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El Paso County Colorado District 49


The Board of Education members who led District 49 in 2013 werenít psychic, but they did have a vision of the future. On April 23, after a year of planning and three months of refining, the Capital Planning Committee offered the Board a major revision of the school finance plan. Our path ahead is clearer than ever.Since January, hundreds of members of our community have participated in a series of 25 school, zone, and community conversations about school financing. Members of the committee, board members and district leaders have sought out all kinds of input and suggestions for the plan. The ideas ranged from relocating projects to ways to save on construction costs. Parents and principals advocated for the needs of their schools, while architects and planners found ways to reduce cost and consolidate projects. The budget office found ways to restructure our financing, and our communications team developed improved messages to communicate our plans. Through it all, the strength of our community process emerged as a unifying force for District 49.As one of the hosts for our community meetings, I had the distinct privilege of listening as teachers, parents and community members shared their hopes and concerns. While many in our community remain guarded about trusting the district, even more want a reason to believe. Teachers and parents especially expressed hope for a season of stable, purposeful growth that will serve our students for decades to come.Their hope is infectious. People didnít demand more construction or fancy classrooms. They spoke out for better options, more choices, deeper learning and stronger preparation. That vision shapes our revised plan with fewer square feet of new construction and more resources dedicated to new programs.Components that rose to the top include expanded classes to give more students practical, vocational education. Even though District 49 already features excellent career and technical education, the improvements we plan to make will provide even more student workplace skills and experience. Additionally, our sharper focus on college preparation will expand advanced academic programs ñ especially concurrent enrollment. Concurrent enrollment allows Colorado high school students to earn free college credits once they are ready for college content. Growth pressure on our buildings and staff has limited dual enrollment until now; but the proposed improvements will give District 49 space and other resources we need to build a full-service program.The revised proposal dedicates resources to keep our salary structure fair and competitive with other districts in El Paso County. We also retained commitments to safety and technology ñ especially tools that deliver science, technology, engineering and math to ensure students are prepared for the jobs of the future.The best news is that by following the wisdom of our community, we have a plan that should be viable in November. Our constituents clearly told us that the initial bond proposal was too expensive and too elaborate, so the committee recommended we cut back over 30 percent of the construction costs. On the tax side, we learned that while our community is generally opposed to raising the mill levy, we are supportive of a new proposal to extend an existing mill levy (from 2005) that will let us generate more operating revenue without raising taxes. The combination of reduced capital bonds and eliminating the mill levy increase decreases the proposed cost to homeowners by over 75 percent!I am grateful to the capital planning committee and all those who contributed to their process. Itís inspiring to see participatory democracy in action. Architects and planners will join forces with administrators and educators to polish up a final plan setting precise costs. If the Board votes in July to adopt that final plan, our efforts will focus on the programs contained in it and the people it will serve. Thanks to the capital planning committee and all of you, we can see a great vision of the future in District 49.

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