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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Ron Wynn speaks to Falcon business group

“For every year we don’t go out, we get further behind, and we can’t build a school overnight.” Those were the words of Ron Wynn, superintendent of Falcon School District 49, as he addressed members at the January meeting of the Falcon Professional Development League.Since November, when the voters turned down for the second year in a row a mill levy override for the Falcon school district, the eastern prairie town has been in the news. The district is the fastest growing in Colorado, and school officials are wondering how they are going to accommodate the 1,200 new student arrivals every year.Creating more news for the local media are the eastern-plain developers who are talking about kicking in money to support the district. Those developers know that if a school district is unsuccessful, the housing market suffers as well. And some say last fall’s 200-some no voters, who reside east of Powers Boulevard and Constitution Avenue, may be attempting to sabotage development by not supporting the school district.Many people moved out east to escape density, city lights and development. However, Wynn maintains that if you build they will come, and that’s exactly what has happened in Falcon, for now. So, now what happens next?Wynn said it is highly feasible the district will go to the voters in 2005. “We have no commercial base to draw from, so what are we going to do?” he asked a crowd of about 25. “You can see the growth. We don’t want these kids in cramped conditions in modulars and we don’t want our area to look like “tent city.” Paying taxes is something we’ll do until we die, and we need to have quality schools.”Prior to the election, school officials said they would not go back to the voters in 2005; instead, they would look at alternatives, like year-round schooling, morning and afternoon shifts and the deletion of some programs. But Wynn said some parents have said they don’t want their children going to school in this district if those changes come to fruition. And Falcon already is behind other districts when it comes to programs and activities. “We don’t have a marching band, for example,” Wynn said. “Why shouldn’t the children in School District 49 be offered the same opportunities?”Why are school officials now saying they may go back to the voters next year? Wynn said there are reasons to reconsider a 2005 ballot issue. “We didn’t want to be told no three times in a row,” he said. But he said it’s time to rethink about what more can be done to gain support, and if the developers agree to covering impact fees, it might be less imposing on the taxpayer. Officials may be asking for less money, if they do approach the public a third time.Wynn said the school district needs the developers and vice versa. Convincing the naysayer that there is a need for developers along with an increase in tax dollars is the challenge. Once again, school officials are planning to intercept the community.District 49 is planning a public forum on Feb. 23 (see NEWS BRIEFS for details); meanwhile, Wynn encourages people in the community to contact him about any questions regarding the school’s plans or intentions. School board meetings are open – they meet on the first Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom of the administration building.And three seats on the board are up for grabs this fall, which is a significant number, Wynn said. Change is in the air, no matter what.And change has brought the corporate scene and the small business sector to Falcon.Kelly Larsen, an account representative with the National Federation of Independent Business, a national lobbying organization for small businesses, lined up with Wynn at the Falcon business owners meeting. Larsen talked about small business, and ways the education system feeds its presence.”There is a perception out there that job creation comes from large business,” Larsen said. “However, two-thirds of all jobs come from small business.” And one of the top-five concerns of those small business owners is finding qualified help, he said.A strong education system ties into the business community, Larsen said. People must have basic writing skills and the ability to run a cash register to ensure a qualified workforce, he said. “If you can’t count on people to fill those positions, too much of a burden is placed on the small-business owner.”And if people are not moving in and moving out because of a weak school district, commerce obviously falls off.During a question and answer period, Falcon business owners mentioned problems with the language used to define the need for a mill levy override. Wynn said if the issue goes to a vote again this year, the ballot language would be rewritten.Larsen wrapped up the discussion by emphasizing that small-business owners need to be involved in their community. “I know the business owner is so engaged in his or her business, but all of these issues have a direct impact on their business,” he said. “They need to have a voice and not allow other interest groups to overpower them.”

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