Students kicked soccer balls and ran into the playground at Two Rivers Elementary School on Tuesday, ignoring ongoing behind-the-scenes politics that could have a substantial impact on their future.
Less than a week earlier, the school principal, Jamie Nims, had reported to the Roaring Fork School District School Board following an application for permission from the district. Approval of the application in January would place the charter under the aegis of the Roaring Fork School District. For Nims, the motivation is clear: better funding and oversight decisions made at the local level, as opposed to the state-level advice he currently receives under the authorization of the Colorado Charter School Institute.
The school district sees this as an opportunity to expand its reach in the community and strengthen collaboration.
âWe see this as a chance to work better with the school, with the families,â said Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Rob Stein. âAnd these are our families. They are our children.
Nims said the majority of his K-8 graduates go to Glenwood Springs High School, a school in Roaring Fork.
District authorization means that the district would take responsibility and accountability for measures such as student performance.
It does not give the district control over the day-to-day operations of the institution or program, Stein said.
“I have a feeling they would have a good case in the court of law that we have passed,” said Stein.
He added that none of the charter schools within the district boundaries match the diversity rates of the Roaring Fork School District, but among the independent schools, Two Rivers is the closest. Roaring Fork schools have nearly 60% of the Latin American population. Two Rivers ‘minority population approached 40% in 2021 – a slight increase since it opened in 2014, according to Nims’ presentation.
Stein said the district’s permission would allow him to influence the enrollment lottery, adding preference to potential students from Spanish-speaking homes.
Two Rivers would also see a substantial increase in per student funding, estimated at around $ 2,800 according to Stein. The school currently spends approximately $ 9,000 per year per student.
Stein said those dollars are counted against the factory levy funds. The district receives money per student within the district boundaries whether or not those students attend a school in Roaring Fork.
With Two Rivers authorized by a separate entity, Roaring Fork was allowed to pocket the funds allocated by Two Rivers students as it saw fit. With district approval, these funds would be legally permitted to be spent on Two Rivers.
Stein called it ânew moneyâ and said program spending would not be affected and cuts of any kind should not take place.
Since these funds are already factored into budgeting, a taxpayer in a district would not see a tax increase as a result of the change in authorization.
The budget change allows Two Rivers to increase employee compensation to competitive levels to facilitate recruitment and retention. Salaries in the district are expected to increase following the passage of a factory fee waiver in November to offset the region’s high cost of living. The authorization would give Two Rivers access to a portion of those funds from the charter school allocation, not the percentage already pledged for salary increases.
In short, it “levels the playing field,” for Two Rivers’ staffing efforts, according to Nims.
âIt’s hard to sell the culture of the school during the interview when all the other principals are also trying to sell the culture of their school,â Nims said. “I think it level the playing field for us in a way that at least allows us to start conversations with people who otherwise wouldn’t come through the door.”
Nims added that the increased funding would also increase programming for students and echoed the feeling of working together for the sake of growing the community.
âThe fact that we serve the same community makes it a really logical fit for us,â said Nims. âI think there is a mutual benefit because we invest in the same children. Their success in high school has a lot to do with how we play here. “
Neither director declared having received organized opposition to the request.
The school district is hosting a community meeting for stakeholders to share their feedback on Jan. 5. The district school board is expected to vote on the request on Jan.10.
Journalist Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or firstname.lastname@example.org.