Roaring Fork School District’s student equity committee gets a seat at the table, board hears first reading of budget for 2021-22 school year
Members of the Roaring Fork School District school board sat intently, listening in each of their Zoom panels as the two Roaring Fork High School representatives shared their ideas on how to include more student voices in anti-racism training.
“We believe by increasing the amount of student voice when it comes to policy making, it opens the door for us to tackle all these other issues, such as lack of diversity in Roaring Fork Schools,” student Keiry Lopez Perez said.
Perez is a graduated senior from RFHS, but she was also presenting with Joy Bouchet, an incoming senior who will step into a leadership position for the student equity committee this coming year.
“What we hope to be able to do next year is to develop a district-wide student equity council,” Bouchet said. “For all the schools that would allow for student voice in the important decision-making … and then also to create student leadership positions in the various committees to ensure student voice.”
Only three members of the board were present, but they applauded the presentation, especially the plans to start these conversations about equity even before students reached high school
“I really like the fact that you have mentoring middle school students in (the plan),” board member Maureen Stepp said. “Because a lot of times what happens is these initiatives get started, and then you guys move on, right? You graduate … and then it kind of falters because there’s nobody to pick up the baton and keep the passion going.”
Board member Jasmin Ramirez and Family Services Director for the district, Anna Cole, brought up the need to endorse the students’ project in order to be intentional about following up and making sure the board does what it can to see the project through.
“We had a couple of students join us for the last meeting (of the Family Advisory Council) and it was really, really meaningful and powerful to have their voices in that conversation. I think supporting publicly in an outfacing way is a concrete way of stamping it as a level of support,” Cole said.
Ramirez formally endorsed the student equity council and its plans, which means the board will work towards more representation and inclusion of students on district governing committees.
“Anti-racism was the name of the seminar we did with the Aspen Institute, and from there we noticed throughout the seminar we started to observe all these issues, but just the seminar was not enough to actually change them,” Perez said.
First budget hearing
The biggest takeaway Chief Financial Officer Nathan Markham presented to the board in the first reading of the budget is that financially, the district is in a better place than they had anticipated they would be in.
“Going back here, the 2020-21 budget cycle was unprecedented in terms of its volatility. We went on Spring Break I think expecting a 3-4% increase in per pupil funding and … we ended up losing about 5% of our per pupil funding,” Markham said. “The 2021-22 budget cycle is much more positive. The expected economic calamity didn’t happen. Everything we prepared for, everything came out better than most expected.”
Ramirez brought up the fact that she felt like the budget hearings weren’t sufficiently communicated to community members, specifically Spanish-speaking district families.
“I think especially being just the year we’ve had, I think giving the families just the opportunity to have one meeting where they can come and we can also deliberate and hear their feedback, and actually make a greater effort to make sure they are coming to this meeting … is necessary,” Ramirez said.
The board went back and forth on their roles, how much notice to give the public and if there is any actual interest from community members on weighing in on the budget.
“As far as the budget, I do just want to remind you … it’s super important for us, like this is our main job right to make sure our money is being spent the right way,” board vice president, Jennifer Scherer said. “But I feel like we also put a process in place for that so by the time it comes to us it’s really been worked through by a lot of different people.”
The conclusion they came to is that if there are multiple attendees who have comments or feedback at the second budget reading, scheduled for the board’s June 9 meeting, they’ll plan to hold one more meeting regarding the budget to give board members time to think over and respond to what was shared.
“My hope is that we would obviously know to communicate this in spanish as well to our families. … I think as long as we’re committed to making sure everything is shared, I’m fine with waiting until June 9,” Ramirez said.
Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Equity, and how that plays into school district communications with primarily Spanish-speaking families, became a topic of discussion as the Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education approved the 2021-22 district budget Wednesday night.