Moffat County teachers make case for salary increases, school board talks Yampa Building future | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County teachers make case for salary increases, school board talks Yampa Building future

Barry Steadman/For Craig Press

Teacher salaries and the future of the Yampa Building were major points of discussion at the Moffat County School District Board of Education meeting on Thursday, Sept 26, with many teachers raising concerns about the future viability of Moffat County public education.

The meeting began with the honoring of Dr. Elise Sullivan as the “Best of Moffat County” recipient for the MCSD board, and the announcement of MCSD Board President JoAnn Baxter receiving the McGuffey Award given by the Colorado Association of School Boards. Each year the award is given to celebrate a unique school board member in Colorado who is committed and passionate in their service to their school board.

The meeting then shifted to an athletics and activities report from Sara Linsacum, athletic director and Craig Middle School assistant principal, touching on school clubs, fall sports, and extracurricular activities.

Additionally, the theme for Moffat County High School Homecoming, the week of Oct. 7 to 12, was announced as “Oh, the Places you Will Go” and will be held off-campus in the ballroom at Quality Inn & Suites.

During public comment, several MCSD faculty made their case about inadequate teacher compensation. Heather Fross, a science teacher at Moffat County High School was the first to make a case for better teacher salaries.

“I don’t think the current salary is competitive enough to get quality teachers to our district and keep them here,” Fross said.

The MCHS science program has four teaching positions, but three of them are currently unfilled. Fross cited that there are locals in the community who are qualified and interested in teaching science, though she claimed they have decided not to take a position at MCHS because they would suffer severe pay cuts to teach for the district.

“I’m really concerned about what will happen if we cannot fill these three science positions,” she said. “We’ve already had to discuss the possibility of switching over to online science classes; our students deserve better than that, and I want a better education for my daughter than online science classes.”

Ashley Dolton, a second-year first-grade teacher at Ridgeview Elementary School spoke next, discussing how she has to work two jobs to keep up with her bills and other monthly expenses.

“I work an average of 67 hours a week between both jobs,” Dalton said.

Linda Duncan, a Craig native and counselor at Ridgeview and Maybell Elementary schools, came out of retirement to fulfill the role during the 2016-2017 school year, and has remained because of her love for the community.

“If I did not have former ties to Moffat County, I would not have made the decision to join the ranks based on salary alone, and that scares me because we are not going to be able to attract experienced teachers,” Duncan said.

Kim Serio, a fifth-grade teacher at Ridgeview and the vice president of the Moffat County Education Association, was the last person to make the case for better compensation.

“While we are grateful for the work that was done in negotiations last year to address this issue, after another year of high turnover, a lack of applicants, and unfilled teaching positions, we realize that it simply is not enough,” Serio said. “As a beginning to this conversation, educators in Moffat County School District are asking for a fair and competitive $50,000 base salary.”

President JoAnn Baxter, a retired Moffat County educator, said the board has experienced “similar feelings.”

“We acknowledge that we have a crisis in filling all of our positions,” she said.

Baxter noted that teacher compensation and retention rates are not a unique issue to Moffat County, but an issue across the state and nationwide. She encouraged teachers to share their thoughts with the state legislator and representatives who can help address the issue.

She committed that she will do same.

“We need to work together and make this a better situation for all of you, our children, and our community,” Baxter said.

The board adjourned to an executive session to discuss the future of the Yampa Building, located at 775 Yampa Ave.

The building was originally intended to be transferred to the county for a nominal fee. It would have then been used by the Memorial Regional Health’s nonprofit and investors to build a for-profit treatment center for individuals who struggle with substance abuse. After heated testimonies from the community and one of the major investors behind the treatment center backing out, the future of the building has been in a state of limbo.

The board held a workshop to gather community suggestions on what to do with the building. Some people encouraged the board to sell it for a “fair market price” to the hospital, while others encouraged the board to “sit on it” until they can come up with a better solution.

Others see it as an asset to the community that can be used in tourism and other business opportunities, and some suggested turning it into another museum or an arts center.

The board has been meeting with an appraiser over the summer to determine the market value of the building, but without knowing what the building will be used for, the appraiser cannot give a definite number.

“We’re going to take a long view on that building; a lot of the suggestions were to wait it out and explore our options,” Superintendent Dave Ulrich said. “We should continue to look into potential partnerships.”

The next board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 24, 600 Texas Ave.