Paul Montera

Trinidad’s Middle School facility was originally built as Trinidad High School way back in 1911, and it’s now in serious need of rehabilitation. The district got some good news lately when it was announced that it had been approved for by the State Department of Education‘s Capital Development Committee for a B.E.S.T (Building Excellent Schools Today) grant award of approximately $15.5 million. Also, the district was approved for a waiver of 29 percent for the local matching funds. Trinidad School District No. 1 (TSD1) must still come up with an additional 29-percent for the local match, or approximately $4.5 million in local matching funds. The BEST grant funds are derived from tax revenues on legalized cannabis sales in Colorado.

Two TSD1 leaders, outgoing Board of Education President Paul Montera, who’s term limited this year, and Superintendent Dr. Bonnie Aaron, addressed the noon luncheon crowd at the monthly Trinidad and Las  Animas County Chamber of Commerce (TLACChamber) held in the Pioneer Room at Trinidad State Junior College (TSJC) on Wednesday, July 17 to try and explain the need for community support for a General Obligation Bond referendum in the Tuesday, November 5 election to generate the local matching funds for the BEST Grant.

Montera noted that 20 years ago Trinidad voters voted for a bond to build Fisher’s Peak Elementary School. That bond will be paid off in 2020, so any newly generated bond revenues would not represent an increase in property taxes for local voters, he said, stressing the importance of passing a new bond referendum this year. “Our school district is at a pivotal point this year,” he said. “I feel we have a great staff and an outstanding administration under the leadership of Dr. Aaron. If voters pass this referendum, it would allow us to make some critical and healthy improvements to Trinidad Middle School, especially a new HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system to provide a more comfortable learning environment for our students.”

Superintendent Aaron introduced several district employees to the crowd, and highlighted some of the district’s accomplishments over the past school year. TSD1 was a Leader in Me school district, with all four schools using the seven principles of leadership promoted by Dr. Stephen Covey to teach students to learn how to become effective leaders. “The Leader in Me is a program students bring home with them and make a part of their daily lives,” she said. “It’s not just something they do at school. We had a big celebration last August for Eckhart Fisher’s Peak Elementary Schools as they achieved Lighthouse status within the Leader in Me program. There are only 400 schools, not districts, in the U.S. who have achieved that Lighthouse status.”

She expressed her hope that local voters would approve the bond referendum that, in combination with the BEST grant, would enable the middle school renovations project to come to fruition. The district’s 2018 referendum failed to secure enough votes for passage, pushing back hopes for renovations until after the 2019 election. “We hope that this year will be different because we’re going to the ballot knowing that we are receiving the BEST grant,” she noted. “It’s a $15 million grant to renovate the middle school, which is most in need of renovation of all our schools.”

She cited the effective work done by Principal Deana Pachelli of Trinidad Middle School, who was named 2019 Colorado Middle School Principal of the Year by the state Department of Education.

In the coming school year, Trinidad High School students would have full access to the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program at TSJC for the first time, she said. “We currently have access to the Building Trades, Commercial Art, Auto Shop, Early Childhood, Business, which includes accounting and computers, Health and World of Work. So we’re expanding our Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) and vocational programs.

“One of the benefits of graduating from Trinidad High School is that we have a partnership with Colorado State University (CSU). They offer a $4,000 per-year scholarship to all THS graduates. There are only 10 schools in the state that they partner with, and we are one of them. So that’s a really good financial benefit to stay in school at Trinidad High School.”

Aaron said the district was looking for any alumni who had graduated from the CSU partnership program, to highlight the program’s successes and its promise to Trinidad students going into the future.

Among the district’s future plans was to rename the ‘B building’ at the high school as the ‘Terry Learning Center’ in honor of longtime local educators Joe and Louise Terry. Joe is a member of the Board of Education.

Board member Deborah Hartman said the district needed the support of the entire Trinidad community to get the bond referendum passed in the Tuesday, November 5 election.

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