Superintendent: Dolores schools have a healthy reserve

Dear students, staff, parents and community:

In light of a recent letter to the editor posing questions and concerns about how our school district spends money, I thought it would be helpful to respond with factual information.

The Governor's budget proposal includes an increase of 2.2 percent for K-12 education funding. Providing this increase holds, school districts will be encouraged to utilize 20 percent of this increase in funding for full-day kindergarten and other early childhood programming. In light of this, we will be proposing to the school board that we no longer charge for full day kindergarten, effective next month. I have been a strong supporter of full day kindergarten since my days as a kindergarten teacher at Beech Street Kindergarten. Additionally, we will propose a modest, appropriate increase to all employee salaries. Salaries and benefits have been frozen off and on during the past several recession years. Attracting and retaining the highest quality teachers, support staff, directors and principals will result in continued student progress.

The Dolores School District has been slowly building a healthy reserve over the past several years. Our reserve, combined with proposed increases in state funding, has poised our district to be in a financially solid position.

Our voters supported our bond to fund $3.47 million to remodel and rebuild nearly a third of our K-12 facilities. THANK YOU! The approval of our bond allowed the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant ($2.6 million) to be awarded. Together these funds will provide our students and staff with much needed, new facilities. The use of these funds will be closely watched by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE). These funds can only be used for the construction and remodeling of our school facilities as outlined in our BEST Grant application, which is part of the Master Plan found on our district website, www.dolores.k12.co.us.

To address some specific concerns, I will detail some recent history of our facilities. The old administration modular on top of the hill was falling apart. The ceiling was caving in, mice were scurrying around, walls were shifting, windows could not close properly and the heating bill for that one structure was more than our current heating bill at our new location with four buildings. In addition, the San Juan Board of Collaborative Educational Services (SJBOCES) partnered with us to pay for half of the present location/ property and utilities. The land was donated by the Forest Service to our district (a value of $209,000 saved) and the purchase price of $104,000 (to be paid over a three year period) was then split with SJBOCES ($52,000). Also, the town of Dolores and community benefits (tax revenue, improvement of abandoned buildings, and greater accessibility for our schools and community) from our use and improvements to these historic buildings.

We are looking into buying the old town maintenance lot, another smart business decision. The appraised value is down to only $4/sq ft. This lot would provide a safe place for construction crews to park their heavy equipment and the storage of building supplies during the next two years of construction. The safety of our students and staff is always a top priority. We need to maintain a safe learning environment on a crowded campus during the construction of our new facilities. Beyond the construction period, we would move our maintenance equipment, trucks, gas, diesel, paints, etc. off our campus and onto this new location. This will create a safer environment for students and staff.

I hope that this information helps everyone understand the facts and dispels any rumors. If you would like more facts and information, as always, please email, call, or stop by and visit with me. I'm more than happy to explain any and all decisions our district makes to benefit the quality of education for our students, providing the decisions are not confidential/personnel decisions.

Thanks for your support,

Scott Cooper, Superintendent