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RE-2 and elephants in the room

by Jaye Sudar

LA VETA– The phrase elephants in the room, those topics no one wants to discuss, took on new life at the RE-2 meeting on Monday night.  It began when A.R. Miller asked the board about the EMC contract.  After discussion with Miller, the board tabled the acceptance of a change order from EMC, the construction company hired in 2009 to do building renovations.  Miller stated that substantial amounts of money could be regained from re-examining the contract invoices, and that if the board did not look into it, they would be held accountable for the loss of revenue to the district.

    Students and parents asked questions about graduation, coaches and student recognition.  Students were there to support their present cheerleader coach.  The issue for the board is whether to hire non-staff members as coaches or to use staff to fill the slots.  The students attempted to discuss the merits of continuity in coaching and were told repeatedly that the board could not talk about personnel in open session.  The board and the audience needed better understanding of each other’s positions as well as of the Sunshine Law, which declares what can and cannot be discussed in open meetings.

    Next up was graduation.  There is a potential conflict between graduation and two state finals in track and baseball.  Since there is only a slim chance of such a scheduling conflict, it was decided to stick with the May 22 date and the 10:30 am time for graduation.  The alternative time for graduation will be 7:30 pm.  The board decided that next year graduation would be held on a Sunday.

    Parents were upset by a lack of recognition for some students by the school board and the newspapers.  It was explained that due to new staff and miscommunications, some students were in fact not receiving letters, awards and other accolades due them.  The Sports and Academic banquets are scheduled for May 11 and 18, with the Jr. High awards on May 17.  To remedy the broken link between the district and the newspapers, Seaney stated that there were new policies going into effect to notify the papers.           

    In regular business, the board approved a policy on weapons in schools, and also approved contracts for Bree Lessar, Rick Sciacca, Angie Geiser and Ron Ortivez.  They approved an FFA overnight trip to Lamar, an out-of-state field trip for the eighth grade to visit the Capulin Volcano National Monument and an overnight trip to Greeley for the state Science Fair.  Building issues which still need to be resolved are the fire alarm system and speakers in classrooms.

    Payroll outsourcing was discussed as a possible cost-saving cut for next year.

    In other business, the board discussed the master calendar, the comprehensive district-wide plan for the entire year,  as well as next year’s school calendar.  There were a number of issues related to the calendar to be resolved.  For example, the board discussed possible solutions for the fact that  teachers currently do not have enough planning time, because the state requires a great deal of extra paperwork, relating to CSAP and No Child Left Behind requirements.  One possible solution might be holding school on Fridays for a month or two next fall to allow teachers more time to assess test data.  Issues such as coordinating Spring Break with RE-1 and scheduling a short holiday between January and April were also discussed as was the need for surveys concerning board and school interactions as well as for an overall view of RE-2.

    The last and perhaps biggest elephant in the room up for discussion was that the Florence school district was leaving the local BOCES.  BOCES splits the cost of services between districts and the state school board′s decision that Florence could leave has caused a redistribution of the debt for those services among the remaining school districts.  This is an additional financial burden that may be catastrophic to the school districts in the region.  No one was sure what would happen or just how much debt this would add to districts already strapped by the state budget cuts.  One solution by a former state congressman was for GOCO lottery funds to be tapped for use in schools.