Letter-writers weigh in on Grand Lake Elementary School closing
May 27, 2011
To the Editor:
I grew up in Hot Sulphur Springs. I rode the school bus to and from school in Granby every day. Isn’t it amazing that I graduated with straight A’s, had a very close relationship with all the other kids that rode the bus with me and felt very close to my “community” of Hot Sulphur?
Isn’t it amazing that Hot Sulphur survived with not having a school of our own to keep the town alive? Isn’t it amazing that there are even more kids and families that live here now, because we have such a good community?
My next question is where are all you people when the school board elections come up? Since this school board is SO BAD, why aren’t any of you running for election and “volunteering” your time to try and make things better?
For more years than I can remember, there is no one running to be on the school board. Whoever is willing to take it on gets elected by default because no one else wants to do it. Why is it that no one wants to step up to the plate and use your “great vision” and “leadership” to address these problems in the first place? You just want to complain about them after the fact and blame someone else for the decisions.
Why are you living up here? If you hate this school district so much and think they are doing such a bad job, why don’t you move to the Front Range? Oh that’s right; they’re closing schools and cutting activities down there too. They have budget problems too. Oh my gosh! Is this a statewide problem?
Hot Sulphur Springs
The East Grand School District meeting last Tuesday night was not for the feint of heart. Closing a school is a tough subject and long meetings make for short tempers.
Many alternatives were brought to the board to resolve this issue in Grand Lake Elementary’s favor – even our county commissioners came forward with approximately $170,000 to keep the schools open.
Grand Lake town board members, residents and others from around the county suggested many ways the school district could save money – one man with suggestions was called a liar by Superintendent Nancy Karas. There must be more to that story.
Prior to the Tuesday meeting, reportedly, Karas and Board President Tom met with Grand Lake town leaders. Karas said she talked about “if this were a business” it would be closed – I guess because the cost per student is more at Grand Lake Elementary than the other schools. Perhaps at that time she was not aware that the Grand Lake community provides several times over the amount of tax revenues required to keep Grand Lake Elementary open – which helps fund the other schools in the district.
In big business, if revenues run higher for certain “products,” a higher cost often is justified. And, in my experience, businesses look first to strengthen and consolidate leadership rather than close facilities when downsizing. They look for duplication of effort. Funding just one superintendent’s office, as brought up in the meeting, is one way to save the taxpayer (and the business of education) some money.
The Grand Lake community and all Grand County taxpayers pay for the school to be open and should not have to worry year-to-year if it will stay open. One could argue the drop in Grand Lake Elementary attendance is directly related to the continuous rumors of closing the school.
Support from the entire county was outstanding at this meeting as leaders from Winter Park, Fraser and other areas spoke in Grand Lake Elementary’s defense. Very few attendees spoke in favor of closing the school.
Board members who voted to close the school were ill-advised by Karas and county voters should note who cast the votes for or against.
To the Editor:
When we are encouraged to think of running the school district in terms of business practices, we naturally tend to look at the bottom line, i.e. what are our assets, what is our source of revenue, and how can we protect these assets and keep them at a healthy level.
The Board’s reserves are healthy. You are to be commended for protecting the reserves. I would submit, however, that the unfounded reasoning for closing GLE community school justifies the use of a reasonable portion of reserves.
The projected 2011-12 deficit with the projected 2010-11 overage and the $170,000 from the county will show that the dollar amount needed to close the deficit will be minimal and does not justify closing GLE.
I would also submit that an even more important bottom line and asset is the moral authority and trust that a Board of Education enjoys with a community. I am concerned that currently that asset is not being protected and is in great danger of becoming an untenable deficit. It is obvious from the Board meeting last Tuesday that this trust is not only in question with the Grand Lake community, but with the Winter Park and Fraser Communities as well.
Many members of the DAC budget sub-committee also feel that a certain failure to honor process has taken place. In this case, betrayal is not too strong a word to use. I respectfully question the process that was used, or more accurately not used, to arrive at this point. The process has not been consistent with the practice that we all utilized in gaining trust and teamwork between our communities and the Board.
DAC was not brought back into the conversation after the deficit changed and was reduced to a manageable size. Two people took it upon themselves to place this topic of conversation on the Board agenda thereby abandoning proper process and forsaking all prior trust. To call the recommendation to close GLE, (that in all honesty is coming from these two people) a DAC proposal is further insult and is a violation of trust with DAC and the community. It simply is not accurate. I served on DAC and know very well, and in order, what their recommendations are.
I will leave it up to you to determine when, where, and how the trust was lost in the lack of process over the last few weeks. It will be important, however, to review your process – the proceedings that persuaded you to place this topic of discussion on the Board’s agenda. I would submit that to put a community through the heartache of school closure at such a late date, without proper procedure and no warning, all because of a deficit that would barely exist if we would only utilize the aforementioned more simple option that is at hand, is immoral and unconscionable.
With $170,000 from the county, the $276,788 projected 2011-12 plus deficit is reduced by more than half. If there is also an expected overage of $100,000 from the 2010-11 budget it should be applied to the deficit instead of transferred to reserves. At the very least, the DAC budget sub-committee should have been given opportunity to weigh in, given the new financial status. It would be completely justifiable to use that money to offset a deficit. It would make the deficit practically a non-issue. It certainly would not be sizable enough to justify closing a community school. The issue in front of the Board should be how to close the projected deficit, NOT closing a community school.
