Sep. 20, 2019
Community Input Not Allowed During Financial Working Session
FAIRPLAY, Colo. – Park County school board members heard a resounding call from parents at last night’s school board meeting to collaborate with South Park Education Association (SPEA) and find a solution to retain quality educators for their students. During public comments, several parents voiced concern to the Board that Park County School District (PCSD) isn’t doing enough to listen to educators and work together to avoid a strike.
Local business owner Kerrie Lynn told the Board she loves living in Fairplay but is considering pulling her 4th grade child out of PCSD and moving. “How can we stay in a place where I feel my child is getting a mediocre education? I love our teachers, they all work so hard and have been the best for my child… I’m concerned. What happens when the teachers who have taken the time to be here, who have the proper skills to work with our children, leave? Our children will get teachers who haven’t been here and don’t have experience.
“The pay scale is wrong,” Lynn continued. “I can’t get over the prices of houses here now compared to what I paid 15 years ago. How do we expect educators who are moving into our community to pay for housing when they are paid so little?”
Duane Thompson’s grandson attends school in PCSD. He took the District to task on what he called “apparent, retaliatory moves” against educators, including cancelling district meetings with SPEA, not allowing SPEA to hold meetings in schools, and cancelling the deduction of union dues from paychecks.
“You can come up with any kind of excuse you want, the reality is you are trying to aggravate teachers,” said Thompson. “If you’re going to volunteer to serve on the Board, you’ve got a responsibility to the community… What I want is for people to start working together instead of all this scheduling a meeting and cancelling a meeting.”
Like many Park County educators, Gretchen Panicucci is a parent first before any other role. She told the Board about her worries for the future of her children’s education. “My daughter just started 7th grade. Since kindergarten, she has had 12, and I kid you not, 12 first-year teachers, brand new-to-district teachers, or teachers new to teaching subject areas. I believe without a doubt this has negatively impacted her academic achievement. I need answers on how our District plans on retaining and attracting high-quality educators so that my children do not suffer from the negative impact of teacher turnover, and inexperienced and unlicensed teachers.”
Many SPEA members attended the District’s working session on school finance earlier in the day, hoping for an open dialogue on attaining good working conditions and fair pay for all educators while keeping the District on sound financial footing. Instead, the District presented an overload of numbers on hard-to-read slides and silenced anyone who tried to ask questions.
“I implore this Board to please come and sit with us. We want an equal voice in this District,” said SPEA President Taya Mastrobuono, an elementary school teacher, to the Board. “When we work together, things happen, things get accomplished. Right now that’s not happening. We need to sit down at the table in transparency and good faith for our students, for our community and for our educators. That’s all we’re asking for now.”
The Board adjourned without addressing any of the concerns raised at the meeting. SPEA has not set a strike date, hopeful that transparent, open dialogue with the District will lead to a satisfactory outcome that includes educators’ voices and allows them to commit to a rewarding career educating Park County students. SPEA will post updated strike information HERE for educators, media and the Park County community.
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