Prepared statement from Superintendent Linda Reed to the Board of Education on June 28, 2018.
“In April 2017, Archuleta School District began a multi-step process to address the findings from a facilities study the district had done in the summer of 2016 by convening a Planning Assistance Team (PAT), made up of community members and selected staff members. The job of the PAT was to analyze and make recommendations to district staff regarding how to address facilities shortcomings with the four buildings that make up PSES, PSMS, and PSHS.
The process was facilitated by two architects from RTA Architects, who have done over 30 school projects around the state. That process normally lasts between 4-6 meetings. Our team met 13 times which resulted in recommendations to the board for three potential BEST grants and a potential bond to offset what would not be covered by the BEST grants. At the end of the PAT process, RTA provided a comprehensive Facilities Master Plan, which the board approved. Staff worked with RTA to craft the three BEST grant applications, one of which won approval from the BEST board.
The last PAT meeting was held on Monday, March 12, 2018. On Monday, March 19, 2018, the first Task Force meeting was held. Task Force members were selected by myself, after seeking suggestions from a variety of community members. The Task Force (TF) represented a broad spectrum of the community and included parents, retirees, people who had served on the PAT, including a teacher and an administrator, as well as business owners. There were 63 people who were invited to participate and 32 agreed to be part of the group. The recommended size for the group was 30. There were four TF meetings in total, the second and third on April 9th and 16th. The final meeting was held this past Monday evening.
The job of the Task Force was to hear about our capital facilities needs AND our operating needs, and to make a recommendation to me, as superintendent, as to how to address those needs. As the board knows, over $13 million in funds the district was to receive has not flowed from the state since 2009. While we have managed our funds very frugally and wisely, we have had to dip into reserves continually to meet our operational needs.
I want to share with the board my deep respect and admiration for these citizens of our community, both the PAT and the Task Force, who gave up hours of their time to volunteer and help guide my team and me, and give us the insights and perspectives of our community in order to help us make the best recommendation to you, our elected Board of Education, regarding how best to proceed regarding the needs of our school district, both from a facilities and an operational standpoint. They brought us such valuable insights that we never could have reached without them.
Throughout the months of May and June, voters in our county were provided with a variety of mailings, the final of which was a survey. At the final Task Force meeting, I presented a summary of the results of the survey, which was produced by our partners at George K. Baum, with whom we contracted for this service. They were sent the surveys and did the analysis of the results. Following the presentation of the results of the survey, Task Force members met in small groups of four and then shared their group’s recommendation on both the MLO and a bond. All responses were charted and then the entire group was asked to respond to the proposals with a show of hands. The results for the whole group were as follows:
- Funds to recruit and retain high quality staff:
- 19 – Yes, 0 – No, 1- Abstain
- Funds for 3 full-time school resource officers:
- 18 – Yes, 2 – No, 0 – Abstain
- Funds to offset the cost of full-day kindergarten the district now covers:
- 11 – Yes, 8 – No, 1 – Abstain
- Move forward with a bond request on the November 2018 ballot for just the cost of a new elementary school:
- 9 – Yes,
- Move forward with a bond request on the November 2019 ballot:
- 9 – Yes
Two Task Force members did not express an opinion either way.
As superintendent, I have spent a great deal of the last three days, pondering the Task Force results. It is clear to me that the community, represented by the Task Force members, and the results of the survey (with a 60% approval rating), are behind the MLO. Therefore, I am recommending to the board that they move forward with the full MLO proposal.
While the full-day kindergarten portion didn’t have the highest level of support, it is a relatively small portion of the total ask, and because the district has been subsidizing full-day kindergarten from reserves, at some point we won’t be able to continue that. Kindergarten is an essential part of the educational process, and I believe all students deserve access to the full-day program.
My recommendation regarding the bond question, based on both the surveys with a 47% support rate and by the Task Force’s responses, took me longer to formulate as I have wrestled with how best to proceed with this. Members of the Task Force made powerful arguments in favor of both of the suggestions. However, after much thought and a few sleepless nights, my recommendation on the bond is to wait until the November 2019 election to move forward with this in order to allow further refinement of the proposal and to better tailor it to the stakeholders of our community. While some members of the task force thought we could move forward this year, I believe we can produce a stronger overall proposal for the community by waiting until 2019.”