Log In

Reset Password

Accountability committee reiterates complaints about Montezuma-Cortez district

Monica Plewe, a member of the Montezuma-Cortez District Accountability Committe, presents findings from survey of parents. (Screenshot)
55% of responding parents express frustrations with communication

The Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 Board of Education on Tuesday heard about a recent parent survey from the district accountability committee that emphasized parents’ concerns about communication in the district.

DAC member Monica Plewe, who presented the results of the parent survey, said 55% of parents have responded that communication is one of most serious issues in the district, followed by not listening to parents or seeking input before changes are made.

She said DAC hadn’t publicized the information because of postponed meetings. She also noted that the number of responses in the survey was down almost by half, in part because some of the previous survey’s respondents were not contacted.

Before diving into parents’ complaints, Plewe acknowledged that the district has made it easier for working parents to volunteer at schools by increasing the amount of hours that they could volunteer.

She added that they hope to help provide possible solutions to parents’ concerns.

“We are a solution-based committee,” Plewe said. “We all feel strongly that just complaining about things doesn’t do any good, so when parents bring concerns to us, we ask them, ‘What is the solution?’ We don’t just take the complaint, we really want to focus on solution-based problem solving.”

One possible solution included following up on citizen comments.

“We’re not saying you should have an answer for someone that addresses the board, but just let it be known that they’ve been directed to the right person, or you are following up on this or some kind of acknowledgment,” Plewe said.

Plewe also said the district accountability committee asked several months ago for the district budget and the number for retention, but has not received the information.

The DAC has also requested that a parent liaison be named. A liaison would have helped inform the 47 people who showed up for a DAC meeting to express their concern over the decision to fire two high school baseball coaches.

“We still don’t have a parent liaison in the district, and we’ve been asking and asking, and we’re hoping to get that because what we’re hearing from people is that they don’t have an avenue to you,” Plewe said. “They don’t have a way to know that their board is hearing issues that they’re having.”

Plewe said that many times – in her case, three times – the chain of command to communicate with the board is unclear, which results in miscommunication and confusion.

For example, Plewe shared a personal story of a school trip that was nearly canceled for insufficient funds, but coaches discovered the day before the trip that funds had not been replaced from the previous week’s trip and that another sport had charged to their account three times.

The lack of communication caused stress for the parents and students trying to prepare for the trip.

“I’m kind of used to this, but it’s not OK. It’s just communication, it’s just simple communication. And we have many more examples,” Plewe said. “I’m three-plus weeks out on a safety issue that I’ve been trying to talk to people about. We need to know how to get that information to you because it’s not working.”

To close, Plewe read a quote from a parent’s survey.

“There is a perception that process is applied or process as applied is contributing to staff turnover, worse morale and growing distrust between district administration and teachers,” the parent said.

Other discussions

To start the meeting, the board heard from clubs in district schools. Elementary schools gave an update on Destination Imagination, which is open to all elementary students. in the program, strengths in academics, creativity, art and leadership are cultivated strengthened for academic and life endeavors.

Mesa Elementary presented information about its chess club, noting that they hope a chess club will be started in the middle school to continue their growth. According to club sponsors, 22 Mesa fourth graders took part in the club, competing with one another each Wednesday from February until April.

High school clubs that were presented included the Indigenous, French and Spanish clubs. The art club, with the help of Montezuma-Cortez High School art teacher Darnell Bane, is painting a mural for the Rotary Club.

The board celebrated the students who received scholarships before moving on to Superintendent Tom Burris’ report.

In his report, Burris shared that remedying the HVAC issues at Mesa, Kemper and Lewis elementary schools hit “a snag” and the district will need to subpoena their expert witnesses to court. Trial lawyer David Illingworth will handle the matter moving forward.

Burris also provided a timetable for planning a new bond issue.

In action items, the supplementary budget for fiscal year 2023-2024 was approved, as well as three capital reserve requests.

The next Montezuma-Cortez school board meeting is Tuesday, June 18 at 6 p.m.