Hamilton: The Roaring Fork School District has lots to be thankful for

With Thanksgiving around the corner, we are all reminded of the families that made us who we are today. In the Roaring Fork School District, our extended family has lots to be thankful for. While voters in Colorado have asked school districts throughout the state to better articulate their direction, their goals and what it will take for every child in our state to achieve their hopes and dreams, voters in our district already have demonstrated that they support the direction of our schools. Just over two years ago, a majority of your neighbors committed to providing an additional $4.8 million annually to support our schools.

Today, we want to say “thank you” for your support of our schools. Without this commitment to ensure that every child in our valley receives a high-quality education, the inspiring conversations and significant changes underway in our district would be a figment of our imagination. From the more than 50 members of the steering committee who raised funds, designed logos and collateral, and knocked on doors, to the donors and voters, it took a community commitment to our schools to provide our district with the funds needed continue to build schools that define the vibrant communities of the Roaring Fork Valley.

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

• Purchase a new K-12 English/language-arts curriculum for the first time in nearly 10 years.

• Eliminate furlough days and begin to address salary and benefit inequities that made our district less competitive with neighboring school districts.

• Reinstate and permanently fund additional classroom teaching positions.

• Reinstate custodians and ground maintenance staff.

• Increase bandwidth throughout schools to meet burgeoning technology needs.

• Reserve funds to mitigate any future state budget cuts.

Addressing these fundamental needs allows our district to focus on building great schools. In the past two years, we’ve:

• Renewed our commitment to supporting great teaching by significantly enhancing our professional development offerings.

• Converted Glenwood Springs Elementary School to the Expeditionary Learning model, an approach that brings real-world learning to the school, inspires children and deeply values teachers as the most important determinants of a child’s success.

• Launched a district-wide and school-specific visioning process designed to build schools that reflect each community’s values.

While our state and district budgets continue to be constrained by the fiscal knot that is the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, Gallagher and Amendment 23 constitutional provisions that limit the traditional power of legislators and the governor to set tax and budget policy, we will work within those constraints to deliver high-quality results by ensuring high-quality teaching for every child, every day. We will do this in partnership with our communities, teachers, staff and leadership. The involvement of close to 1,000 people in the first phase of our visioning process demonstrates what is possible. It is the most important work of our district as we chart a way forward that builds schools for the 21st century, disrupting the assembly-line approach that defined the 20th-century approach. The future of our district is bright. On Thanksgiving, we are grateful to be part of such a passionate and engaged community that has inspired us to think creatively, dream about what is possible and pursue success with dogged determination.

Matt Hamilton is president of the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 school board.