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BOCC disagrees on schools

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) is unlikely to take official action to back the Summit School Board’s Nov. 2 election questions because Commissioner Tom Long does not support them. The school board had hoped to win endorsements from all the area’s elected bodies for Referendum 3A and 3B (see box for descriptions), which if approved would fund school renovations, maintenance and technology projects.Commissioners Bob French and Bill Wallace support the school measures but Long does not. Because of the split, French, who first suggested the BOCC pass a resolution to support the schools, said he is not likely to address it again. The issue was on the commissioners’ Monday public hearing agenda but Wallace acted to remove it. “I hate to have a resolution passed 2-to-1 or 2-0 with an abstention,” French said in an interview Monday. “That undercuts the purpose.”Long, an eight-year county commissioner who previously served as Silverthorne’s mayor, council member and planning commissioner, is a graduate of Summit High School and sent three daughters through the local school system.The Republican is unopposed Nov. 2 in his bid for a third term. Long is a longtime supporter of Summit schools, but said Monday the school board’s lack of accountability has him reluctant to get behind new money. He is upset about past financial decisions and construction problems at various area schools, he said. “They never answer or enlighten anything that happened in the past,” Long said. “It’s like we’re just going to forget about the past and move on from today.”Long said he is not trying to kill the measures, but will not get behind the schools and “cheerlead” when he has unanswered questions.Superintendent Millie Hamner said she was disappointed the BOCC probably would not support the school measures, but hopes to change Long’s mind.”It’s still early in the process,” she said. “If Tom is willing to talk about some of his concerns, we would still have some hope.”Long doesn’t expect his concerns to be addressed by Nov. 2, he said.”They say, ‘Oh, that was the other school board,’ and ‘That was the group before us.’ Well, that answer doesn’t make me feel better,” he said.Long also questioned plans for new funds that would be generated by the $32.6 million bond issue, such as an industrial kitchen for culinary classes at the high school.”You want kids to have the finest but that may not all come together with big sums of money,” he said. “Maybe there’s not a real problem-solving exercise going on other than to toss more money at it.”Long said the fact two school board members send their children to a private school suggests underlying problems within the system.”If we have people in the school system that don’t believe their own child can get what they need, that really raises flags for me,” he said. “If it’s not good enough for a school board member’s child, then what is the system lacking? What amount of money will fix it?” Wallace, who has served on the BOCC with Long for eight years, said he thought Long was perplexed by different problems that surfaced at the school district over the years. “He’s always supported education but at the same time he grew up here so he’s seen a lot of stuff in the school district,” Wallace said.A retired Summit High math teacher, Wallace said he is not concerned about accountability because he has confidence in the new superintendent and school board. “I don’t agree they should be held hostage for past problems,” he said Tuesday. “They are some of the best I’ve known in my 30 years here. I think they need to be given the opportunity to do what they say they’re going to do.”He said he supports the measures because the Summit Middle School’s hodge-podge set-up is “a bad situation” as a teaching environment. The building that used to be a combined middle and high school underwent four additions. Wallace also supports more money to keep class sizes small because, “class size makes a difference.” He added, “I and my students always had a better experience in a smaller class.”He refuted Long’s concern that some children of school board members attend private school by noting that two former teachers are also currently on the board.”It’s terrific that citizens elected two past teachers. I think that adds a feeling of credibility to the educational system,” he said.The Breckenridge Town Council is discussing the issue and will most likely vote in support of the measures at the next town council meeting on Oct. 12, according to Breckenridge Mayor Ernie Blake.Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at kmarquis@summitdaily.com.


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