Re-1 must now sell the project to voters

Congratulations to Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1, which was approved last week for a $21 million Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant.

Now, in order to receive the BEST funds, the district needs to convince taxpayers to approve a $21 million local match. Re-1 has a new superintendent, some new board members and a new opportunity to convince the community to make a larger investment in education.

The bond is far from a sure thing, especially knowing that the same voters turned down a much smaller request — $3.4 million — from Southwest Open School — last year.

Voters must be convinced that Re-1 will make wise use of the money, building a school that will meet needs far into the future without being extravagant. The district also must convince voters that the campaign, and then the building process, will not distract educators from their mission of educating the community’s children, because education, not construction, is the district’s mission.

Re-1’s voters understand the benefits of a well-educated populace, and they recognize their responsibility in helping to fund public schools. They’ve heard the reasons why test scores or even graduation rates are not the best, and certainly should not be the only, way to judge how well students are learning. They see that many students and graduates do very well. They know that successful education requires a strong commitment from students and parents. They understand how demographics fit into the achievement picture. They acknowledge that some influences in the community are not positive.

They also do know that the BEST grant is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leverage local dollars.

But even in good times, money is tight in this district, and this is not the best of times. Nor is faith in government running high right now. Re-1 must set forth a clear vision for educating the district’s children and must be persuasive about the role physical plant plays in that plan.

Then voters must be fair in helping figure out how to move forward, because the BEST grant is not an opportunity to be squandered.

Congratulations, too, to the Dolores School District, which also won a BEST grant. Good luck with the next challenge.