Salida school board members Cheri Post and Joel McBride were honored for their contributions to the district Tuesday at the board’s November meeting.
Post’s seat will be taken over by Mandy Paschall following the Nov. 2 election.
Post has served on the board for eight years.
McBride announced he would vacate his at-large seat on the board, which he retained in 2019, after six years of service.
The board will seek new members to fill the seat for the remainder of McBride’s four-year term and fill the District 5 seat vacated by Greg Reed. There were no candidates for that seat during the recent election.
The board hopes to find new members to fill the vacancies at the December work session.
Board member Jodi Breckenridge Petit presented Post with the McGuffey Award and a commemoration pin from the Colorado Association of School Boards.
The award was given for lifetime service to the Salida School District not only as a school board member but also as a teacher, coach and mentor.
Breckenridge Petit said, “You just are what it means to be a Spartan,” in presenting the award.
Post said, “Thanks for all your support. It’s been a great eight years.”
Superintendent David Blackburn thanked Post and McBride for their time on the board.
“Joel has always challenged me,” he said of McBride.
Blackburn said he couldn’t thank Post enough, joking that several times he discovered she was right about something and Post “served me crow on more than one occasion.”
Post and McBride both received gifts of appreciation form the board for their service.
Following the presentations, two district parents, Jennifer Miller and Anthony Mazucca, spoke to the board during public comment. Both raised concerns about the Sept. 23 incident involving Salida police and administration at Salida High School.
Tom Sistare of Hoelting & Co. Inc. presented a guest report on the 2021 audit.
He said the district’s overall financial condition is strong, and the auditors were able to issue an unmodified, or clean, opinion.
He said it was a smooth first-year audit, and the work district business manager Shiela Moore and her staff did was appreciated.
The district’s net position for 2021 was reported at $5,618,589.
Principal Kristie Servis of Crest Academy and Horizons Exploratory Academy gave a detailed report on Crest Academy.
Crest Academy has been operating at the new Oak Street campus this year.
Servis said some advantages of the new space include larger classrooms, common space, large cafeteria/multi-purpose room and a gym.
In a student-made video, students also mentioned the newness of the space and better bathrooms.
Servis said the hope is to be able to increase enrollment for the 2022-2023 school year from the current 46 to 60 students.
Servis also hopes to update the community’s perception of Crest Academy and its programming.
The board also heard an update from Cindy Ward and Jackie Webb of Onward Education on the strategic planning process.
So far there have been 38 focus groups, and discussions have pinpointed five to seven priority areas.
A focus of the planning involves graduation guidelines.
They hope to meet with recent SHS and HEA graduates to get their perspective on their high school experience and preparation.
In a discussion about COVID-19 in the schools Blackburn told the board they were down about 20 teachers in the past week directly and indirectly due to the virus.
With a shortage of substitute teachers, staff has been covering absences using planning and lunch periods.
He said the district would “pull every trick in the book to stay in person,” including wearing masks until Thanksgiving and possibly winter break.
Blackburn said the goal is to get to Christmas with in-person instruction.
He said right now the district is averaging 15 to 20 percent absenteeism among students.
House Bill 21-1164, which centers on mill levy equalization, was also discussed.
Blackburn said property tax in Chaffee County will increase by 10.1 mills over the next 10 years, at approximately one mill per year.
He said he and Moore “fought tooth and nail” for a 7.2 mill increase based on the debrucing of 1998. Debrucing, named for Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights author Doug Bruce, refers to removing the TABOR revenue cap to allow a government entity to use all the revenue it collects.
The matter went to the attorney general, whose reading went with the 10.1 increase.
Blackburn said Salida was the last district in the state to comply and agree with the Colorado Department of Education’s reading.
Blackburn said he has been talking to the Economic Development Corp. because businesses get hit the hardest.
“Particularly our ‘Main Street’ businesses – it’s going to hurt them the hardest,” said Blackburn.
He said the mill levy dollars will come directly to the district, and the state will withdraw an equivalent amount for a net gain of zero.
The state’s gain could come back to Salida indirectly through higher per-pupil funding, he said.