District 51 encourages parent input, tax alternatives at meeting

District 51 administrators encouraged parent feedback Wednesday evening at the last of four community meetings hosted by the district this school year.

Twenty-three people, eight of whom were not employees of the school district, gathered for the last meeting in Palisade High School’s library. That tally is down from roughly 50 attendees at each of the first two community meetings in September and February but an improvement from the zero community members who showed up for the third community meeting last month.

The meetings were introduced this year to gather community input and encourage a dialogue between community members, parents, district executives and school board members. District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz said Wednesday he wants to hear suggestions from citizens, whether it’s about education or ways to foster more participation in events like the community meetings.

“We’ll continue to have these,” Schultz said about the meetings, adding, “I’m open to suggestions.”

Clifton Elementary Principal Michelle Mansheim said at Wednesday’s meeting she sent out two fliers reminding parents of the final community meeting for 2012-13, plus an auto-call. She said it “hurt my heart” to see just two parents from Clifton at the meeting.

Taylor Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization Co-President Kristy McClary said she would like to hear more parents speak up at meetings such as the one Wednesday, but that discussions among parents rarely make it to the ears of district leaders.

“You hear (other parents say) ‘They’re going to do what they want to do anyway,’ ” McClary said.

Among the people who attended the meeting, concerns ranged from the credibility of a book available to students in a Scholastic book order to how prepared students are for the real world after leaving the district. One man questioned why the district has not approached the city of Grand Junction or Mesa County about alternative methods of taxation beyond property taxes to help fund the school district. Schultz replied those discussions are taking place.

“I agree with you property tax is antiquated and it doesn’t work,” Schultz told the man.

Another man voiced concern about the factuality of an anti-marijuana pamphlet mailed by school board members in November to all parents of District 51 middle or high school students. School Board member Jeff Leany approached other board members about mailing the 8,568 pamphlets, and the other members agreed. The pamphlets were donated from Foundation for a Drug-Free World, a group sponsored by the Church of Scientology, and it cost the board $753.78 to mail them. School Board President Greg Mikolai said Wednesday he does not support marijuana use but, in hindsight, mailing the pamphlets were a mistake.

“In my personal opinion, we screwed up,” Mikolai said. “We did not vet this information as thoroughly as we should have.”

Mikolai said the pamphlets’ connection to Scientology came as a surprise to board members after they were mailed. Any anti-drug material in the future is likely to come from a “more reputable” source next time, he said.

“I do not mean to denigrate Scientology, but maybe it’s not the right source for this material,” he said.


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