The Montezuma-Cortez School Board heard the budget for 2018 at its monthly meeting Tuesday night, and in a public discussion, heard about safety concerns.
“I am excited to say for the first time in eight years, we have a very healthy carryover and that the district is solid as far as not having to take out a loan to make payroll and stuff like that,” said Superintendent Lori Haukeness.
According to Finance Director Carla Hoehn, 84 percent of budgeted expenses will go to teacher salaries and benefits, which leaves only $2.8 million to run the rest of the district for the year.
Each board member was given a binder of the budget, which was summarized on two pages of tables for discussion.
The topic of school safety on the minds of board members and audience.
Haukeness began her superintendent’s report by sharing experience that she and her husband, district safety coordinator Jamie Haukeness, gained during a trip to Aztec to pay their respects.
“When you are an educator, it doesn’t matter what district or school you are in – they are all our students, and we are very conscious about keeping them safe,” Haukeness said.
About six parents from Lewis-Arriola Elementary School attended Tuesday’s board meeting to voice safety concerns.
Nicole Young, who is co-president and treasurer of PTO at Lewis-Arriola Elementary School and is a parent of a kindergartner and third-grader, read a prepared statement on behalf of parents.
She attended the district safety meeting last week, an opportunity for parents to get an inside look at the district’s safety plans.
Young said that she was pleased with the work the district has done to prepare teachers and students and with staff radios that connect directly to a 911 dispatcher.
However, she and other parents came away from the meeting with some concerns. She requested the Lewis-Arriola Fire Department and Pleasant View Fire Department attend safety board meetings, and she was also concerned about the district’s plan in the event of an incident.
She thanked the district for the security cameras and barred windows at Lewis-Arriola Elementary School, but requested an intercom system for security.
Young and other parents took issue with the district’s suggestion that students fight back against an active shooter.
“I learned at the safety meeting that a class has soup cans to either eat in need of a lock-down or to throw at an attacker,” Young said. “I have a hard time assuming that my third-grader would be able to hit an assailant with a soup can as protection.”
Parents also were concerned about the amount of time it may take an armed officer to reach the rural schools.
“Imagine the damage an active shooter could do in 10 minutes,” Young said. “That is the estimated time from Cortez to Lewis-Arriola Elementary School. Now, imagine for 30 minutes if they are driving out to Pleasant View.”
Young asked the board to have a serious conversation about allowing staff and teachers to arm themselves against an intruder.
“I am proposing that we arm our teachers with more than soup cans. Whether it be Tasers or concealed carry, our teachers are owed the right to defend their students as well as themselves while they are awaiting the arrival of an armed officer,” Young said.
Board President Sherri Wright said the issue weighed heavily on board members’ that they would have serious discussions.
Board OKs medical marijuana motionThe board passed a motion to allow parents to administer medical marijuana to their student on school grounds.
“We are obligated to allow parents to come onto campus and administer medical marijuana to their student,” said Susan Ciccia, registered nurse at Montezuma-Cortez schools. “The reason I am making this policy proposal to you is so that when we do have parents that come to us, we are ready for that, we are ready to protect that student, the parent’s rights and the rest of our students while that is happening.”
After much discussion the motion passed First Reading, 4-2.
“Technically we do not have to have a policy in place. Legally we do have to give parents the right, so the policy actually protects the district and creates the rules that the parents have to follow and helps the school be a part of the process,” Haukeness said.
Schools present improvement plansAdditionally, Manaugh Elementary, Mesa Elementary, Cortez Middle School and Battle Rock Charter School presented their unified improvement plan reports to the board.
These reports are required to be presented to the board because each school that is accredited with priority improvement or turnaround have to submit unified improvement plans to the state.
Other discussionThe school board was given a presentation from Kemper Elementary school about its recent win at the district’s knowledge bowl.The Colorado Association of School Boards convention was also discussed and Wright said the board brainstormed for better communication and returned with many ideas. “I really appreciated how they highlighted that different members come onto the board for different passions and different agendas and how a board comes to a cohesiveness and can respectfully disagree, but it is always working together for what is best for the students,” Haukeness said.
Board member Brian Balfour was not present at the meeting because he had to work.