Guest column: Roaring Fork School District pauses to give thanks | AspenTimes.com

Guest column: Roaring Fork School District pauses to give thanks

Diana Sirko
Superintendent, Roaring Fork School District

During the Thanksgiving season, it's always good to pause before the Christmas rush and remember the things we are thankful for. This fall, we asked community members to participate in our facility master-planning process — more than 40 steering committee members committed more than 60 hours of their time and expertise to this effort, and many more community members participated in community input sessions. Last school year, more than 1,400 community members came out to express their views on the future of our schools, which resulted in a comprehensive strategic plan that will guide our teaching and learning for the future. And just over three years ago, a majority of your neighbors committed to providing an additional $4.8 million annually to support our schools. In the Roaring Fork School District, we have a lot to be thankful for, because none of these things would have happened without the help of our extended family of staff, parents, students and community members.

Today, we want to say "Thank you" for your support of our schools. This commitment to ensure that every child in our valley receives a high-quality education, and the significant changes underway in our district, would not be possible without community support.

As a result of the mill levy, the district was able to:

Fund Chromebooks — computers for student use in the classroom.

Purchase new curriculum and reinstate 50 percent of reduction in school materials/supplies budget.

Eliminate furlough days and address salary and benefit inequities.

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Reinstate the Employee Assistance Program.

Reinstate and permanently fund additional classroom teaching positions.

Reinstate custodians and ground-maintenance staff.

Increase bandwidth throughout schools to meet technology needs.

Reserve funds to mitigate possible future state budget cuts.

We are also thankful our local community support of education is strong because our state and district budgets continue to be constrained by constitutional amendments and mandates including the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the Gallagher Amendment and Amendment 23. These constitutional provisions limit the traditional power of legislators and the governor to set tax and budget policy, bar lawmakers from raising taxes without the vote of the people, and push down assessment rates on residential property — a primary source of school funding. In addition, state legislators have passed unfunded mandates in the areas of early literacy, educator effectiveness and school accountability.

The future of our district is bright. On Thanksgiving, we are grateful to be part of such an engaged, passionate and generous community that has challenged us to think creatively about how to achieve our mission to ensure that every student develops the enduring knowledge, skills and character to thrive in a changing world.