Aspen parents’ concern over school recognizing donors pushes Board of Education policy vote
Three Aspen parents criticized the Aspen school board Monday for not giving parents enough information on its proposed donor-recognition policy.
The discussion of donor recognition opened with comments from parents Jennifer Fulton, Tara Nelson and Catherine Lutz.
Lutz has recently spoken out publicly against the school district’s plan to recognize donors, with an email to board President Susan Marolt as well as a letter to the editor in The Aspen Times last week.
The parents all have first-graders at Aspen Elementary School as well some younger children who will soon attend the school.
“We’re primarily here to ask you to put more time into this,” Lutz said. “I think we just have a lot of questions.”
One of those questions was why the board did not share with the community — outside of newspaper articles — the results of the four-question survey the board conducted in late April.
More than half of the participants of the survey — which the board created and distributed to the community in an effort to gauge support for recognizing donors — said they would support the school district in visibly recognizing donors who contribute significant financial gifts to the school.
The survey results, which the board reviewed and discussed at a meeting in June, also indicated the community felt most comfortable with the prospect of acknowledging donors in the form of a donor wall.
The parents at Monday’s board meeting felt differently though.
“I’m not very excited about this possible wall,” Fulton said, referring to one of the changes that would be made to the board’s donor-recognition policy.
Fulton said there already is a financial divide among students in the Aspen School District and questioned the implications of visible, permanent donor recognition on school property.
The board of education’s proposed donor-recognition policy — created in an effort to allow the school district more opportunity to recognize donors of significant financial gifts — begins with a preface that reads:
“The Aspen School District is a public school district primarily supported by local and state tax dollars. To enable the district to fully achieve its mission statement, however, the district also depends on the annual charitable contributions raised by the Aspen Education Foundation.
At the foundation’s request, the board has developed the following policy in an effort to assist the foundation in its vital work. The board’s guiding principal in developing this policy is the incontrovertible premise that each student in the district feels valued and equal, and nothing contained in this policy or any interpretation thereof may be in contravention of this guiding principal.”
The Aspen Education Foundation, a nonprofit fundraising arm of the Aspen School District, suggested in late March that the board consider changes to its donor-recognition policy as a means of alleviating the school’s funding gap.
The school board’s donor-recognition policy was adopted Oct. 7, 2013, and prohibits the superintendent from recognizing donors via any tangible, permanent method.
While the Aspen School District has acknowledged donors in the past, it has never provided permanent, visible recognition of any donors, according to Administrative Assistant Angela Rittenhouse, who has worked in the school district since 2003.
“We recognize all donors in a number of ways, through printed materials and programs and with letters of appreciation for tax purposes,” Rittenhouse said after the meeting Monday. “We have scoreboards in the gyms, and we have a sign on the football field score board, but none of these are permanent.”
The Aspen board of education is expected to vote on the proposed donor-recognition policy at its next meeting Oct. 17 in the district boardroom.
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