Steamboat schools budget could find room for band, Spanish |

Steamboat schools budget could find room for band, Spanish

School Board to make final funding decision in June

Jack Weinstein

— Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said Monday night that there is enough money in the 2011-12 budget to preserve the elementary band and Spanish programs at their existing levels.

However, whether that happens is up to the Steamboat Springs School Board, which met Monday night and will consider the next academic year's budget June 6.

The district's elementary school principals proposed cutting the already part-time fifth-grade band program in half and eliminating two Spanish grades, leaving one year of instruction. The proposal would save the elementary schools about $50,000, allowing them to restore a half-time technology teacher and full-time intervention teacher, based on existing funding and teacher priorities.

Steamboat's principals all presented budgets at 100 percent of 2010-11 funding, but were asked to also prepare them at 96 percent and 90 percent of this year's funding as part of the district's new performance-based budgeting method.

Soda Creek Principal Celia Dunham and Strawberry Park Principal Judy Harris said their proposal was not an indictment of band, but they had to make some decisions based on existing resources.

"We do value the band program and the Spanish program," Harris said. "We certainly support (band teacher Mike Lewis) and the effects, successes he's had in our schools."

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About 15 parents and teachers attended Monday night's meeting and several spoke in support of the programs.

Parent John Fairlie said it would be a "grave mistake" to cut the fifth-grade band program. Parent Susie Makens argued that elementary Spanish should be expanded to start in kindergarten, and not cut.

School Board member Brian Kelly, who sits on Steamboat's District Accountability Committee, said its members supported preserving the programs.

"The comments from the DAC, these were the predominant comments, were overly in favor of putting fifth-grade band and Spanish back in," he said.

Cunningham said the cuts wouldn't be necessary after she withdrew her request that the district next year add a curriculum director, a position that was eliminated in the 2009-10 budget. She said not providing the proposed salary of nearly $68,000 for that position would allow the district to preserve the band and Spanish programs at their existing levels.

While School Board members will consider approving the budget next month, Cunningham's comments indicated she thought they would support the programs.

"While I am very elated we will be able to fund the 100 percent budgets and bring band and Spanish back in, just know that next year we'll have to have this conversation again," she said. "At some point, our community's reality is we can't have it all. We're fortunate this year will be easier than we all believed. But next year, it won't be. … Something's got to give."

Later in the meeting, the School Board approved a 110-day, 2011-12 contract for Lewis, who will retire at the end of this school year. The state's Public Employees' Retirement Association includes a provision that allows teachers to return to work for as many as 140 days after they retire.

Also Monday, the School Board:

■ Decided it would discuss at 12:30 p.m. Friday, during a workshop, how to proceed with replacing Cunningham. Human Resources Director Anne Muhme solicited bids from three search firms and the Colorado Association of School Boards to help the district find an interim or permanent replacement.

Cunningham has accepted the superintendent position with the Novato Unified School District in Marin County, Calif. Her last day is June 30.

■ Decided not to renew contracts of two probationary teachers, high school business teacher Rebecca Williams and middle and high school choir teacher Anna Jones.

Colorado statutes allow districts to not renew contracts of teachers who have not yet been employed for three consecutive years.

■ Heard a budget presentation from Finance Director Dale Mellor, who estimates that the district will have to cut about $800,000, less than 4 percent, from its more than $20 million budget. Earlier this year, the district projected having to cut as much as 10 percent.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email

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