|This first 2007 meeting of the School Board began promptly at 6 pm Tuesday evening with each board member, the superintendent, each school principal and many department heads present; not a single parent joined them.|
The meeting agenda and December minutes were approved with dispatch and the Pledge pledged. Board President Mike Haynes then stood, announced that January is School Board Appreciation Month, and, with a light comic touch, thanked himself and his fellow members. Superintendent Noggle stood and very graciously thanked the board members, emphasizing that their efforts – 32 formal events and countless informal duties during 2006 – are purely voluntary. “We get paid to solve problems. They don’t. And they have to solve the bad stuff.” After a more formal reading of the certificate of thanks handed each board member, Mr. Noggle concluded by thanking the board again for its often unacknowledged efforts.
Next, Ken Fox presented the BOCES report. He reported that the most recent audit of operations for the multicounty special education cooperative was much improved, owing largely to personnel changes. A revision of the BOCES constitution and bylaws, required by state law, was postponed to allow time to accommodate recent changes in state and federal regulations. Mr. Fox concluded by sharing the chief lesson he took away from a recent meeting concerning the SW Colorado Math Initiative: “if you treat your teachers as professionals, they will go to the mat for you.”
Nancy Schutz followed with a short report on 2nd quarter financials relative to the 2nd quarter of last year. No significant departures from prior year’s numbers were deemed to need board attention at this time.
Superintendent Noggle then delivered his monthly report. He presented a tentative timeline for the development of what promises to be the most ambitious planning document for the district to date. Blythe Design of Grand Junction has been contracted to develop a 10-year master facilities plan. In late January, every school, field and facility will be evaluated by Blythe. A 15-member steering committee of local citizens will work with Blythe to develop the Master Plan and present it to the public at a number of monthly meetings. Ultimately, recommendations will be made to the School Board, which will make the final decisions. Nothing is off the table. A consolidated middle school on campus with the high school, an expanded elementary school or a second elementary school in Pagosa Lakes are obvious possibilities. The tentative timeline aims at final adoption of the Master Plan in May or June. Anticipate more news, and many headlines, to follow here.
The Superintendent reminded the board of the January 17 DAAC meeting wherein the sure-to-be-controversial topic of mandatory drug testing for high school students will be discussed, and closed by urging the board to convene an all-day work session in March.
Next followed a refreshing if lengthy round robin exchange of views on a recently drafted memorandum of understanding between district administration and local police departments. State law requires such a memo. Ken Fox objected to the requirement that the district involve local police according to a strict reading of the list of infractions and urged that some "common sense type of language" guarantee the principals a good measure of discretion. Linda Lattin was quick to show sympathy for Fox's concerns. Each principal spoke; all agreed that their confidence in the judgment of the police was complete, that they often call in the police for consultation. Chris Hinger related the success he has had working with Chief Volger in the Community Youth Task Force, and tried to allay concerns about too much police involvement with the common sense observation that "the police don't really want to be here." The debate was never contentious and was finally resolved in favor of Assistant Superintendent Bill Esterbrook's suggestion that the memo be accepted with the addition of language which guarantees to school principals discretion as guided by an explicit district policy.
The final significant item was not without controversy as well. The school district, town and county are parties to an agreement wherein each party contributes $20,000 per year to a joint capital improvement project. The school district must ratify this agreement each year. There is an understanding that the principal beneficiary of the projects chosen will "rotate" but that all projects will be chosen with the broad public good in mind. Sheila Berger, County Special Projects Manager, first allayed board concerns that they were being approached for more money. She was seeking board approval to dedicate this year's funds not to a capital project, but to a comprehensive Parks and Recreation Master Plan which will dovetail the fifteen or more plans extant in the county. Such a master plan, Berger argued in an assertive but appealing manner, will provide both a clear 20-year plan for recreation and park development and the solid basis for pursuing the grants needed for the project. The total cost for the plan, which will involve local, state, and federal agencies and nearly every large property owners association in the county, may run to $85,000. Ms. Berger made a very persuasive case for the plan's necessity, but the total cost occasioned much informal discussion after the meeting. Just prior to the proposal being unanimously approved, Chris Hinger asked if any of this year's money would go towards parks. When told that all funds would be devoted to the master plan, Hinger was respectfully direct: "That hurts me."
In sum, this month's meeting featured an honest give and take about major and secondary issues amongst board members, district staff and school principals. Parents are urged to join next month's discussion.