By Guy Nahmiach
Fact: 53 percent of our population is over 45 years old. Fact: 21 percent of our population is over 65 years old. Fact: Only 6.6 percent of our population brings home more $150,000 per year. That’s about 950 families. Fact: Just over 50 percent of the population earned less than $50,000 per year. These are some of the statistics you can pick up from the City of Wheat Ridge website.
Why have Wheat Ridge voters been hesitant to support any kind of funding initiatives? For years, school closures in Jeffco have been focused on our city. Wheat Ridge Middle, Wheat Ridge 5-8 and Martinson have all been closed down. This past year Pennington and Stober elementary were on the closure list, but were spared for the time being.
While Golden, Lakewood and Arvada have all been awarded new schools, Wheat Ridge has been left behind with old buildings like Prospect Valley that has classrooms with no doors and carpet that dates back to the 1960s. In fact, Wheat Ridge schools have not had any remodeling in decades.
Standing with homemade signs on Wadsworth will not convince our voters, and outside marketing firms have simply been focused on our sporting history instead of our academic success stories. Like Isaac over at WRHS who, despite challenges in his personal life has, with the help of great teachers, won the prestigious Daniel’s Foundation Scholarship. We also know that while our younger generations love to share their opinions by clicking “like” on Facebook, it is the seniors that actually vote and shape the direction of our town.
We need to invite senior neighbors into our classrooms, to read to the younger grades and share their life experiences with our high-school students. Meaningful contributions and time spent inside our schools will help them see first-hand why teachers have been paying out of their own pockets for pencils and supplies for some students. See why we are on the bottom of the list in per-student dollars in this country. Only then will they finally understand why supporting a bond initiative is crucial to our education system.
On the other hand, Superintendent Jason Glass and his team have to be crystal clear in how dollars will be spent right here in Wheat Ridge. Vague promises loaded with buzz words simply have no effect on the majority of our voters. Sometimes it’s not about Jeffco. Sometimes it has to be about right here in Wheat Ridge. I’m not suggesting a direct link between scores and dollars. Simply a list that includes growth scores, graduation rates, increased enrollment, home values and other achievements directly tied to education inside our schools.
There needs to be accountability when asking for more money. There needs to be a show of some kind of regular updates via the Neighborhood Gazette, “did you know” postcards, maybe even another knock on the door from the same person who asked you for more money in the first place.
We’d also love to see a Student Engagement Program where our students become more visible and active in our own community. Activities like park clean-up days, being nature stewards, volunteering at our senior centers and hospitals. Reading and writing letters for our seniors and patients. Playing music in our hospital lobby, becoming youth commissioners in our city. It will be their active involvement that will tighten the bond between their generation and the one that established this city in the first place.
I am all for increased funding in our classrooms. But it’s only because I see the need every day first hand.
If you are a person that doubts the need for funding and requires proof, I would love to personally invite you into any of our schools in Wheat Ridge and experience for yourself not only the amazing things we are doing with so little, but listen to principals, teachers and students tell you what more we can do and be with additional funding.
The reality is that our schools have become so much more than just classrooms for our community. Schools also provide transportation, food and daycare for our families. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact. The problem is that these needs are still being funded by the same source. The proverbial pie is being cut into even more slices having to feed that many more mouths.
Who will take me up on my invitation to visit our schools? You can email me at guy@NostalgicHomes.com or call me at 303-999-5789. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Thank you to Jodi Nelson, Jenny O’Neil and the ”funding” team at the Vision conference for their help in compiling the data and opinions out there on our status and as always, thanks for reading.
Contact Guy Nahmiach at Guy@NostalgicHomes.com or 303-999-5789.