have the option to not get paid for their work.

Colorado this year enabled districts to pay school board members if a board majority approved a resolution allowing it. Several school boards have discussed the issue, but have not yet approved a proposal. 

In Aurora, school board members were interested in allowing board pay to encourage more diverse candidates to join the board. But after setting a special meeting and not receiving any public feedback in favor or against, the board decided to postpone any vote on a proposal. Denver’s school board has also discussed the idea, but has not scheduled a vote.

The Adams 14 school board discussed the idea last week, but board members didn’t agree on the pay issue. Some expressed interest in more creative structures such as allowing reimbursement for board members who need child care to attend meetings. That issue has come up for previous board members.

The Sheridan district has notoriously struggled with finding candidates for its school board. The district has done away with term limits. Despite that, one seat remained open for years. The district canceled this year’s election because the three board members whose seats are up for grabs had no opponents. 

The district serves about 1,200 students, of which more than 80% qualify for subsidized lunch, a measure of poverty. The district has also had one of the highest percentages of students lacking permanent housing.

The Colorado law allowing board pay prohibits board members who vote to approve a pay proposal to benefit from it during their current term. Three board members, Daniel Stange, Maria Delgado, and Sally Daigle, will be eligible to receive pay after Tuesday’s election when their new terms begin. Board members Juanita Chacon and Karla Najera will be eligible to receive pay after the 2023 elections. 

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