Garfield Re-2 gets funding for teacher pay but not new classrooms | PostIndependent.com

Garfield Re-2 gets funding for teacher pay but not new classrooms

Cactus Valley Elementary School third-grade teaher Toni Yorty helps student Judith Sanchez with an assignment in her modular classroom on Tuesday morning.

Seeking to establish a higher and more competitive pay schedule for teachers and other staff, as well as eight new elementary classrooms, the Garfield Re-2 School District posed two questions to voters this November, one a mill levy, the other a bond.

While the mill levy to increase teacher's salaries was approved by voters in balloting that concluded Tuesday, 55 percent to 45 percent, the bond initiative for eight new classrooms in the district did not fair as well, with nearly 54 percent of voters saying no to the ballot issue. The classroom additions were to be built at Cactus Valley and Highland Elementary schools in Silt and Rifle, respectively.

"We are incredibly grateful to our community to support teachers and staff in this way to support 4A," Katie Mackley, representing the "Yes on 4A & 4B" committee, said. "We will be very thoughtful of the message our community is sending about capital projects and we will go back to the drawing board."

Garfield Re-2 School Board President Jay Rickstrew said he had mixed emotions as one of the ballot questions was successful and the other obviously was not.

"But if I had to pick one to pass and fail, I would have picked them like this," he admitted. "Ultimately getting our staff up to other districts is really important."

He said the two elementary schools may be a little tight, but the district will have great learning environments for all students.

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"We are confident in principals and administrators that the learning environments will be the best they can be," he added.

Among the five goals of the Garfield Re-2 School District is to recruit and retain all staff as the mill levy passing will give the board better tools to accomplish that goal.

"We need to make sure we are honoring and giving our staff the best benefits," he added.

According to Mackley, Re-2 teachers currently make roughly $10,000 less than teachers working in Grand Valley and $6,000-$7,000 less than teachers in the Roaring Fork School District.

The $4.9 million mill levy override proposal will create a more competitive salary schedule for the district, an issue that continues to hold back a district that loses about 20 percent of its staff every two years.

Mackley said the next step for the district will be to go back to the drawing board and look for grants and other opportunities for capital improvement projects necessary to the district.

"It's always important to continue these conversations and I'd like to see more focus groups to get a better feel about what the priorities are for taxpayers," she said regarding the bond.

As for the mill levy, she sees it "as truly making a difference for teachers and staff."

azorn@citizentelegram.com