Steamboat Springs School Board to discuss class sizes at Monday meeting with Education Fund Board
March 7, 2013
2013 Education Fund Boad grant requests
Steamboat Springs School District: $2.2 million
Small class sizes: $1.2 million
Technology hardware: $408,700
Literacy coaches: $150,000
Professional development: $50,000
Technology training: $30,000
North Routt Community Charter School: $32,500
Expeditionary learning program: $32,500
Hayden School District: $249,966
Technology support: $40,371
Software licensing: $12,463
Middle school interventions: $17,969
Auxiliary lab computers: $15,816
Auditorium upgrades: $79,824
South Routt: $188,970
Routt County schools grant writer: $80,000
Total: $2.7 million
Steamboat Springs — Community members looking for a chance to weigh in on how revenue from Steamboat Springs’ half-cent sales tax for education should be spent can plan to stop by the community center Monday night.
For the first time in many years, the Steamboat Springs School Board and the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board will hold a joint meeting to discuss how the tax is being used and look toward future uses of the revenue stream that supports teachers’ salaries, new technology and many other things in area schools each year.
"I think this meeting Monday night is a step toward building a stronger relationship between the Fund Board and the school district," Superintendent Brad Meeks said Monday. "We need to talk more."
The two bodies will kick off their meeting by talking about the worth of small class sizes, an issue to which the school district would dedicate a $1.2 million request of the tax revenue next school year.
The grant request would support about 22 full-time employees in the district, mostly at the elementary school level, to maintain current class size ratios.
Fund Board President Kristi Brown said this year is the first she can remember in which the Steamboat district’s grant request to maintain small class sizes has outweighed requests for new technology and other items.
And the large price tag of this year’s potential grant to support those class sizes sparked many questions from Fund Board members.
"How effective is it, and is it a good use of the money?" Brown said as she ticked off a list of the questions Fund Board members will ask Monday. "In the past, the community has always been supportive of small class size. It’s time to find out if it’s working. I think it will be enlightening for the board and the community to talk about this because it’s really hard to gauge the community’s prioritization (of how the tax should be spent) without everyone having all the information. And I don’t think anyone has all the information.”
The meeting comes as the Fund Board is preparing to spend the next few months evaluating $2.7 million worth of grant requests from Routt County’s three school districts.
Last year, the board doled out $2 million in grants to Steamboat, $148,084 to Hayden, $159,000 to Soroco and $67,500 to education-oriented community groups. But the last funding cycle ended with a call from all three districts, especially Steamboat, for the vetting process to be simplified.
"I'd like to see if we can take a step back and review the process and make it simpler, more transparent and less arduous," Meeks said last year at the conclusion of the grant vetting process. "Anything we can do to simplify the process and expedite it would be welcome."
The district’s relationship with the Fund Board has evolved since the tax first was approved by voters in 1994. It first was used to give Steamboat $193,550 to maintain small class sizes, $446,317 for new technology and $120,084 to purchase modulars.
School Board President Brian Kelly said that when it started, four Steamboat School Board members were able to vote on how the funds were distributed.
Today, two Steamboat School Board members are on the Fund Board but do not vote.
Meeks said Thursday that the district would like more flexibility in how it spends the grants, including on technology needs where a new tool or need could arise between the time the grant is approved and when the money is distributed.
At Monday’s meeting, he will present class-size data for the school district and other high achieving district’s across the state as a prelude to a conversation about whether funding small class sizes is the best use of the community’s and the district’s dollars.
"Over the next several years, we’re going to have these resources from the half-cent sales tax. Let’s have a conversation about how we want to invest the money going forward," Meeks said.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com