It was only six years ago when I helped on the Jeffco School Bond initiative. It included details about how much was going to be spent and where. The community was surveyed for priorities and needed changes. The $567 million bond narrowly passed. We were getting new schools, air conditioning in old buildings, lead pipes removed and we even had $33 million for hiring and retaining new teachers. We were going to be the envy of every district west of the Mississippi. Well, at least west of Denver.
Fast forward and we’ve long spent that money without delivering our promises. In fact Jeffco is a whopping $170 million over budget. And if that wasn’t enough, the district discovered an accounting error of $40 million. Then you need to also consider a $33 million swimming pool the district voted to build for the city of Arvada. What about the increase of pay for new teachers we voted for and funded? The teacher union vetoed that as it was unfair to the older teachers.
Three principals were featured a year ago on the Neighborhood Gazette front page. Jeena Templeton (Everitt Middle), TJ McManus (Stevens Elementary) and Josh Cooley (Wheat Ridge High). They had set out to build teams of amazing educators to improve their schools. All three have left Wheat Ridge for other districts. In fact there will be six interim principals in Jeffco this year. There is talk of an “oncoming storm.” A “lack of vision and leadership.”
There are 49 schools with less than the set enrollment threshold of 250 students. They are all being considered for possible shut downs. Peak, Sobesky, Kullerstarnd, Wilmore Davis, Stober. That’s just the ones in the Wheat Ridge area. This is happening throughout Jefferson County. What exactly happened here? Our voices are never heard. District community meetings never held here. In fact our own representative and school board president Stephanie Schooley chose to have two community meetings in Arvada instead of at least one in Wheat Ridge. But I have no doubt you’ll get a glossy postcard when she needs your vote.
And now comes the final straw. The board has voted to ask taxpayers for ANOTHER $40 million bond in the next election. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. The audacity to ask for more money when they squandered $567 million. The lack of accountability and thinking they can just continue to come for more. Businesses are shutting down. Parents are choosing alternative options to public schools. I will not support or vote for any more school bonds. Fix your house before you come for mine. Enough is enough!
My dad was a great teacher and my son is studying to become one as well. I am beyond proud of both of them. The teachers in our community need to be the ones benefiting from our tax dollars, not the bureaucrats “managing” those funds.
Let’s not go to sleep angry and instead, end this column on a positive note: Welcome back to Wheat Ridge Paige Piper, the new Executive Director for Localworks. Amazing RidgeFest, Jeremy Schwartz, and thanks for your help with Art in the Barn. You restored my faith in this great organization. Wishing you the very best in your new position at Visit Denver. OK, much better.
As always, thanks for reading.
Contact Neighborhood Gazette Publisher Guy Nahmiach at WRGazette@gmail.com or 303-999-5789.