Vail Daily coulmn: Thank you, Eagle County
Thank you, voters of Eagle County. On behalf of the 1,100 employees and the 7,000 students of Eagle County Schools, we are deeply grateful for this gift and opportunity you have given us. Rest assured, we are going to put every penny of it to good use and deliver on your high expectations for great schools in Eagle County.
Special thanks to all the volunteers who put in so much time and energy in running a wonderful campaign in support of 3A and 3B. I hesitate to name names for fear of leaving someone out, but Charles Overy, Matt Scherr, Emily McCormack, and Amy Lewis deserve a special commendation for their selfless efforts. Also, I wish to express deep gratitude to Wendy Rimel, who turned a broken heart from the district’s 2011 failed ballot initiative into a powerful force for good. We will always be in your debt.
Thanks also to the critics and naysayers of this effort. Your concerns and opposition caused us to carefully craft proposals that contained a winning package of transparency and accountability provisions that can give the public greater confidence we are being good stewards of these funds. We do understand that 3A and 3B were not insignificant tax impacts — but by the same measure they will have a tremendously significant positive impact on our schools and students.
Question 3A won with 60.74 percent of the vote. The resources will bring in $8 million annually for the next seven years, after which we will need to ask the voters for permission to continue receiving them. Make no mistake — this is a significant infusion of dollars and it is going to be a game-changer for our schools
These funds become available in January and we will need to revise the district’s budget for this current year. This is no small feat and will involve a flurry of activity over the next two months culminating with a vote on changes by the Board of Education in January.
Starting today, we’ll be pulling together estimated costs and packaging together options for how we can spend the funds. The language in the ballot question restricts the areas where the funds can be spent (salaries, staffing, technology, early childhood, etc.), but there are a variety of options, choices, and trade-offs within those categories.
To make decisions on those options, we’ll get feedback and seek input from staff, students, parents, and school leaders to help formulate a revised budget for January.
Question 3B won by a smaller margin (53.35 percent) than 3A, but all that is required for victory is a majority. Funds from 3B will be used to make safety and security upgrades, technology improvements, and energy efficiency improvements to all schools. Red Sandstone will get a much needed and significant renovation. Eagle Valley High School will get a necessary expansion to accommodate student growth and upgraded career technical opportunities. The 3rd street campus in Eagle (which houses Eagle Valley Elementary School and Eagle Valley Middle School) will be transformed and should become a point of pride for the community. Red Canyon High School in Eagle will be relocated to a better facility. We can also expect improved technology, better and safer transportation, and funds to help maintain the facilities we have.
In all, $144 million in improvements will be shared across the district. Planning work has already begun, with surveyors, architects, engineers, and builders evaluating our schools. Construction and renovation work will begin in earnest in 2017 and we hope to have all projects completed in 2019.
The Presidential election was unusually brutal, exposing deep divisions between people and their beliefs. It is some relief to have this campaign season behind us.
From a policy level, it is unclear what a Trump presidency means for America’s schools. I know many of our Hispanic students feared a Trump presidency because of the rhetoric about immigrants and minorities, which came forth during the campaign. While not diminishing these fears, for now we should all take a breath.
Presidents are not dictators with unlimited power. And, just as few of the doomsday predictions put forth by those on the right about an Obama presidency never materialized, so too will many of the predictions by the left about a Trump presidency.
Our system of government allows for a transition of power between leaders with no violent revolution. Donald Trump will be our next President and we should support and work with him however we can — hoping for the greatest success as our nation’s future is now connected to that.
We must also be the loyal opposition when we need to — pushing back, and resisting where we must against injustice and abuse of power. Wisdom emerges from the conflict between the thesis and the antithesis. Whether you supported President-elect Trump or Senator Clinton, this is no time to disengage.
Before this election, those working in our schools were all champions of equity, justice, tolerance, opportunity, and love for our students and this community.
As we move into this new era together, these values matter more than ever.
Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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