Group wants Re-1 to reconsider vote to change school week

District to switch from 4 to 5-day week

Keywords: Poll question,

The Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 board has voted and it's official. But that doesn't mean everyone is happy.

What began as on online chat between a few concerned, if not angry, parents and teachers has grown into a full-fledged crusade. More than 90 people gathered at the sale barn at Cortez Livestock Auction on Monday to discuss the Re-1 school board's decision to return to a five-day school week.

In response to the infamous survey that Re-1 issued to gain opinions about the four versus five day format, a group of five parents with children in the school district developed a survey of their own that they handed out to attendees at Monday's meeting, which they will gather and present to the school board at next Tuesday's board meeting.

One of the organizers, Don Haley, said the rally was not a place to debate the issues but to develop an understanding of the board's decision and the accompanied survey was meant to organize some key thoughts and concerns.

“We want to have a legitimate set of questions and get some legitimate answers,” he said. “We need to keep emotion out of it.”

Organizer Sheri Noyes said the survey is a direct way to solicit answers from the board. It addresses finance, staff and students, school programs, attendance and test scores, all of which will be affected by returning to the five-day week, she said.

“We'll give these questions to the board and go through each answer one by one,” Noyes said. “We want people at that meeting.”

At the March 6 school board meeting school board vice-president Jack Schuenemeyer said that a mill levy is a possible way to increase teacher compensation, but would only be realistic by returning to a five-day week.

Becky Brunk was another organizer of Monday's meeting and is president of Mesa Elementary's parent teacher organization. She said that problems in the school district weigh heavily on the community.

“How people are responding to the climate in the school district right now could effect a mill levy for teachers' salaries,” Brunk said.

Scores of comments came down from the audience. They ranged from how to get the board to reverse their decision, to the possibility of organizing a school board recall of the four board members who voted for the return to a five-day school week.

The vote at the March 6 meeting was 4-3 with Brian Demby, Tim Lanier, Jack Schuenemeyer and Eric Whyte voting for the five-day plan. Diane Fox, Beth Howell and Pete Montano voted to stick with the four-day week.

According to the National Conference of State Legislature website, recalls of Colorado elected officials are initiated by a petition circulated for 60 days that must have valid signatures from 25 percent of the total votes in the last school board election.

Board member Montano said this kind of response was somewhat anticipated, but the final vote was made and the decision will stick.

“Whenever there is a controversial decision like this, two things happen,” Montano said. “They want a recall or they want us to change the decision. I'm opposed to changing the decision of the board. It's a done deal. A lot of research went into it.”

Board president Lanier said there will be progress in the district, made one step at a time.

“It's not going to be business as usual,” Lanier said Tuesday. “Things haven't been right in this district for a long time.”

Montano said he had a difficult time with the final resolution, but it is time to move forward.

“When we vote as a board we need to accept that vote,” he said. “The board speaks as one singular entity.”

At the sale barn, Haley said parents and teachers want the board to re-evaluate their information. He said that inconsistency in the school district and a state of constant change is causing problems, not the four-day week.

“The best change is no change,” Haley said. “We need to get them to look at data and get them to understand that.”

Montano said the board's main concern is for the education of the students.

“If there is something new, a new revelation, but I haven't heard anything fresh or insightful,” he said.

The school week change would begin with the next school year.

The Re-1 school board will meet March 20 at 7 p.m. in the Downey Administration Building.

Reach Brandon Mathis at brandonm@cortezjournal.com