It took three tries and hundreds of hours of work behind the scenes, but the unrelenting effort Skye Skinner put into securing a $4.2 million Building Excellent Schools Today grant from the state for the needed upgrades at the Aspen Community School has been recognized by her peers.
On Feb. 20, at the Colorado League of Charter Schools annual conference in Denver, Skinner was awarded the highest honor for a charter school administrator when she was given the 2014 Charter School Leadership Award.
“I’m humbled and honored,” Skinner said. “So much of my work has been behind the scenes. I’m driven by our students, to make sure they have the best educational experience possible.”
Skinner is the executive director of Compass, the nonprofit organization that operates three schools in the Roaring Fork Valley: Aspen Community School, Carbondale Community School and the Early Childhood Center in Woody Creek.
Skinner was selected from a pool of nine statewide nominees and received an unprecedented 12 separate nominations.
The annual Leadership Award recognizes a leader who “demonstrates significant influence in developing or maintaining a charter school, improving school accountability and performance or driving other aspects of school excellence.”
“Skye represents what leadership should be about in our children’s schools,” said Dr. John Maloy, superintendent of the Aspen School District. “She’s extremely passionate in the work she performs and continues to put children first, as was evident by her repeated effort to earn a BEST grant so that ACS could realize its hopes and dreams for its students, staff and school community. It was my pleasure to nominate and support her for the 2014 Charter School Leadership Award.”
The Building Excellent Schools Today grant is a competitive grant program for major capital construction in a public school.
“Our facilities needed some serious work,” Skinner said. “The school was overcrowded, and the infrastructure needed lots of work. I decided to roll up my sleeves and do something about that.”
When the state looked at more than 1,300 public school facilities in need of upgrades, the Aspen Community School ranked in the bottom one percent in Colorado.
“Ghastly,” Skinner said of the school’s rating. “It was obvious we needed to make a lot of improvements for our kids. The state estimated it would take around $8 million to bring our building up to code. I’m not a professional fundraiser, but I learn as I go along.”
Skinner applied three times before securing the grant, and it was her effort in doing so that led to her earning the Leadership Award.
On the third attempt, the Building Excellent Schools Today grant board did award Compass the matching grant, but it was only for $1 million, and it was conditional that the school raise $8 million in four months.
Skinner saw that as unfair and went to the state to appeal, and she won.
“This time they awarded us a $4.2 million matching grant where we had to raise $4.8 million in eight months,” Skinner said. “I never considered quitting, which is probably why I got this award.”
In April, Compass secured the matching $4.8 million to gain access to the $4.2 million grant. With $9.1 million in hand, improvements have begun on the school, but there still is fundraising in the school’s future as a total of $13.1 million is needed to complete the remodel and upgrade project.
“I had a real fire in my belly to get this grant for our school,” Skinner said. “Obviously we’re not done yet. We still have more than $4 million to raise and I’m confident we’ll do it.”
The school’s “I Believe” campaign is 70-percent complete and continues to actively seek donations for the final push towards the $13.1 million goal. More information on how to donate is available at www.iBelieveACS.org.