Aspen school board to change donor-recognition policy |

Aspen school board to change donor-recognition policy

“These are extraordinary times that I think deserve extraordinary considerations and sometimes extraordinary decisions,” the Aspen Board of Education’s newest member, Dwayne Romero, said before his colleagues during a discussion of the school’s donor-recognition policy at a board meeting Tuesday.

Board Vice President Sandra Peirce and board Secretary Sheila Wills, both of whom were absent from the meeting, drafted a proposed donor-recognition policy that the other three board members reviewed Tuesday.

The board’s current donor-recognition policy, which was adopted Oct. 7, 2013, states that the superintendent shall not recognize donors or contributors, whether individuals or businesses, via any tangible, permanent method.

Peirce and Wills’ proposed policy, which was crafted in an effort to allow for more flexibility and opportunity for the school district to recognize donors of significant financial gifts, began with a preface that read:

“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 and every 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 proposed policy then listed four specific rules for acknowledging donors:

1. The Board of Education approves the addition of one donor recognition wall in a design and location to be later determined by the board working in conjunction with the Aspen Education Foundation and such other members of the community as the board may choose.

2. Donors shall be recognized only after having met a strict set of criteria and standards; such criteria and standards shall be initially proposed by the Aspen Education Foundation and reviewed and approved by the Board of Education.

3. Any donor who has been previously recognized and subsequently fails to meet either the criteria or standards, shall be subject to removal.

4. No other visible donor recognition shall be permitted on district property without the prior consent of and appropriate policy amendment by the Board of Education; provided, however, nothing contained in this policy GP-15 shall limit the ability of the Superintendent to fully implement the provisions of OE-14.

The three board members present at Tuesday’s meeting, Romero, board President Susan Marolt and board Treasurer Margeaux Johansson, questioned the rigid tone and implications of rule No. 4.

Johansson said she thinks the board should “look at each individual proposal and be open to having the discussion” rather than forbidding all forms of donor recognition outside the donor wall and encouraging policy amendments for exceptions.

Marolt suggested maybe changing the fourth rule to read in the affirmative but then quickly said, “I’m not sure Sandra and Sheila would be comfortable with that. … I don’t know how I feel about that exactly.”

With respect to the proposed policy’s first rule permitting a recognition wall, Aspen Education Foundation Executive Director Brooke Bedingfield encouraged the board not to restrict its policy to allow only for specific donor areas.

“The more we have the opportunity for an open discussion with (donors), we then have a greater chance for a more elegant outcome,” Bedingfield said, adding that an open process “goes hand in hand with certain types of gifts.”

The Aspen Education Foundation, a nonprofit fundraising arm of the Aspen School District, proposed at a March 21 Board of Education meeting that the school board revisit the possibility of acknowledging donors as a means of fundraising.

At the meeting, the board agreed to continue discussion of its new donor-recognition policy at its next board meeting, where all five board members are expected to be present.

The next Aspen Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Sept. 19 at 8 a.m. in the district board meeting room.

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