Hoping for the BEST grant

Re-1 looks at developing public information strategy

Not knowing if the Montezuma County School District Re-1 is going to receive more than $21 million from the 2012-13 Building Excellent Schools Today grant funds, its school board Tuesday night considered ways to get the word out to residents immediately rather than wait to see if the district is given the award.

The nearly $22 million request Re-1 applied for was the third highest amount in the state, trailing only school districts in Greeley and Sheridan with their requests totaling just over $22 million and $23 million respectively, and Re-1 would still have to match the $21.6 million from the grant if approved.

The funds and the match would be used to build a new high school.

Re-1 will not know if it will receive the BEST grant funds until June 26, but to receive the funds it needs voter approval in a bond election for the 50-50 required match.

Michael Canzona, chief of operations for the district through June when his resignation takes effect, said he recently spoke with a senior consultant for BEST who told him the district had a decent chance of receiving the funds.

He stressed the BEST board will be the one making the decision, not the consultant and what those board members are thinking is unknown.

Canzona wanted to know if and how the board wanted to proceed with getting the message out to the voters rather than wait to see if the district is awarded.

He said the district has two options in getting the word out — using capital reserve overlay funds from the Downey building to advertise through traditional means or to advertise through Internet social media outlets such as Facebook.

Interim Superintendent Mary Rubadeau wanted to know what the downsides would be to wait to see if the grant was awarded before approaching the public.

Canzona said if the board waited to see if it is going to be awarded the grant, he thought the district would not be allowed to use any of its funds in advertising to get the word out to voters.

Rubadeau, however, said the district can use funds after the award date to give information on a potential bond vote as long as it is not being advocates.

She said spending money for something that may not happen is problematic because of the current Re-1 budget constraints.

”It’s a heavy price tag to start working,” she said.

Canzona said he was under the impression funds from the district could not be used after the award was granted, but later added he understood the district could provide the information without taking a stance to residents.

School board member Jack Schuenemeyer said the district needs to get something out to residents sometime this month while school is still in session.

He said many people in the summer are not around as much and added this would mean the district would have to wait until sometime in September to get the message out to residents in force about the bond vote that would take place in November.

He said residents would be preoccupied in September with school starting and the national and presidential election scheduled for November.

“We need to get the message out now,” he said. “If we wait until September there is no hope.”

“They think we have a fair shot, but we do not know,” Canzona said when telling the board about the discussions he has had with the BEST consultant.

Board member Pete Montaņo preferred waiting until the district knew for sure if it an award was going to be granted and then go “full bore” if Re-1 was chosen as an recipient.

Schuenemeyer disagreed, saying the time quality would be weakened if it waited until the end of June to ask residents for their support.

“In June you will not get people’ attention,” he said. “The earlier you start the better (opportunity) you have for success.”

The board discussed sending information home with Cortez Middle School students since a new high school would impact them directly, though Schuenemeyer said whatever is sent home has to be direct to not lose people’s interest.

It was also suggested that the district post something on its main page on its website about the grant possibility that could result in residents voting on a bond proposal.

Canzona said he would have some ideas on how to get the word out to residents by no later than the next board meeting on May 22.

In other school news the board:

Heard a request from outgoing Southwest Open Charter School Director Judy Hite on renewing its contract with the district. Battle Rock Charter School also asked for a contract renewal. Both will come before the board for action no later than June 26.

Received a brief glimpse of the ongoing 2012-13 school budget on possible cuts and costs.