As the decision on whether to put a tax measure on the November ballot nears, the Douglas County School Board hosted a special meeting for charter school leaders to voice their needs. Several community members and teachers said in all their years at the district, they had never seen anything like it.
“Since I started coming to board meetings in 2010, I've never seen all of the charter leadership together in one room brought together by the board,” retired teacher Gary Colley said.
About 40 principals, directors, board members and educators from the district's 18 charter schools sat at tables with either a district staff member or a board of education member at the July 16 workshop, held at the district's administrative building in Castle Rock. Also in attendance was the district's new superintendent, Thomas Tucker.
The goal of the two-hour meeting was for the school board to gather information on what charter schools would use funds for should a bond measure be placed on the November ballot. A bond would generate money to address capital needs across the district, such as building repairs and security measures.
Outlined in the district's Master Capital Plan, capital needs are categorized into four tiers. Tier one needs are repairs that if not addressed could potentially close a school, such as boilers and fire-alarm systems.
According to the district's Long Range Planning Committee, which studies capacity needs, charter schools have $2.7 million worth of tier one needs and neighborhood schools have $71.5 million.
“Those are essential to the occupancy of the building and a safe learning environment,” Richard Cosgrove, director of planning and construction, said at the workshop.
At a June 6 board meeting, the seven-member school board approved a resolution to include charter schools in 100 percent of a mill levy override, used for programming and teacher pay. The board has not yet made a decision if an MLO will be placed on the November ballot.
At the July 16 workshop, charter school leaders voiced concerns over the messaging around a tax measure, how to reach taxpayers who don't have students in the district, the unique needs of each charter school and how much of a bond measure would be distributed to charters.
The conversation was ultimately about the safety and security of the 68,000 students in the school district.
“This is really about the unity of all of our children, regardless of where we have been and what we have endured,” said Kendra Hossfeld, principal at North Star Academy in Parker. “This is definitely about the students and we are hopeful this can be passed if we handle it in a very optimistic way but also a way that we can tell families and parents who may not understand the importance that this is about the safety of our kids.”
School board President David Ray, who moderated the conversation, came up with two paths to address the capital needs of charter schools in Douglas County.
The first would use the district's process to evaluate capital needs in charter schools. District staff would visit each charter building to determine the top five needs.
In the second path, charter schools would form a representative committee to determine a process for how tax dollars would be distributed for capital needs.
“Requests from charters would go to this group for prioritization,” Ray said.
Board member Wendy Vogel advocates for both paths, she said.
“I think that having staff be able to go and identify the priorities will help us in the determination of the ultimate dollar amounts and then having a group of charters to actually make the determination of how that is distributed, it makes sense to me,” she said.
The school board will continue its conversation about the specifics of a bond and MLO. A decision on whether a tax measure will be placed on the ballot this fall is expected to be made at an Aug. 7 school board meeting beginning at 6 p.m. at the district's administrative building, 620 Wilcox St., Castle Rock.
“Obviously, we have the tough challenge of making the tough decision and we recognize that,” Ray said. “Hopefully, if nothing else, you hear tonight it's 68,000 kids, that's what we are committed to.”
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