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On with the game plan

To the Editor:

A message to the voters of School District 11:

On behalf of the District 11 Board of Education, teachers, employees and students, please accept our heartfelt thanks for casting your vote for quality education by approving ballot issue 3B on Nov. 9.

As I shared with my staff the morning after Election Day, I feel a bit like the leader of a professional football program whose owner has reviewed the plan and decided to provide the resources we asked for to build a winning team. Now our owner is expecting a championship in return!

The game plan is already complete in the form of the 24-point spending plan that was part of the mil levy override ballot question. How will these additional operating funds be spent? In the classroom and for the students, just as they should be! More teachers, smaller classes, additional help for students who need it most, better compensation to retain the quality teachers now on staff, more textbooks and learning materials, and continued support to our districtwide technology program are all important parts of the plan. Additionally, success on the mil levy override essentially mitigates the crisis of an $8 million-plus shortfall the district was facing for next year. However, it does not mitigate the $14.2 million of identified needs that were not funded in the mil levy election. The district will need to continue to carefully review its budget and expenditures to match operating funds and needs.

How will you know that District 11 is keeping its promise to build a stronger school district, one that is ready to prepare our students for the challenges of the future? As promised in the ballot language, a citizens' oversight committee will soon be formed to monitor our progress and ensure that your tax dollars are being spent appropriately. Shortly after formation, the oversight committee, in coordination with the district and the Board of Education, will begin work on development of the independent comprehensive district performance plan and review process identified in the ballot question.

Despite this additional cash infusion, "effective and efficient" fiscal and operational management will continue to be the bywords at District 11! You have entrusted your hard-earned tax dollars to us for the benefit of the students, and we take this stewardship role very seriously. Rest assured that all expenditures and every aspect of district operations will be scrutinized to make sure that they are effective and efficient. The Board of Education will work in conjunction with the community to define effective and efficient standards that can be used in reviewing the operating budget and spending plans.

We have our community to thank for the success of 3B -- from the hundreds of parents who attended the difficult budget balancing sessions earlier this year to the business organizations that sponsored an in-depth investigation to validate the integrity of District 11's financial management practices. Just two days after the election, I had the pleasure of hosting seven separate meetings with our senior, business and parent sounding boards as well as with our employee groups. Their expectations are high, and so are ours.

Our community has embraced its schools and sent a strong message about how it wants the future to look for D-11 and its students. Please stay in tune and in touch with your community schools. Keep an eye on us! Check and see how we're doing with your dollars. You are always welcome in our schools, and you have a standing invitation to call or visit me with questions, ideas or concerns.

-- Dr. Norman Ridder, Superintendent
Colorado Springs School District 11

Electoral convulsive therapy

To the Editor:

Perhaps we should treat the recent presidential election and its aftermath as a dose of ELECTORAL CONVULSIVE THERAPY: to release us from our national apathy and encourage us to actively participate in a process alive with meaning and purpose.

-- Lee McRae
Colorado Springs

Grow up

To the Editor:

Following Tuesday's election, I would hope that most people would view the results and, favorable or unfavorable, accept them as part of our political freedom to make a choice. This apparently doesn't apply to backers of Amendment 25, or naysayers on Amendment 20.

After the results were in, the losing sides were crying about "outside money," voters not knowing what they really voted for, opponents "misleading the public," etc. ad nauseam. As a voting citizen, I resent being insulted this way. Isn't it possible that informed voters (didn't every registered voter receive the blue book?) looked at the wording and the spirit of the proposed amendments, and voted their conscience? We are not unintelligent people incapable of making a decision unless prompted by a 30-second TV spot.

-- Dan Wiencek
Colorado Springs

Electoral College confusion

To the Editor:

While the Electoral College has proven to be rather cranky and demanding of late (maybe it's gas?), it is still part of our collective history. But the baby needs to grow up.

In this presidential election, we are now faced with a recount in Florida as well as voter confusion (which may have accidentally given nearly 3,000 votes to Pat Buchanan) due to badly organized and confusing ballots.

A modest proposal: Keep the Electoral College, but give each state one vote. Base the winner of each state by popular vote (which most Americans support). We already have the technology to count each voter's choice; why not take it one step further and award the winner of that state with one electoral vote? Fifty states: 50 electoral votes.

I already imagine less money being spent on travel to the "Big Ones," i.e., California, Texas, Florida, where the money could be better spent on TV/radio spots and more debates. This would also benefit third-party candidates who have little or no access to the general populace.

Just a thought. Now, please excuse me while I go burp Florida.

-- Deb Martin-Bruels
Colorado Springs

The need for national unity

To the Editor:

As I write this, the outcome of the presidential race is still in doubt.

But whichever candidate gains the victory in Florida and with it the White House, he inherits a country split precisely down the middle and cannot claim to have received any sort of clear mandate from the American people.

For this reason, I believe that the winner of the campaign should move quickly to set up a National Unity Government, selecting Cabinet officers and other appointees from qualified applicants from across the political spectrum, and chart a centrist and consensual course for America's short-term future. If George W. Bush is serious about being "a uniter, not a divider," then he dare do no less; if Al Gore wants to "fight on behalf of the American people," he will have to fight on behalf of all of them.

I further think that Congress should similarly set up bipartisan leadership structures in the House and Senate.

As a Nader supporter and longtime participant in the Green movement, I have asked that Ralph Nader issue a call for such a government, and that the Green Party prepare and submit a list of nominees for the appointed posts.

To the readers of this message, this plea: Please do what you can to bring this idea to the attention of those who could bring it into reality -- I fear the alternatives.

-- Skip Mendler, Green Party
Honesdale, Penn.

Thanks for getting it right

To the Editor:

Thanks for your excellent report on the glaring episode of anti-Semitism (not to mention straight-up old-fashioned rudeness) endured by Arnie Grossman (Public Eye, October 26). I'm sorry to hear that such a thing happened -- I'm even sorrier to hear that the Independent was the only news outlet to report it. I'm thankful, though, that we do have at least one journalist/news outlet willing to cover the difficult stuff.

Your work is consistently excellent. Gives me hope.

-- Andy Dunning
Colorado Springs

Knee-jerk party-line voting

To the Editor:

If we look at the will of Colorado voters through the results of our ballot initiatives, Colorado almost looks like a liberal place. We approved medical use of marijuana, closed the gun-show loophole, upheld women's choice and gave millions more dollars to our public schools.

Yet, when it comes to elected officials, Coloradans only hurt themselves by voting straight-ticket Republican in the most ridiculous, knee-jerk fashion.

We elected Republicans who didn't attend a single debate or answer a single survey. We elected Republicans who didn't bother to canvass neighborhoods or return phone calls. In fact, from the look of things, the Republicans could run a dead mule (and probably have) in Colorado -- and still win!

Our Republican party is sold, part and parcel, to the extreme right and the gun lobby. Coloradans: If education, freedom and safety are so important to you, why on Earth are you electing officials who would love to close the public schools, put guns in the hands of criminals, take away all the rights of women and minorities, and turn our country into a theocracy? The complete lack of a balanced dialogue in our Legislature is enough to ensure that our local and state politics will remain an embarrassment.

-- Thomas Wilson
Colorado Springs

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