Candidates for the District 1 seat on the Archuleta School District 50 Jt. Board of Education participated in a public forum last Thursday night, hosted by the Archuleta County League of Women Voters.
Though the weather was bad and snow had already begun to fall, the event garnered a large crowd at the Archuleta County Extension Building.
Incumbent Greg Schick and Pagosa resident Bill Hudson stated their views and visions for the school district and answered questions that area residents brought before them, many of them to do with transparency of government and ballot issue 3B, a proposed school bond for building new schools in the district.
“I believe in the value of education,” Schick said. An education, Schick went on, which will prepare the students for college, trade school or work force. An education that will prepare them to stand on their own two feet after school.
Hudson’s opening statement began with the question, “What makes schools effective?” and his continued answer, “Teachers are the only thing. Not technology, not sports.”
Local resident Bob Clinkenbeard asked a question referring to the decision in December 2010 to purchase the land adjacent to the high school without holding public forums, asking “did the meeting fulfill the transparency requirement?”
“It was not transparent,” Hudson answered. “It was a rush decision made by the board and it was unfortunate for the community.”
Schick, who was on the board at the time when the decision was made, defended the actions of the board.
“It was advised to make the decision without bringing it to the public,” Schick said, because of the possibility that someone might try to buy the land at the low price and sell it to the district for more. “As a school board member, we saved money by buying the land in a down market. If we had brought it before the public we might have had to pay more. I stick by it,” Schick said.
Consistent with the line of questioning that would prove to be the thrust of the night, resident Allan Bunch asked, “Was the purchase consistent with the master plan?”
“It fit with the future of schools and educational system,” Schick answered. Schick made reference to land on the west side of town the school owns, but noted the inconvenient location and the great distance from the downtown high school, that he believes does not fit with the vision. Schick continued, stating that the need for new schools was talked about after the master plan was created and that it was placed in the strategic plan.
Hudson took the opposing stance. “This did not line up with the Master Facility Plan,” Hudson said. “I agree that its wonderful to plan for new schools, when there is an increase in enrollment.” Hudson read from the 2008 master facility plan, which states, “not a compelling need.”
Concern over the curriculum and a vision of learning was also brought up by the local residents to the candidates.
“How would you develop a public school system that would provide a best possible beginning for the students?,” Windsor Chacey asked.
“At this point,” Hudson answered, “the school district is a pass-through agency for the funding (for Seeds of Learning and Head Start). How they are run is up to the preschools. I’m not sure I’d want that taken away.”
Schick answered that the charge of the school board was for kindergarten through 12th grade. However, he said he did agree that preschool was important and the board will lend support when it can.
Citizen John Taylor asked, “If teachers are the school’s most important asset, do the conditions of the facilities play a role in maintaining teachers and staff?”
Schick responded in the affirmative. Many teachers come to the area, he said, and want to teach, but they don’t want to have to worry about having buckets to catch water in their classroom when it rains.
Hudson also agreed. However, he pushed that the school board keep the buildings “up to snuff.” In his opinion, instead of spending $300,000 on the 53 acres adjacent to the high school, that money should have been invested in updating the current school infrastructure.
To which Schick responded, “The maintenance for those buildings is overwhelming. At what point do you stop throwing good money after bad?”
Pete Kasper, the newest member of the school board, asked, “What is the fundamental, underlying principle that would guide your decision on the board?”
“The number one most important thing for students is teacher efficiency,” Schick answered.
Hudson stated that the biggest issue with the school board at the moment was the lack of communication between the board and the community.
“Bill, you couldn’t be further from the truth,” Schick responded during his allotted time. “All the meetings are open, it would be great if we had a turnout to the meetings like tonight.”