Receiving a nod of approval from Hinsdale School Board President Phillip Virden, board member Tara Hardy announced Rebecca Hall as the successful candidate chosen as interim superintendent for the Hinsdale County School District.
The announcement was met with a loud cheer from the audience packed with students and faculty members in the school library.
Hall was not in attendance for the announcement last Thursday evening, May 10. Virden offered his hearty congratulations in absentia, stating, “Congratulations to Rebecca Hall. We are looking forward to her being our next educational leader here.”
He stated that the board was impressed with the full spectrum of candidates who applied and that the other three finalists were all excellent and well- qualified.
“We are looking forward to moving into this exciting new chapter,” Virden said.
Dr. Leslie Nichols, who leaves her post as Principal/Superintendent in mid-June to take over similar responsibilities in the Gunnison County School District, stated, “The School Board did an excellent job in a short amount of time. This was a most important job, you did it well, and I want to thank you so much.”
School board discussion then turned to final preparations for the BEST presentation on Wednesday, May 16, in Denver.
Virden was slated to deliver the two-minute presentation to the BEST board at the JeffCo Administration building on Wednesday afternoon. Several members of the school board plan to accompany Virden and Dr. Nichols to the important presentation which is the final opportunity to sway the Colorado Dept. of Education BEST board to offer the grant money to Hinsdale County for a new school facility addition and full-renovation of existing space.
School district accountant Susan Thompson gave an update on the 2018-2019 school budget which is still a work in progress. During the wide-ranging discussion of positives, negatives and fiscal unknowns, school board member Rob Hudgeons noted that the current budget version seems to reflect the merger of Wee Care in the proposed numbers.
“I think we are moving way too quickly on absorbing Wee Care. We have had no public meetings. I think we need to wait and see on the BEST grant and the bond issue. I believe we are overstepping our bounds by taking this on right now.” Further explaining his stance, Hudgeons continued. “If we sign off on this budget, we are effectively taking on Wee Care. I’m not saying no. I’m just saying we need to wait.”
Board member Bill Reinhardt disagreed, arguing for smooth continuity of services, “What if they come up short or something happens with Wee Care again?”
From the audience, Wee Care board director Michelle Martin weighed in, saying, while no formal public meetings have been held, the issues and potential blending of Wee Care with Hinsdale County School District have been “widely and thoroughly reported in SILVER WORLD. I believe the public is aware of what is happening here.”
Tara Hardy noted, “I am in full favor of early childhood education and the needs at hand. However, I have reservations. I am nervous about this and the sustainability of taking this on right now. We are in such a transitional time with the new superintendent, the BEST grant and the bond issue.”
Nodding, Hudgeons said, “We would be using a big chunk of our fund balance if we take on Wee Care right now.”
Martin added, “I think initially the Wee Care Board came to you in crisis and now we are moving toward a collaborative plan, a transition plan. We will always pursue additional funding regardless of whether the merger happens this year. Going forward, we will work together toward a more strategized implementation plan. We are grateful that you have listened to us and are continuing to consider it.”
Hudgeons stated, “We will keep working on this. We just have a lot going on right now.”
“This board sees the vital connection with Wee Care. I want you to know that I’m in on this. I will do everything in my power to assist this move with you,” said Virden.
As an interim plan, he suggested the school board could make a donation or potentially cover Wee Care cash matches on pending grants to help subsidize the essential child care service until a decision on the merger can be made.
Virden briefly outlined the proposed Secure Rural
Schools/Payment in Lieu of Taxes money offer made
at the joint school district-county SRS Panel meeting on May 9.
The county is offering to continue the 50-50 split with the school, provided the total received by the state does not drop below the $6-million mandated by statute.
Nichols stated, “We are satisfied with the healthy relationship with our local governing body.” She noted that the legal fees which the county commissioners declined to pay would be paid out of the upcoming initial 2018 SRS payment from the county totaling $31,000.
Virden added, “I would like to communicate our agreement in writing to the Board of County Commissioners. We had a good agreement proposed yesterday and our relationship will move forward.”
He added this last conflict had substantially contributed to “an already incredibly stressful year. Along with the hiring of the new interim superintendent, we have two more weeks of school, the BEST presentation and hopefully a bond issue to promote. I really appreciate this wonderful team. Thank you all.”