Rummage sale lease a ‘wicked problem’ for Eagle County Schools

We call them "wicked problems." These are complex problems with overlapping and interdependent elements that are incredibly difficult to resolve without sacrifice and compromise in at least one area that we value and prioritize. The decision to terminate the Eagle Valley Community Fund's lease at our last board meeting was one of these monster challenges.

Although the announcement may have come unexpectedly to some, work behind the scenes has been in progress for quite some time. This decision was not made lightly. Considerable research, several months of meetings and conversations between district staff and the Community Fund board and a detailed review of the issue by the Board of Education culminated in the decision to terminate the lease on the building in Maloit Park.

Eagle County Schools' values are: engaged learners, inspired professionals, a sense of adventure, a caring community and a commitment to equity. The school board often references these phrases to help keep us on track when faced with challenges. However, when a particularly thorny issue comes before us, we break out an even more basic tool to help guide us. A simple question that does not always have an easy answer: "What is best for kids?" We take our responsibility to the kids very seriously. Student safety and learning are priority No. 1.

The next lens we pull out when examining our choices is the taxpayer. Are we using your funds wisely? Do we implement robust financial systems that are continuously audited and that use targeted budgeting tied to strategic plan outcomes? Yes, and yes. Do we have a top-notch construction team working diligently to provide our students the maximum bang for the taxpayers' buck? Yes.

We continue to be grateful for the 3B funds that are improving safety, efficiency and programing throughout all of our schools. However, the growth of our campuses has resulted in the displacement of others, a wicked problem that makes serving on the Board of Education emotionally draining at times, balanced only by the belief that we are doing the best work we can for the students of Eagle County.

Our gratitude for the support and love that pours out of this community is deep and sincere. The caring community that we are proud to be part of developed out of the sense of adventure embodied by the pioneers who founded this valley. From the original settlers and ranchers to the visionary ski town founders to each new generation that dedicates its energy to making Eagle County a truly unique and compassionate place to live, we are blessed with a legacy of caring and service.

Our recent real estate decisions could seem arbitrary, dictatorial or even downright cruel, but the reality is that the board and staff continually work behind the scenes with construction experts, demographers, architects, land planners and maintenance teams in order to reach consensus on how best to leverage our resources in support of our kids.

Real estate negotiations are one area where the board is required to maintain confidentiality. We often have been discussing potential moves, developments, projects, possibilities and options for weeks or months prior to being able to share the decisions with the public. I sincerely hope that you will take a moment to consider the thorny thicket of compromise wherein we often land.

Working with the community is a top three priority. We cannot achieve our mission alone. We depend on the support of others and realize that asking for support and sacrifice in the same breath seems contradictory in the extreme. Please accept our heartfelt thanks for your understanding, compassion and dedication to education.

Kate Cocchiarella is the president of the Board of Education of Eagle County Schools.