Fund Board OKs gifts

Next step: School Board's approval

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The Education Fund Board gave final approval to every funding request presented to it Wednesday, including the two largest requests -- one to keep Steamboat Springs School District class sizes small and another to fund content standards staff and training.

But at least one of the approved requests could hit a snag when it is presented to the School Board as a gift.

Under the established Fund Board process, each of the group's three commissions -- Educational Excellence, Technology and Capital -- make recommendations for how the Fund Board should spend the $1.8 million it receives annually in half-cent sales tax revenue. Those recommendations, or requests, must undergo two readings -- a first reading, when the program or project is presented by a commission to the Fund Board, and a final reading, when the 13 members of the Fund Board vote to give final approval to each specific request.

Once the Fund Board has approved a request, it is presented as a gift to the School Board. The School Board has the final say in what gifts it accepts or rejects.

Only twice in the 10-year history of the Fund Board has the School Board rejected a gift of money for a specific program. One of those rejections occurred last year when the School Board voted against a gift that would have provided the district with three classroom teachers for the purpose of keeping class sizes small. The School Board eventually accepted a gift of two classroom teachers.

This year could mark the third occasion on which the School Board refuses Fund Board money.

School Board President Paula Stephenson voted against an Educational Excellence Commission request to fund $10,000 of a program that teaches introductory Spanish to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at both elementary schools. School Board member Pat Gleason voted for the funding, but expressed concern with the program and indicated his vote could change when the gift is presented to the School Board. Stephenson, Gleason and fellow School Board members Michael Loomis and Tami Havener sit on the Fund Board.

Loomis voted for the Spanish program funding and expressed his desire for the district make a commitment to an elementary foreign language program. Havener wasn't in attendance Wednesday but voted in favor of partially funding the Spanish program last year. The deciding vote could come down to School Board member Jeff Troeger, who doesn't sit on the Fund Board.

Stephenson said she doesn't believe in taking students out of regular class for a Spanish program that isn't articulated throughout district curriculum.

The Spanish program is "great," Gleason said, but he feels it's a special interest program comparable to pottery or weightlifting. He said he's wary of small funding requests that don't mesh with what the district has in place.

Several Fund Board members expressed strong support for the program, regardless of whether it's articulated throughout the district.

"I think we're way behind the curve on foreign language in our district and our country," Jerry Kozatch said.

"I believe an imperfect Spanish program is better then no program at all," Fund Board President Jim Gill said.

The only other funding request not unanimously approved by the Fund Board on Wednesday was a $323,650 request for technology department staff salaries. The request would pay the salaries of four half-time technology coordinators and teacher trainers, two computer support specialists and the district technology director.

Stephenson was the lone dissenting vote.

Other approved requests that will now be presented to the School Board as gifts include computer hardware replacement for $96,350, content standards staff and training for $328,520, funding to keep small class sizes for $399,000 and a curriculum management audit for $25,000.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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