AURORA | The Aurora Public Schools board of education will vote later this month on whether to approve compensation for future board members, a shift that members said they hope will make serving on the board accessible to a wider swath of the community.
The board discussed the future vote at its meeting Tuesday, the first of the upcoming school year. It also marked the start of a new twice-monthly meeting format for the school board, which the board voted to approve at its June meeting. Under the new schedule, the first meeting of each month will be a standing special meeting where the board will not hear public comment or take votes.
The change is an attempt to curb the length of the board’s meetings, which during the past school year regularly ended after midnight due to the number of items on each agenda and the volume of people who spoke at public comment. The long hours on a school night were a strain on district employees who were required to stay to present to the board and run the meetings, as well as for board members, the majority of whom have day jobs or school aged children.
The shift was effective at least for the first meeting, which ran for about two and a half hours. During the meeting the board discussed the policy for compensating board members, which board member Michael Carter spearheaded.
The idea had initially been discussed last fall but was put aside before the school board election. The discussion followed legislation in the 2020-2021 session that allowed for school board members to receive financial compensation instead of serving on a purely voluntary basis.
So far, school boards in Denver and Sheridan have voted to approve compensation, and it has been discussed in Adams 14, according to Chalkbeat Colorado.
Carter said that giving future board members a stipend would allow for more district parents who are low income to consider running for school board.
“I never want a financial restraint to be a reason someone can’t be on this board,” he said.
According to information on the district’s website, 74.2% of APS families qualify for free or reduced lunch.
The changes to the board’s policy being considered would allow board members to receive a stipend of $150 per board meeting or other official board duties, with a cap of $450 total per month, according to board documents. Board members may waive compensation if they do not personally feel like they need it.
Debbie Gerkin said that she supported the measure, saying that she was lucky that she hasn’t had to worry about money being a constraint during her time on the board but that others are in a different situation.
“I think we need as much participation as possible on the board,” she said.
Nichelle Ortiz said she was in support of the measure as well. Though the board is racially diverse, she said that it does not represent the socioeconomic makeup of the district, which includes wealthy families as well as families living below the poverty line.
“Drive from one end of Colfax to the other and you will see this play out,” she said.
Carter said that the change would not be a magic bullet, but that it would allow potential board members to be able to pay for childcare or other expenses that might serve as a barrier.
“The easy part is putting this on paper, the hard part is going out and getting people to be on the board,” he said.
Board members cannot vote to compensate themselves, so if approved the vote will go into effect in July 2025, after the terms of all the current sitting board members have expired.
The item will be placed on the consent agenda for the board’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 16 at 6 p.m. It will take place at the district’s Professional Learning and Conference Center at 15771 East 1st Avenue, and will also be broadcast live on YouTube and Zoom.