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Cortez school board talks strategic plan, mill levy

Board members, school officials discuss salaries, bus upgrades, computers
The old Montezuma-Cortez High School on Seventh Street will be demolished this spring, and school officials are looking toward other spending projects.

It’s been about five years since the idea to build a new Montezuma-Cortez High School was first proposed, and now the Re-1 district is preparing to demolish the old high school building this spring.

With that major project almost behind them, school board members talked about the next era for the district at Tuesday’s board meeting. They discussed creating a three-year strategic plan, as well as pursuing a mill levy override this year.

“There is agreement among the board that this is something we need to do and get started right away,” board president Jack Schuenemeyer said of the strategic plan.

Recruiting and retaining teachers has been a struggle for the district, in part because of low salaries, Schuenemeyer said. One main reason for a potential mill levy would be to boost salaries for teachers, he said.

State voters passed a law in November’s election that will require the minimum wage to be raised to $12 per hour by 2020. That will put more financial strain on the district as staff salaries are gradually raised to comply with that law, assistant superintendent Dan Porter said.

The district also needs upgrades to its bus fleet, building facilities and technology resources, Schuenemeyer said. A strategic plan would organize those needs to plan for the future, and a mill levy override would assist the district with finances.

Superintendent Lori Haukeness said she would like to have a computer for every student, but right now no school in the district has enough for all its students.

Board member Sherri Wright said part of the reason student test scores have been low is because they don’t have as much access to technology as other school districts.

“It’s not a level playing field,” she said.

In order to be successful, a mill levy effort would need lots of support from district personnel and community members, Wright said.

“The mill levy and strategic plan has to go hand in hand,” she said.

Jan 18, 2017
Montezuma-Cortez school board OKs improvement plan