Satisfied with shortcuts?

atodd's picture

Dear Editor,
Anyone who attended the recent Ouray School Board meeting was surely as baffled as I was when we read the accounting in last week's issue of the Plaindealer. Not that there wasn't accuracy in the figure amounts and educational programs discussed, but the results of the decisions made weren't clearly indicated to the reporter who, like the audience, lacked the transparency of a copy of budget figures under discussion. So I feel compelled to offer a clarification so the public will have a better understanding of the budget process which started in November and has considerably affected morale among the school staff.
The article states the board decided to add $104,000 of proposed cuts back into the FY 17-18 budget. Technically true, but the board never seriously considered not including most of that amount into next year's budget. For example, the Food Service subsidy for school lunches was never thought of as an item that wouldn't be funded, and during the meeting the board agreed to increase the subsidy by over 20 percent. And none of the other academic or art programs were going to be entirely eliminated.
What the 4-1 vote did is cut eight classes from academic and art programs including the high school math position, a decision I strongly but unsuccessfully resisted. To be noted is that there were no cuts to any of the athletic programs or extra-curricular activities. I'm OK with that if there are no other cuts.
By that vote the board ignored community input from the District Accountability Committee's (DAC) unanimous recommendation not to cut any classes but maintain the current curriculum using the school's reserves, monies collected from the taxpayers for the management of the school's educational programs. That reserve money would be needed for one year pending a successful mill levy override (MLO) to be decided in November. In the event of a failed MLO more programs would have to be drastically reduced. Unfortunately, by law the recent bond and matching funds from the state's BEST program could only be used for school construction and not for funding the district's daily operations.
There are two divergent approaches to funding the school's programs. One seeks to balance the budget by not using reserves, preferring to shave teaching supplies, program offerings and teachers’ paychecks to less than a quality education. The other, that of DAC's, would seek to sustain a full-scope curriculum for not only one more year but with a successful MLO to extend that quality in the future.
If the community is satisfied with shortcuts to education then so be it. But before the final budget decision is reached and the exact wording of the MLO is decided, there needs to be improved transparency and communication between the board and our community so that they make an informed decision as to the quality of education for our district's students. It's a choice this community will be asked to make, not only at the MLO ballot in November, but also by community input at upcoming public board meetings (May 11 and 15). Both of these decisions will likely be final in the next six weeks.

Don Mort
Vice-president, Ouray School Board