On Aug. 31, at 5pm, the Superintendent Housing Task Force held a public meeting at the District Office in Carbondale led by task force member Lisa Dameron. She is also a Basalt Middle School teacher, the Roaring Fork Community Education Association secretary, and an RFSD parent.
The task force comprised the five school board members and 14 community members, including teachers, parents and other district employees. They held five meetings in May and June, and “our goal was to research and explore options for housing to assist with recruitment and retention of RFSD superintendents and to make a recommendation to the board,” Dameron shared.
School board members participated in meeting discussions but had no voice in composing or voting on the final recommendations.
Daisie Foglesong, a Crystal River Elementary School teacher and parent of a former RFSD student, read a list of eight options compiled by the task force. They were: 1) buy a home, which would be a district-owned asset but purchased on the market; 2) build a house on district land or in partnership with the developer that would also be a district-owned asset and available to the superintendent; 3) down payment assistance, also known as an equity investment, where the district helps the superintendent to buy a house in exchange for the district owning a partial stake in the house; 4) giving a housing stipend; 5) buy-down of a free market house; 6) pursuing philanthropic donations to purchase a home; and 7) including the superintendent in existing staff housing.
The eighth option was to do nothing, which was quickly thrown out of the mix as unviable after the task force spoke via phone with the consultant who led the superintendent search in March 2022. Dameron shared they were told, “the 22 people who applied [for the superintendent job] said they would need some kind of housing assistance in order to be considering the job.”
The task force offered options 1, 2 and 3 as recommendations to the Board of Education as possible solutions to recruit and retain talent in the superintendent position.
One attendee asked about Superintendent Dr. Jesús Rodríguez purchasing a home in Denver for $840,000 at the end of May. The purchase, which the Aspen Daily News reported on Aug. 2, has raised questions among some community members who perceive an implied agreement in place between the board and Rodríguez regarding superintendent housing.
A community member asked, “I just want to know if we could speak to what’s going on with the present superintendent. Did he come here with the agreement that we would give him something like that or not, and what’s the deal with him buying a house in Denver?”
In her answer, Board President Kathryn Kuhlenberg said the board “cannot speak to personnel issues, just as we can’t with any other employee within the district and just as we wouldn’t — that is something that is protected under state law.”
However, Kuhlenberg said the board and Rodríguez had an “agreement to agree” that the board would continue to actively seek superintendent housing solutions and added, “there is no obligation at all” for the district to provide Rodríguez with housing.
Moving forward, district staff will conduct further research on the top three recommendations offered by the task force. Currently, there is no designated timeline in place for staff to present their findings to the board.
School board candidate filings
According to Colorado’s TRACER database which tracks campaign committees, contributions and expenditures, there are five candidates who have filed petitions to be placed on the Nov. 7 ballot seeking RFSD Board of Education director seats.
Current board Vice President Jasmin Ramirez is the only candidate seeking election in District D. Ramirez was elected in 2019 over incumbent Shane Larson. Out of the three seats up for election, Ramirez is the only incumbent board member seeking re-election.
Other candidates in TRACER include, in District C, Phillip Bogart and Lindsay DeFrates. The District C seat is currently held by Maureen Stepp who is not seeking re-election.
In District B, the seat being vacated by board secretary/treasurer Natalie Torres will have two contenders — Elizabeth After and Alan Kokish.
Candidate information is due to be posted on the RFSD website on Sept. 8. According to the district calendar, a candidate forum will be held on Oct. 3 at 6pm.