Q. & A with Jules Palyo, South Routt School Board, District 4 candidate
South Routt School Board, District 4
Occupation: Metal fabricator/welder
Years in Oak Creek/South Routt County: 15 years.
Family: Wife, Wendy; son, Tristan, 21, Sororco graduate and currently a senior at the University of Wyoming; son, Ian, 19, Soroco graduate and currently a freshman at Laramie County Community College, and daughter, Morgan, 16 and currently a junior at Soroco High School.
Civic involvement: I have been active in the South Routt School District since moving to South Routt in 2000, starting with the Elementary Accountability Committee then moving to the Secondary Accountability Committee as my kids grew and moved from the elementary campus to the secondary campus. My wife, Wendy, and I owned and operated Pack Country Outfitters, a large game hunting operation, near Yampa from 2000 to 2007. After selling Pack Country Outfitters, we started and operated Flat Tops Ranch Supply, a retail ranch and home hardware/pet supply store in Phippsburg from 2007 to 2012. After selling Flat Tops Ranch Supply, I currently work as a metal fabricator/welder out of my home shop.
Q. Why are you qualified to serve on the school board?
A. I am qualified to serve on the school board because of a number reasons. First, my business experience gives me the expertise to evaluate the financial status of the school district and help to identify inefficiencies and other issues of the budget. As an employer in South Routt over the years, I have intimate knowledge of what businesses are looking for in an employee and help the district address those needs. Second, having three children that have been and are being educated in the South Routt School District gives me a parent’s perspective of what the challenges are for students when making the transition from the elementary to the secondary campus and then on to college or the work force. Third, my experience on the board of education these past four years has been invaluable. There is a large “learning curve” as a member of the board of education, and my experience will allow me to hit the ground running and continue to address the issues that are before our school district.
Q. What do you think is the most important issue facing the South Routt School District and what can be done to address it?
A. Without a doubt the most important issue facing our district is declining enrollment. The district is currently loosing approximately 70 students to other districts, and although the official student count has not been finalized for this year, preliminary numbers show that we will be dramatically down in student numbers from last year. Before the board of education can address the problem of declining enrollment, we must identify the causes that are creating this issue, which leads me into the next question about declining enrollment.
Q. What strategies would you suggest for the South Routt School District to address declining enrollment?
A. Obviously, our district is not meeting the needs of our families and students otherwise they would not be seeking education from other sources. The board of education has employed several initiatives to address declining enrollment. One identified need of our community was the lack of early childcare options. The school district owns a building next to the elementary school in Yampa and up until now it has only been partially utilized. Fully utilizing the building by adding an early childcare program will give South Routt families a much needed option for early childcare. It is the board’s hope that once families choose Soroco in these early years for their children, they will not move them to another district in the future. Another identified need is the Stagecoach community. Many parents of this community work in Steamboat Springs and must make the decision of which direction to take their children for child care and education. The district owns a nine-acre plot in Stagecoach, and we have directed our superintendent to look into options in developing that land so that we may better serve the needs of Stagecoach. Finally, excellence in education is the most important aspect of combating declining enrollment. The district has some very strong success stories in education that we can build on and expand. By making Soroco very attractive academically, we can attract and retain students.
Q. Would you support the South Routt School District pursuing district consolidation with Steamboat Springs? Why or why not?
A. I would not support consolidation with Steamboat Springs. I believe the South Routt community has a unique identity that would be very difficult to preserve if consolidation where to take place. Soroco is a huge part of who we are and who we are proud to be. The South Routh School District is at a crossroads. Because of declining enrollment, we may not have a choice of whether or not to consolidate. We are on a downward trend with enrollment to a point where, in the near future, we may no longer be financially solvent, and our future will be in the hands of the state of Colorado or another district. Consolidation is not a “magic wand” that will solve the issues before our district. South Routt community members are the best ones to address what is best for our kids, and we must make the tough decisions now to preserve the future.
Q. What role do you think the South Routt School District and/or school board plays or should play in the overall South Routt community?
A. The South Routt School District is the hub of our community. Our community members come together at school events like athletic games, plays, music programs etc. The school district should take the lead in South Routt when addressing issues that our community faces. By being parents, neighbors, friends and employers in South Routt, the school board has a critical responsibility to the community to provide the best learning environment for our children.
My philosophy. With the issues facing our district, I keep a pretty basic thought in mind when formulating an opinion. How does this affect our kids and their education? Because of the challenges we face, the district must be run as lean as possible without jeopardizing education or the programs that our community holds dear. A fiscally lean district does not mean that teachers should be paid less than in other districts. I strongly supported the use of funds to address the salary shortfall of our teachers. Our district and community have many wonderful aspects that attract quality teachers but they should not be financially penalized when coming to or staying in our district.
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