Celebrating educators who do their "damnedest’ | SummitDaily.com

Celebrating educators who do their "damnedest’

Teachers are perhaps the most underappreciated professionals at work today. We entrust them with our children’s education and the future of our democracy, but we underpay and often disrespect the work being done.

In Summit County, the Business-Education Alliance began a program three years ago to build honor and appreciation for local educators and support staff members. Thus, the Summit Education Celebration was born, due in no small part to the efforts of Shelton Reichardt.

We would like to add one more big pat on the back to these 2003 honorees:

– Outstanding principal – Rebecca Wilson, Breckenridge Elementary;

– Outstanding teacher – Dotti Augustine, Dillon Valley Elementary;

– Outstanding teacher – Kathy Swanson, Summit High School;

– Outstanding support staff – Faith Allis, Silverthorne Elementary;

– Outstanding support staff – Karen Woodward, Dillon Valley Elementary;

– Rookie of the year – Sarah Akerson, Breckenridge Elementary;

– Outstanding Colorado Mountain College employee – Marie May;

– Friends of education – John and Carol Krakauer; and

– Friend of education – Debbie Nelson.

Retirees also were feted. They included superintendent of schools Wes Smith, CMC Summit Campus dean Tim Hoopingarner, Summit Middle School nurse Barb Buehner, SMS math teacher Alan Carlson, Summit High School internship director Joel Hecht, elementary school counselor Molly McCann and Swanson, who was also recognized as an outstanding teacher.

Swanson summed up the evening best by advising educators, “Keep on learning – can one really master the art of teaching? – be proud of what you do, enjoy what you do, and 30 years will go by really fast.”

Smith added an exclamation point. “No matter what you think of me, I hope you think of me that I did my damnedest.”

School board president Bill Pelham thought so. He recognized Smith as the “Alan Greenspan of school finance. He has done a wonderful job for us.”

Pelham credited Smith with rebuilding the school budget in his five years, helping the school district recover from more than $2 million in budget cuts forced upon it by the state six years ago.

Smith guided the school district through successful mill levy votes that added funding for improved programs, maintenance, transportation, more technology and better pay.

His greatest move, and perhaps the most controversial, was getting a three-year special mill levy passed in 2001 to fund a new Silverthorne elementary school, an addition to Dillon Valley Elementary, renovation to Breckenridge Elementary and other important maintenance work. The special levy funds construction on a cash basis, ridding taxpayers of interest payments that jack up long-term costs. The alternative is long-term borrowing.

Voters were subsequently shocked at their higher property tax bills, inflated in part by the special levy, higher assessments and higher taxes for the Lake Dillon Fire Protection District.

The special levy is up again in November 2004 and economic times have changed. Continued funding will be difficult. Victory will require somebody doing his or her “damnedest.”

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