Vote yes on 3A and 3B
By Tim Foster
President, Colorado Mesa University
Anyone who has been paying attention over the past few decades knows that I am not afraid to speak my mind. I am a firm believer in sticking to principle and getting things done. I’ve had disagreements with School District 51. But mostly we’ve worked well together piloting programs, sharing staff and facilities, etc. When we are at our best, we are working to do the right thing for students and our community. Making sure students of all ages have access to high quality education here in Mesa County is and should always be our top priority.
This fall, voters have an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on our collective futures by voting in favor of measures 3A and 3B. My dad used to say that there are always a dozen reasons to not do something — but usually very few and compelling reasons to do something beneficial. In short, the easy thing to do is to say no. But now is the time to challenge ourselves to find the reasons to say yes. When it comes to these measures, I think “yes” is the answer. Here’s why.
First, let’s take Orchard Mesa Middle School. It was built in 1960, the year John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were duking it out for the presidency. I think we all can agree that this building has served us well for nearly 60 years. Even the most conservative among us can agree that buildings do in fact, have a useful life expectancy. At some point they need to be replaced and now is the time for Orchard Mesa Middle School.
Having had these discussions before, I can already hear some saying “kids don’t need ‘fancy’ buildings to learn in.” My own experience tells me that learning can happen anywhere. It also tells me that putting students in well-lit, safe, engaging learning environments with good acoustics, modern technology and functioning heating and cooling systems really does enhance learning.
From my chair at Colorado Mesa University, I’m constantly confronted with data indicating that we must do something to improve our K-12 system. Hundreds of incoming freshmen from area high schools need remedial courses and 48 percent of our high school graduates are not pursuing any sort of higher education once they get their high school diplomas. As a community, we should all feel compelled to take steps to change these troubling statistics.
I do not believe 3A and 3B are perfect. But, from my perspective, they accomplish a few key objectives that lead me to support both. First, students need safe, quality facilities in order to learn. The school board has developed a specific and strong list of building maintenance projects that must be completed across the district as soon as possible. I also believe we need to add more instructional days to our school calendar if we are ever going to chip away at the high remediation and low advance degree rates.
Going back to my dad’s challenge, I’m proud to say that I’ve identified two great reasons to say yes to 3A and 3B. Let’s band together to make meaningful investments in our schools — and keep our kids in them five additional days each year. Join me in saying yes to 3A and 3B.
Tim Foster is president of Colorado Mesa University. Having grown up in Grand Junction, he is a proud graduate of Grand Junction High School.