District consolidation questioned in South Routt School District

School Board expresses concern about school closings during Thursday night meeting

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— South Routt School Board President Tim Corrigan thinks consolidating Routt County’s public school districts would mean closures. And closures wouldn’t sit well with South Routt residents, he said during the board’s Thursday night meeting in Oak Creek.

“I think it’s important everybody recognize how important the schools are to the community,” Corrigan said. “If you take the high school and middle school out of Oak Creek, you might as well close the doors to Oak Creek.”

South Routt Superintendent Scott Mader said he included the consolidation discussion on the board’s meeting agenda to dispel any “rumors and untruths” about the possibility that the Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt school districts be combined into one.

The issue of consolidation surfaced earlier this month in the wake of significant proposed K-12 education budget cuts at the state level. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed 2011-12 budget includes a net reduction in K-12 spending of $332 million. That’s on top of this year’s cut of $260 million.

During a stop in Steamboat Springs on March 9, Hickenlooper suggested the state consider reducing its 178 school districts by nearly two-thirds, to about 60, to eliminate duplication of services and costs that can result from multiple superintendents and administrative teams serving multiple districts in one region.

The Pilot & Today’s Editorial Board also called for serious consideration of district consolidation in an opinion piece published in the March 6 Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Officials from the Education Fund Board, which allocates the city of Steamboat Springs half-cent sales tax for education, said March 10 that they would discuss the possibility of paying for a study to examine consolidation.

The South Routt School Board didn’t take any formal action Thursday, instead simply discussing the issue.

Corrigan said he interprets consolidation to mean combining administrations. He speculated that any savings would be lost when teacher salaries in Hayden and South Routt are raised to equal those in Steamboat.

He said the only way to realize savings would be through school closures, which he doesn’t think makes sense given the large geographic area of Routt County.

Corrigan asked Gena Hange, the School Board’s nonvoting Fund Board representative, to implore the group to not spend money studying consolidation because he thought it was a waste of money.

Corrigan said he suspects that none of the three districts have any desire to consolidate.

“I think what’s frustrating about this is no one wants to consolidate,” he said. “Hayden doesn’t want to consolidate. Soroco doesn’t want to consolidate and Steamboat doesn’t want to consolidate.”

Mader said South Routt would consider consolidation under one circumstance: “We’re all for consolidation if they send their kids here,” he joked.

In other action, the School Board approved 2011-12 salaries for Mader — subject to negotiations, meaning the specifics of his contract would be discussed at a later meeting — secondary Principal Dennis Alt and elementary Principal Raylene Olinger.

Alt and Olinger also could be eligible for raises should the School Board approve salary step increases for faculty and staff in spring. As of now, the preliminary 2011-12 budget doesn’t include salary step increases or cost-of-living adjustments for employees.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

JusWondering 3 years, 1 month ago

Tim Corrigan is quoted: “If you take the high school and middle school out of Oak Creek, you might as well close the doors to Oak Creek.”

Seriously?! If this is a direct quote of Mr. Corrigan and is his complete statement I am offended at the implied arrogance that the only reason someone would live in South Routt is the schools.

If that is all that OC (or South Routt for that matter) has to offer then I am very afraid for the town. CSAP scores (the only standard unit of measure statewide; I am not debating the efficacy of such tests as that is another topic) would not show that schools would be a reason to move to South Routt. Many live there because that is where they can afford to live in one of the most beautiful locations in the State. Others specifically live there for the quality of life. I would be VERY surprised if any family researched and said "Let's move to this town because it has mediocre schools".

I completely disagree with you Tim --- An independent study is well worth the money; get the biases out of the picture and make a rational, logical and well thought out decision. Focus on the best QUALITY of education that can be provided to Routt County children. To have an independent third party come and validate your opinion with an official response of: "Routt County school boards are managing the resources entrusted to them by the citizens of the County (and to a lesser exten the State) in the most efficient and effective manner providing the best educational system that those resources are able to provide" seems lie a great idea. WIthout such a study it is nothing more than opinion and heresay.

Finally, if teacher salaries in SoRoCo and Hayden are so much lower that a raise would be required such that it would eliminate any savings from consolidation then the districts should be ashamed at their compensation practices. Perhaps it is no wonder that CSAP scores are so low.

To me consolidation means a little more than elimination of administration, but it DOES NOT mean the closure of facilities. That is my opinion only as one that oversees such activities in the private sector and not that of an expert in public school systems.

Only an independent study could validate and come in with proposals.... then leave it to the voters and parents to decide; not the foxes in the hen house.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

They make false assumptions and then declare that it won't work.

If it makes no sense to close the local schools then why assume consolidation would close local schools?

If they have no troubles getting good teachers at lower pay then why assume pay increases for all? SB pay for a job in Hayden or South Routt with much lower housing costs would be a heck of a deal. So why not a 3-5% differential for SB teachers to recognize the added housing or commute costs for teachers working in SB?

At the very least, if Soroco bureaucracy declares consolidation can have no savings and must close local schools then they probably do not understand what would really happen and thus a study is needed.

Lastly, when over 10% of the district's student population are officially going to SB schools and a significant number are unofficially leaving the district (based upon a previous address or such) then there is a huge migration from his district to the neighboring district with higher test scores. Thus, what should be considered a critical problem is dealt with via an unfortunate joke - “We’re all for consolidation if they send their kids here,” he joked. Your kids are jumping ship from a lower performing district, why would anyone send their kids there?

