The real Re-1 school crisis is not quite so ‘transient’
Re-1 School District is asking taxpayers to vote for an $86 million bond while telling us the crisis in its midst is transient. This transience has been going on for 10 years and shows no signs of ending. Hundreds of kids will spend their entire school life suffering with this situation. The present administration will choose five new principals this year alone, so it is likely a second generation of kids will also spend their school lives living with this “transience.” The bond promoters insult these kids.I became involved in our schools two and a half years ago as a member of Advocates for Carbondale Education, which was formed to raise public opinion of Carbondale’s schools by getting out overlooked good news, with the goal of passing a bond. It is sadly ironic that with the bond on the ballot, I am unable to support it. It’s especially painful since I am the father of two school kids.It’s generally agreed that education is more dependent on good teachers and involved parents than anything else. Last year, Carbondale Elementary School lost 17 teachers. Parents have abandoned CES and other schools in droves. When questioned about the loss of teachers by Carbondale trustees, Superintendent Fred Wall responded that teachers don’t like to stay in old buildings and can’t afford to live here. Affordability is a real concern. I spoke to many of the teachers who left: none mentioned the building as a reason. Their issues had to do with how they were treated by the district administration. Bond supporters appeal to our sense of community while ignoring how the yearly, massive loss of teachers tears us apart.Carbondale Elementary School has been declared an “underperforming school” by the Colorado Board of Education. Next year, the school may be placed under the direct control of the state. The Re-1 board and superintendent’s answers to worried parents have mostly directed us to their Strategic Plan and to tell us to vote for the bond. Among families who have removed their kids from Carbondale public schools recently, I know of three who are sending their kids to Marble Charter School. Does anyone think they went there for the buildings?A recent story in the Aspen Times, headlined “Windfall for Aspen schools,” reported how an additional 50 out-of-district students had enrolled in Aspen and that district’s windfall is an unexpected $400K in state per pupil funding. Aspen’s gain was our loss. The Colorado Board of Education Web site confirms that 412 out-of-district students attend Aspen schools. At $6,000 per, in state funding, we are losing $2.5 million a year. For years Mr. Wall has denied that student loss is significant. We were told that growth was flat (as the bond propagandists still tell us) and the school’s job is to work with whoever came in the door. What’s coming in the door is increasingly non-English speaking, and CSAP scores reflect this. Advocates for Carbondale Education offered to conduct a “flight survey” for the District but Mr. Wall told them it wasn’t necessary: He already knew the answers and the board would not condone it. The last time Re-1 faced such a crisis was with an overwhelming financial deficit in the early ’90s. The board then knew serious change was needed and hired a new superintendent, Fred Wall, who had the skills to straighten out the finances while keeping the schools running. All familiar with that dire situation know that Mr. Wall guided the district expertly through those troubles. Now, we have a new crisis and it calls for new, appropriately experienced leadership, as did the last crisis.I long to see my kids in better facilities, but we must demand accountability from our leadership before granting it such a large sum of money. Please vote no on the school facilities bond.A separate ballot question is a mill levy override. This small tax increase will go “largely to staff and teacher salaries.” We must support teachers to keep the heart of our public schools beating while we rewire the nervous system, so please vote yes. Only then should we worry about the clothes our schools wear.Artie’s family owns a motel in Carbondale and he is active in many community groups including the Chamber of Commerce, ACE, and the Gateway Park Task Force. He has been a resident of the Re-1 school district for 34 years.Artie’s family owns a motel in Carbondale and he is active in many community groups including the Chamber of Commerce, ACE, and the Gateway Park Task Force. He has been a resident of the Re-1 school district for 34 years.
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