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Letters to Editor

Confused

Dear Editor:

I have to admit that I am confused by the events of last Thursday (Nov. 10) during the school board meeting. It may have been the absolutely terrible acoustics in the library or maybe the non-existent sound system, but it sounded like the district school superintendent announced twice that the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) had chosen our Archuleta County School Board as a Board of Distinction in Colorado.

I had just sat through an accounting presentation that seemed to indicate this same board did not completely understand how they should have managed grant money they had been receiving for several years. This is a Board of Distinction?

We were then treated to a pretty thorough presentation by a mold remediation company on the extensive work they had to do at the elementary school to dig out and neutralize all of the mold that had been growing for years. This is a Board of Distinction?

This same school board had just spent thousands of dollars of school money to fund a bond election that lost almost three to one, indicating they had very little understanding of the community they serve. This is a Board of Distinction?

Then during the audience input agenda item of the meeting this same board and supervisor proceeded to demonstrate a degree of rudeness and hubris I’ve not seen in Pagosa Springs before and hope to never see again. This is a Board of Distinction?

One must really question the qualifications required by the CASB to bestow such a distinction. If in fact this is a deserved recognition then one must wonder what the other boards are like; either that or chalk the award up to inbred back patting (which is my personal choice).

In any event, there is real trouble right here in River City.

Allan Bunch

Reflection

Dear Editor:

Last Thursday I attended the workshop and regular meeting of the Archuleta school board. The workshop was prior to the regular meeting and featured two agenda items: Auditor’s Report and Election Reflection.

The meeting was well attended, which I attributed to public interest in the Election Reflection agenda item which turned out to be non-reflective as neither the school board nor superintendent would comment on the election results. I believe the audience was interested in learning if the school board and superintendent had started to work on an alternate plan after voters had decisively rejected Ballot Issue 3B. The audience was disappointed as apparently there is no alternate plan to address obvious building maintenance deficiencies.

I thought the auditor’s preliminary report delivered by Timothy Mayberry of Johnson, Holscher & Company would be mundane, but I was mistaken. While the financial audit of our school district’s fiscal year ending June 30 is not yet public, I took some notes from the auditor’s comments to the board and superintendent.

Our school district appears to have ample cash reserves. The auditor reported a carryover of approximately $8 million in non-appropriated reserves from the 2010/2011 fiscal year. The most interesting part of the reserve carryover is that approximately $1.5 million has been classified by the federal government and the Colorado Department of Education as grants and not eligible for inclusion in general reserves. The auditor believes this grant fund could increase to $2 million in 2012. These grant funds are a flow thru via Archuleta County and sourced from the Federal Government.

The auditor presented two scenarios to the school board to reconcile the fact that these funds are grants, not reserves. The first option was to reallocate district expenditures for the past three years and incur the expense of new audits for these years. The second option was to spend the grant funds in 2012 in accordance with the guidelines established by the Colorado Department of Education. The board elected to expend the funds in 2012.

In the regular meeting a presentation was made by Jeshua Thomas representing Solid Management Disaster and Restoration Services. Mr. Thomas gave a comprehensive report regarding mold remediation at the elementary school which included graphic visual presentations. To me, these visuals clearly established the elementary school mold problem was not something new and resulted from overhead plumbing leaks as well as roof leaks. In other words, an obvious example of maintenance neglect.

One audience member made the thoughtful suggestion to the board and superintendent that they apply for a cash grant from the Colorado BEST program to match the existing funds that will have to be expended in 2012. These funds should be dedicated to repairing and maintaining our existing school structures. I believe this would be the best possible use of these grant funds.

Our school board should embrace this proposal and in so doing fulfill their fiduciary responsibility as officers and directors of our school district.

Bob Clinkenbeard

Breakfast

Dear Editor:

I am writing to express my gratitude to all the folks who made the veterans breakfast such a pleasant experience for me and I suspect all the other veterans in attendance.

For me it was an opportunity to visit old friends and to make new ones. The young folks did an excellent job and I was pleased that they had taken time to write personal notes.

