This morning, I awoke to a complex swirl of emotions.
The results of last night’s election give us much to consider, reflect on, and process. Let us begin with our celebrations.
Both Eagle County Schools ballot questions passed last night and turning them into real changes for our staff, kids, and schools starts immediately.
We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the YesforECS campaign efforts in our community. They ran a quality and effective campaign that our schools and students will benefit from tremendously.
Question 3A won with 60.6% of the vote. The resources will bring in $8 million annually for the next 7 years, after which we will need to ask the voters for permission to continue receiving them. Make no mistake – this is a significant infusion of dollars and it is going to be a game-changer for us.
These funds become available in January and we will need to revise the district’s budget for this current year. This is no small feat and will involve a flurry of activity over the next two months culminating with a vote on changes by the Board of Education in January.
Starting today, we’ll be pulling together estimated costs and packaging together options for how we can spend the funds. The language in the ballot question restricts the areas where the funds can be spent (salaries, staffing, technology, early childhood, etc.), but there are a variety of options, choices, and trade-offs within those categories.
To make decisions on those options, we’ll get feedback and seek input from staff, students, parents, and school leaders to help formulate a new budget for January. Details that impact staff compensation, staffing levels, or benefits will be negotiated with the Eagle County Education Association and that work starts next Tuesday.
Question 3B won by a smaller margin (52%) than 3A, but all that is required for victory is a simple majority. Funds from 3B will be used to make safety and security upgrades, technology improvements, and energy efficiency improvements to all schools. Red Sandstone will get a significant renovation. Eagle Valley High School will get a significant expansion and upgrade. The 3rd street campus in Eagle (EVES and EVMS) will be transformed. Red Canyon High School in Eagle will be relocated to a better facility. We can also expect improved technology, better and safer transportation, and funds to help maintain the facilities we have.
In all, $144 million in improvements across the district. Work on this has already begun. In anticipation of winning 3B, the district has already put out and awarded several contracts for this work and key construction, architecture, engineering, and surveying firms are already locked in and on the ground in Eagle County.
You should expect to see workers coming into your schools and onto grounds for planning purposes now. Construction will begin in earnest in 2017 and we expect all projects to be completed by 2019.
The Top of the Ticket
The Presidential election was unusually brutal and harsh, exposing deep divisions between people and their beliefs. Regardless of the outcome, it is some relief to have this destructive campaign season behind us.
From a policy level, it is unclear what a Trump presidency means for America’s schools. Trump’s policy proposals for education involved massive block grants to states for implementing more charter school and school voucher programs. With Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress and the Presidency, it is likely some form of this will move forward. However, during the campaign, these proposals were vague and had massive amounts of money attached to them that are probably unrealistic. We will remain engaged and see what actually emerges.
I know many of our Hispanic students feared a Trump presidency because of the rhetoric about immigrants and minorities which came forth during the campaign. While not diminishing these fears, for now we should all take a breath and slow down.
Presidents are not dictators with unlimited power and authority. And, just as few of the doomsday predictions put forth by those on the extreme right about what an Obama presidency would bring about never materialized, so too will many of the predictions by the left about a Trump presidency.
Our system of government respects and allows for a transition of power between regimes with no bloodshed or violent revolution. Donald Trump will be our next President and we should support and work with him wherever we can – wishing him the greatest success possible as our nation’s future is connected to President-elect Trump.
And we must also be the loyal opposition when we need to – pushing back, disrupting, and resisting where we must against injustice and abuse of power. Wisdom emerges from the conflict between the thesis and the anti-thesis. Whether you supported President-elect Trump or Senator Clinton, this is no time to disengage.
Yesterday, we were all champions of equity, justice, tolerance, opportunity, and love for our students and community.
On this new day, these values matter more than ever.