It would do more for Oak Creek if more Oak Creek kids went to school in Oak Creek and were around after school instead of going to school in Steamboat and being in SB daycare or such until their parent comes home from work.

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srteacher 3 years, 1 month ago

JusWondering,

Since you state yourself that "CSAP scores (the only standard unit of measure statewide; I am not debating the efficacy of such tests as that is another topic) would not show that schools would be a reason to move to South Routt," let me offer you another measure. Soroco has a Boettcher Scholar about every five years. How many has Steamboat, a much larger district, had? I'm tired of the constant unfavorable comparisons between SB and Soroco. While I agree that there are many reasons to live in South Routt, I personally know parents who've made the conscious decision to send their kids to school here instead of SB. Let's respect their choice and Soroco schools while we have this discussion.

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JusWondering 3 years, 1 month ago

srteacher - I would lay odds that those parents that make a conscious choice to send their children to SoRoCo schools are not doing so for "academic excellence". I would suspect it is for other reasons like smaller class size, smaller social circles, an ability to perform in sports with less competition, and ability to be seen as a star student with less competition. In fact, as an educator, I would assume that you would provide more one-on-one attention to someone who "gets it". I know it is more of a pleasure to work with someone who is passionate.

Comparisons of scholarships is not a good metric in my opinion. All that says is that the school's counselor is good at coaching students to write to the requirements of a given scholarship.

A much better metric is not even the percentage of students that are accepted to go to a given college.... let's look at preparation for college. How many SoRoCo students DO NOT have to take remedial courses their freshman year in college? What is the measure for preparedness? ACT Scores? Clearly not stellar there either (average composite of less than 20). http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdeassess/documents/COACT/coact_summary.html#210 Scores well below the "prepared" level for most State colleges. I am not espousing the greatness SBS; they don't perform that much better.

Now to get to your original point. I have no disrespect for any parent that makes a conscious decision to choose a school or district. In fact, I applaud them. They have put more thought into their children's education than most do; but let's not make claims that SoRoCo is a beacon of academic excellence.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

Well, while CSAP scores are not perfect standards of measurement, it is a far better measure than the occasional awarding of a particular scholarship to a student.

When over 10% of students in Soroco decide to attend schools in a different district then a substantial number of parents have made the comparison and have chosen SB schools. How about examining that issue? I suspect that the Soroco residents attending school in SB is not a random distribution. I suspect that few children of parents of high school dropouts are leaving the district. I suspect a higher percentage of children of parents with advanced degrees are going to school in SB. I say "suspect" because the people that I know in Oak Creek that are sending their kids to SB schools have college degrees.

It is not a particularly great triumph for a school district that there are parents living in the district that decided to send their kids to schools in that district.

Soroco schools are not bad, but SB schools are pretty good and certainly the difference in high school math CSAP scores shows SB is doing a better job.

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Richard Hagins 3 years, 1 month ago

The Delta County School District 50J includes Cedaredge, Delta, Paonia, Crawford and Hotchkiss. Those towns have their schools, but run under one district.

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kathy foos 3 years, 1 month ago

Don't waste money on a study,if people want to change schools,put it to the public vote,other wise ,stop the crazy stuff. Just because some "Johny come lately'" ex-Denver mayor comes to the area,makes an appointment with certain people,excluding the general public(voters)and attempts to revamp our schools on a whim in a massively stupid plan,doesn't mean he is going to get away with it.If the system cannot afford basic functions ,demand to get rid of the illegal immigrant students and free up some money for the American kids.You guys picking on Soroco sound really stupid, by the way.

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max huppert 3 years, 1 month ago

They could turn OC school into a big box store, like a MJ superstore and grow facility since they got the new heating system in there. Bet that would make alot of money.

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JusWondering 3 years, 1 month ago

Kathy, with all due respect whether we all like it or not John Hickenlooper is the governor of our State and deserves the respect of the office. As the governor, I can guarantee you that he has to look at things from a far more strategic view than you are. As I have said before, I did not vote for him, but his is the most rational voice I have heard so far. WE CANNOT AFFORD OUR CURRENT INFRASTRUCTURE. Period.

So, tell me if the comments in this postand the Governor's plan are so crazy what is the rational decision that you would make to solve the current problem without having a serious impact on the quality of education our children receive? Which teachers are you willing to lay off? Which bus route are you willing to abandon? Which program will you cut? Or, do you propose that already struggling families pay higher taxes to make up the difference?

We, as a society, have reached the tipping point. We keep acting like this is a short-term problem and life will go back to pre-recession normal very quickly. Doing simple math it will take no less than 10 years for many people's homes to return to the price they paid for it (it is no wonder many people are just walking away). If government tax receipts are based (to a large extent) on property values how long can current spending levels be sustained?

Come on Kathy, go ahead and lash out and call something stupid, but if you are going to do so you better have a very good alternative... and status quo simply isn't sustainable.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

Unlike Routt County, none of the school districts "banked" any mills levies. So they cannot increase their mill levies when much lower assessed property values reduce their property tax revenues next year.

Since the State of Colorado already lacks the revenues to fully fund education, it is truly folly to expect they will make up for decreased property tax revenues next year.

So do we want to go forward without even studying whether there can be savings from consolidation?

Also, seems to me that SB school district could instantly completely change the local politics of this issue by no longer taking out of district students. As I understand it, SB gets the state funding for out of district students, but the property tax revenues stay in Soroco. So SB is not receiving full funding for out of district students and Soroco is being allowed to teach fewer students on the same property revenues. And suddenly 10% of parents of students in Soroco district are desperately in favor of consolidation.

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