August 19, 2005
July 28, 2005 School Board Colorado Springs School District 11 1115 N. El Paso Street Colorado Springs, CO 80903 Dear Board Members: For several years the Quality Community Group ("QCG"), an informal alliance of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation, Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, has worked closely with Colorado Springs School District 11 on its most pressing issues.
In 2000, our first collective initiative was the successful passage of the mill levy override in November's general election. Prior to the election, the QCG, at its expense, hired KPMG to conduct an operational and financial review of the district in an effort to lend objectivity to what was becoming an emotional community discussion. Additionally, the QCG met with district administration, teacher groups, parent groups and other stakeholders to understand what were the needs of the entire school district. We also substantially funded the campaign to pass the mill levey override. Our only request was to be part of the oversight of the district's use of the added resources should the mill levy issue pass. The QCG's motivation to work with School District 11 was then and is now driven by two goals, one altruistic and the other more practical. Like you, we care about the children and their families. But our community responsibilities require us to be concerned about the qualifications of those who will be the future employees of employers that are here now as well as those that we are trying to attract. The region's largest district is teaching and developing future citizens and the workforce upon which the community and local employers will rely. It is estimated that by 2010, the United States will have nearly 10 million unfilled positions in its workforce. Able-minded graduates of our local school systems, colleges and universities are essential to retain employers in Colorado Springs and to ensure this nation's competitiveness in a global marketplace. With good reason, we are most interested in the outcomes from all of our academic institutions. We are aware that the District 11 will be seeking significant support for a ballot issue in November. Campaigns are expensive, and this campaign will be no different. We realize that you will need to come to the business community for assistance. We are also aware that there are two competing political camps involved with D-11's policies and Board Elections. One camp, the so called "reformers", claims to be focused on student achievement and is highly supportive of some type of voucher program. The other camp, who also claims to be concerned about student achievement, is opposed to vouchers and is highly suspicious of the motives of the reform group. With that stated, the member organizations of the QCG would like each board member to know that regardless of which political camp you are aligned with, your actions are hurting the very students you claim to want to protect. Simply stated, the QCG is extremely concerned about your performance as members of the Colorado Springs School District 11 Board. Your very public actions and dysfunctional interactions have taken the focus off student achievement and have become a partisan, personality-based distraction. While we believe that you and other involved third party interests have student achievement and outcomes front of mind, the news coming out of District 11 has little to do with academic excellence or reform. The news is more about personality clashes, inflammatory statements, predictable and partisan board votes, etc. Frankly, the collective bickering and power struggle is embarrassing. We now have a new Superintendent at District 11, and we have heard favorable things about her. However, some members of the business community question the rationale for completing the selection process now rather than waiting until after what is expected to be a highly contentious School Board election. Again, the inflexible political positions of both sides have created an almost impossible environment for the new Superintendent to serve both prior to and after the election. What we are now seeking is some assurance. We need to know why, at this point in time, should the business community invest thousands of dollars into your November campaign? Is the Board unified in its support of a November ballot issue and what are you hoping are the outcomes from such a measure? Regardless of politics, why can't well intentioned Board members come to some agreement in the best interest of D-11 kids? Why should we subscribe to the process of getting to know and support School Board candidates when we don't know how they will function with the remaining members of the District 11 Board? As stated previously, the QCG wants the children to win. We want well-educated and productive graduates, great facilities, outstanding faculty, reasonable class sizes, etc. However, we have some serious questions about the collective leadership we have seen from you over the past couple of years. The business community has a vested interest in the effectiveness of School District 11. We look forward to your response. Sincerely, David McDermott, Chair, Board of Directors, Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce Will Temby, President and CEO, Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce Kevin Walker, President, Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs Renee Zentz, Executive Vice President, Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs John Lorber, Chair, Board of Directors, Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation Mike Kazmierski, Interim CEO, Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation Randy Reynolds, Chair, Board of Directors, Pikes Peak Association of Realtors Terry Storm, President and CEO, Pikes Peak Association of Realtors