District 16 seeks to fill school board seats | PostIndependent.com

District 16 seeks to fill school board seats

PARACHUTE, Colorado – The Garfield District 16 school board is taking letters of interest until Nov. 28 from people willing to fill three open seats on the board.

Three members of the five-person board decided not to seek re-election this fall, and no candidates stepped up to run for those seats.

As a result, the three incumbents – David Higuera, Dora King and Cheri Witt-Brown – remain on the board along with Sarah Orona and Allison Bell, until the new appointments can be made.

“We have three solid letters of interest, and I’ve heard of about 12 people who are interested,” said Orona, who serves as the board president.

The three incumbent members have also expressed some interest in remaining on the board, but were still deciding whether to submit official letters, she said.

After the election, it was unclear how the board was to proceed without an official quorum, which requires at least three voting members.

The board obtained a legal opinion that said the three board members whose terms were up could remain seated until new board members were appointed. They agreed to do so.

The board will review the applications and will likely decide on the appointments at its Dec. 13 meeting.

One of the first orders of business when the new board is seated will be to begin the process of determining budget cuts for the 2012-13 school year.

Some tough decisions loom in light of voter rejection of a $4.7 million mill levy override that had been proposed by District 16 in the Nov. 1 election. The district includes public schools serving Parachute and Battlement Mesa.

The three-part funding question had asked for $1.2 million in new property tax revenues per year to offset cuts in state funding in recent years.

It also would have included $583,103 per year to pay for a full-day kindergarten program, plus $3 million per year for three years to pay for school building improvements, including energy-saving measures.

“We have a budget through this school year, so we don’t have to make any decisions for four months,” Orona said.

Another likely reduction in state funding for next year, however, will require the district to make additional deep cuts.

Among the cuts being considered would be in the area of student transportation, a possible four-day school week, closing L.W. St. John Elementary School and staffing cuts, Orona said.

If St. John Elementary were closed, students from that school would have to be distributed between Bea Underwood Elementary School, with the older students likely going to Grand Valley Middle School.

Community input in those decisions will be encouraged. However, Orona said input would be gathered informally at board meetings, rather than forming a citizens committee.

“We do welcome everybody’s input, and are asking people to step up and be a part of this,” she said.

While disappointed that the mill levy override did not pass, Orona said the school board will push on.

“Even if the mill levy didn’t pass, we are a lot better off than much of the rest of the world,” she said. “It is a challenge, but we are going in with a positive attitude. At the same time, we support our teachers, and our kids are doing really well and are being educated.”


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