I wish to commend the young lady who sang the National Anthem. She has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard and her performance was head and shoulders over the professional singers we are exposed to on Sunday afternoon.

Again, thanks to all the folks who made it possible for the veterans to enjoy a very enjoyable morning.

Bob Dungan

Arboles

‘Cowboy up’

Dear Editor:

I was disappointed by the relative lack of “Reflection” on the election results at the school board meeting last Thursday, though it was an agenda item for their work session. When asked about their plans for next year, their response was the election was just over and this was their first meeting since the election. Perhaps they just did not want to voice their personal “reflections” until they had time to get together and develop a “united” approach — maybe at the 2011 CASB meeting at the Broadmoor next month.

I certainly had plenty of time between the election and the school board meeting to reflect on the fact that the school bond issue failed by a three to one margin and that the 26 percent “Yes” vote was the lowest received by any school bond ballot measure in Colorado in the last 11 years.

I also had time for some research to discover there were eleven school bond measures in Colorado this election and that only seven passed — all seven of which had previously secured BEST lease-purchase grants for 2011-12 for their projects. Lease-purchase grants were for $5.8 to $23.7 million with matching funds of $1.2 to $9.1 million. In addition to those awards, BEST has also awarded 25 cash grants for 2011-12, 14 of which are for roof replacements. Cash grants for roof replacements ranged from $246K to $1.42 million with matching funds of $92K to $712K.

The board also received an audit report during its work session. A major part of that report was about the $1.5 million in federal Secure Rural Schools grants that the Archuleta County Commissioners had elected to donate ($500K a year for the last three years) to the Archuleta School District, which the district has kept in the bank. The auditor expects another grant in the amount of $500K to be received next year, bringing the total federal grant funds unspent to $2 million in FY 2012.

In addition, a significant portion of the regular meeting was spent listening to a report on the remediation of the mold issue in the elementary school over the last month, complete with pictures of water stains from leaking roofs and leaking pipes that were the cause of the mold problem over several years. The problem is solved for the moment, but expected to return.

In the four years from 04/05 through 07/08 the district spent a little over $1 million on major maintenance projects, about $750K of which was for roofs or roof repair. Curiously, during the three years the district was receiving the $500K/year in Rural School grants, they spent a little over $100K on major maintenance projects with about a third spent on roof repairs.

Last Thursday I suggested the board and district use the federal grant money as matching funds for a Colorado BEST grant to repair or replace the roofs in the three lower schools. Unfortunately, one board member was already talking about how burdensome the BEST application process is. It’s time for the board to “cowboy up,” shoulder that burden and get a BEST grant proposal submitted before the next BEST application period closes — they have from 2 December until about 2 March to get their act together. If you agree, call your board member.

Jim Huffman

Better

Dear Editor:

I would once again like to thank the eighth-grade class for a very nice breakfast and program for veterans. Every year it seems to get bigger and better. The students and sponsors were very pleasant and had great questions and were very attentive. The program was very well presented, and entertaining.

Once again, thanks for remembering the veterans of all eras. But please, next year don’t force me to eat so many muffins.

Tom Joy

HM2 RVN (68-69)

Amazement

Dear Editor:

The relationship between voters and the people whom they elect to carry out their wishes is a constant amazement. Consider the recent school board election. The electorate strongly rejected the board’s program but reelected the same board. Granted, one must consider the under-the-radar manner of election where interested members of the general public were unaware till too late to garner needed petitions and file as a candidate.

Then you consider the course this newly-empowered board will take. Frequently they mentioned the fact it took five elections to obtain voter approval for, what was then, the new high school and one may expect a similar time element to “educate“ or wear down voters for their current agenda.

The truly big question is what does the board do in the mean time? Will they allow further deterioration of the existing building? Will they apply “band-aids” so that for future elections all the problems remain and become more glaring? Will they dither and prepare only for the next election? Will they truly and factually evaluate the current buildings and determine a reasonable course of action that provides a safe, meaningful and competitive educational experience for our students; one the community feels is financially viable?

Robert Rawlings

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