Finally, some who felt that closing a school was the only answer to the problem, I would respectfully submit that they should have abstained from voting or recused themselves, for they have a conflict of interest by virtue of the fact that they are employed by the district.
Pastor, Trinity Church in the Pines
The good news is that Grand lake Elementary School is closing
Five months ago it would have been good news to learn that the East Grand School District was closing only one school and not asking voters for a tax increase.
Back in December 2010, based on the first projections from the state of Colorado, Fraser Valley Elementary School and Grand Lake Elementary School were slated for closure. Serious thought was being given to going to voters for additional taxes to pay for our schools.
Now, after two more down-to-the-wire budget revisions from the state, the district has some good news. We’re closing only one school and there won’t be a need to go to Grand County voters for a tax increase.
Even better, with the closure of the school in Grand Lake the school district can take money that would have been used to pay for a building and spend it on direct educational services for all the students in East Grand County.
The people of East Grand County are fortunate to have a school board that, after weighing all the options, has seen that its core function is to provide the best possible education it can for all the students of East Grand County. It has reluctantly embraced the difficult wisdom of “sacrificing” one building that serves 57 students so it can improve the overall education of all the 1,319 students in the East Grand School District.
This is the right decision because it provides the best possible educational opportunities for the most students. That’s what democracy is all about.
We also simply don’t have enough money to keep the school open. It does not make economic sense. Any conservative (Grand County conservatives, where are you?) or liberal would have to agree with that.
But this good news has been turned into rhetorical bad news by people who want to keep Grand Lake Elementary School open, regardless of the costs to the district and the consequent impacts on the education of the majority our students. The attacks on the school board and staff have been unfortunate if not inevitable.
East Grand County residents who still have their doubts might want to consider the situation in another small town in the East Grand School District, just for comparison.
Hot Sulphur Springs is one community in East Grand County that would actually have more students in its school – if it had an elementary school – than Grand Lake has now. A total of 61 elementary students are on the roster for the bus from Hot Sulphur to Granby Elementary.
Yet Hot Sulphur Springs still has a community. Hot Sulphur Springs residents aren’t clamoring for their own school. Actually, Hot Sulphur does have its own two elementary schools. They are called Granby Elementary School and Indian Peaks Charter School.
People have insisted that Grand Lake’s economy and sense of community will be lost if the school is closed. But in the last five years, with an elementary school right there in town, Grand Lake’s economy and population have declined (as they have elsewhere in East Grand), suggesting that something other than an elementary school is what makes a community.
Jobs are the primary driver of local economies and communities, not the presence of a school. Just because Grand Lake (and Grand County) needs more jobs doesn’t mean all taxpayers should subsidize a school building that compromises the education for the entire district.
The only failure in leadership in the district has been that it didn’t decide to close Grand Lake Elementary school as soon as the experiment with the five-day week there proved to be a flop. That was back in September.
The idea that we should keep schools open based on property tax valuations of a community makes one thing perfectly clear: We should move all our schools to somewhere on the border between Fraser and Winter Park because those areas have the highest tax valuations when compared to the rest of the East Grand School District. Great idea, huh?
It’s time to get united behind the difficult but correct decision of our school board and hope for the day when we can afford to re-open Grand Lake Elementary School.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Patrick Brower owns a public affairs consulting firm in Granby that in the past has performed work for the East Grand School District. He is not currently doing work for the district and wrote this as the parent of two children who attend schools in the East Grand School District.
To the Editor:
Let’s look at this decision to close Grand Lake Elementary from the “big picture” perspective. The education system in this country is mediocre at best in its current state. This is because of the irresponsible allocation and expenditure of the education revenues, and because of the de-emphasis on the student, and too much emphasis on the mass system and the teachers. Without changes to our education system, our country will continue to be beaten by other countries.
In Grand Lake, we have a school like our country used to know. It is the best in the local district. Why wouldn’t you keep that school – the best one in the district? Why wouldn’t you make it a model and consider it HEAVILY in making your decision to not only keep the school but ensure the future of other elementary schools like it?
Particularly during the early, formative, elementary-education years of the student, it is very important to have community elementary schools. When you close the community elementary school in favor of a mass production early education experience, you put the young mind into a system where the student immediately gets lost and has little identity, individuality, and pride in learning.
The student becomes a “widget” right out of the gate in a “machine” that does not care for the individual like in the smaller community elementary school, but rather defers to the mass production process and the “economies of scale.”
It is common knowledge that the budget revenues were headed for a big dip. All the districts knew it. We are being sold a bill of goods to use the budget shortfall as an excuse to close Grand Lake Elementary.
CUT COSTS, NOT QUALITY OF EDUCATION FOR THE ELEMENTARY STUDENTS. It is much easier to make short term cuts in administrative salaries and even teachers’ salaries than it is to take a community school off line. It is much easier to re-hire administrators and teachers than it is to put an entire school back on line once the revenues return to prior levels.
Your closing of Grand Lake Elementary is a travesty. The taxpayers are watching the actions that you, the spenders of our education tax revenue, are taking. We are not impressed. Our education system is suffering and your decision makes things worse, not better.
I am a real estate agent in Grand Lake. Our office sold properties to two families that purchased in Grand Lake because Grand Lake distinguished itself from the other locations that they could have chosen, in that Grand Lake had an elementary school to which the children could walk, in a community where the child had a face in the community. Don’t take that distinction away forever and make Grand Lake just like any other community – where the kids all go to school in a mediocre, mass production school system – in this case, a 15-mile bus ride away.