By Mike Arnold
The Jefferson County school district continues to put off decisions. The people of the county expect school board members to make informed decisions. After nearly three years of working for this district and now retired, I find it simply unbelievable how much time and money are wasted on studies, committees and closed-door Board of Education meetings. Let me add some clarity to this situation.
The Board of Education sanctioned a facilities study that cost well over a million dollars about two years ago. I was involved in this and reviewed all aspects of it. It clearly shows all of the building conditions, square footages, current and projected capacities, costs to upgrade, all current boundaries and articulation areas. Even though I took issue with some of the findings, it was comprehensive. About the same time the facilities study began, the BOE asked for citizens and employees to volunteer for a facilities review committee. This group met for several months and used current information to analyze facilities conditions and future needs. They also went out to schools and got public input, often hostile, from the community. Hundreds of hours of volunteer time were used for this work. These volunteers brought rational and well-thought-out recommendations to the BOE. What did they do? Closed down an old elementary that was underutilized and shut down some cottages and old trailers that should have been done away with years ago. Many of the people I knew on the committee were disappointed, angry, felt betrayed and won’t ever volunteer again.
Now our BOE has a $1-million-plus study to go along with the facilities committee recommendations, and they still can’t make a rational and informed decision about the district’s future. Come on! Paula Noonan’s comments in the Columbine Courier: “We don’t want a repeat of last year. I want it to be more rational, more thought out and more long term.”
These issues have been studied, analyzed, discussed publically, available online, and now this elected BOE of needs to make the hard decisions. They have to get beyond the NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitudes of communities and do what they were elected to do. We have to be innovative and forward thinking in all aspects of the district’s future.
The state of Colorado does not have more resources to pour into our public school systems. All school districts are making hard decisions. I know for a fact that the Jefferson County School District can be far more efficient than it is currently. Consolidate schools, implement the K-5 and full middle school model, shut down the god-awful 300-plus trailers we call classrooms as soon as possible, shutdown old outdated schools and, most importantly, save millions of dollars in lost revenue.
I agree with President Obama that this country and its communities need to invest in education. Public education is faltering on the brink of financial disaster; we need to make sure we are being proactive and make sound educational and facilities decisions that move us to a strong world leadership position. My grandchildren, your grandchildren and the future prosperity of this nation are depending on sound educational principles for the next generation of workers and leaders of this great nation of ours.
Mike Arnold is a former teacher, principal, energy manager, construction manager, facilities manager and director with Jeffco schools for 28 years. He lives in South Jeffco.