While Feb. 23 was a snow day for Roaring Fork School District (RFSD) students, the business of the Board of Education went forward. Their regularly-scheduled meeting, originally slated to be in-person at the district’s offices in Carbondale was, due to weather, held instead via Zoom.
The board’s work session, scheduled for 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. that day, was canceled and will be rescheduled.
Carbondale Community School (CCS), a K-8 public charter school in operation since 1996, is applying for a five-year charter renewal with RFSD. As required, CCS’s annual update and progress report were submitted for board review.
Sam Richings-Germain, CCS principal, gave the presentation, which included student demographics and school goals. Michael Hayes, executive director of Compass, the Woody Creek-based nonprofit educational organization that oversees CCS and the Aspen Community School in the Aspen School District, was also present for questions.
CCS’s website states that, “CCS provides a balanced, integrated curriculum that encourages inquisitive, independent and self-motivated learners, incorporating strong academic skills woven into project-based learning opportunities.”
Currently, with an enrollment of 135 students, they propose “for financial sustainability reasons” to increase enrollment to a maximum of 155 students.
Richings-Germain requested CCS employees have “proportional inclusion” in existing and future RFSD teacher housing. Under the proposal, charter school participation, in the staff housing program, would begin with the development of new units which are targeted for fall 2023. At that time, charter schools would have access to a proportion of the total units, based on student enrollment, which currently stands at 8% of the district’s overall enrollment.
Richings-Germain said that CCS continues to work on their diversity action plan to achieve a student population more reflective of the district’s demographics. “We still trail behind the district in matching the demographics of our community,” she admitted.
Richings-Germain explained that the public has some misconceptions about who can attend CCS, given their charter school status. “We want people to know we are a tuition-free, public school, and we are open to all students,” she reiterated.
The annual audited financial statements for the year (ending June 30, 2021) were presented by Paul Backes, a representative of the district’s audit firm, McMahan & Associates. Chief Financial Officer Nathan Markham was also on-hand for questions.
“If you’re sitting on the board and you’re governing this 60-plus million dollar organization, what I can tell you is the financial information you’re getting is accurate, it’s reasonable, prudent planning. Well-done, and I don’t say that lightly. I have lots of districts that don’t get that report,” Backes noted.
Board Member Natalie Torres shared that in-person focus groups are underway with community members and hiring consultants from Hazard, Young and Attea Associates to find the district’s next superintendent.
Board Member Kenny Teitler introduced a community survey with questions like, “What are the qualities and characteristics we want in our next superintendent?” The survey also asks questions specific to RFSD including, “How important is it that the next superintendent be fluent in Spanish?”
Teitler said that community survey links are available, in Spanish and English, on the RFSD website. Board President Kathryn Kuhlenberg emphasized the importance of community participation, saying, “We need help from everyone to make it successful.”
In-person community town halls were held in Glenwood Springs on March 1 and in Carbondale on March 2. A third meeting will be held on March 3 at Basalt High School, beginning at 6 p.m. Zoom meetings will be held on March 8 (English only) and March 9 (Spanish only). All meetings are open to the public. In-person meetings will be conducted in English and Spanish and food will be provided.
Kelsy Been, the district’s public information officer, said they will house all superintendent search information, including a timeline, under one webpage (available at www.bit.ly/RFSDsearch).
Before the three-hour meeting adjourned, board member Jasmin Ramirez asked that one subject be placed on a future meeting agenda. She said, “I know right now, especially in the community, there’s a lot of conversation around bullying happening in schools. I would like to know more about the process that is taking place in our schools when bullying has been reported, and if there’s a policy attached with that.”
Kuhlenberg said the board would address the topic during a future meeting.