August 6, 2008

School Funding Sought in Aurora Millions Urged for Teachers, Buildings

By Nancy Mitchell

Aurora school board members agreed Tuesday to ask voters to help fund teacher raises and to build two schools as students in the district returned to classes, kicking off back-to-school in the metro area.

Superintendent John Barry, a retired Air Force general, began his day high-fiving youngsters at Paris Elementary School, with Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates at his side.

He ended the day at the school board meeting, where members voted unanimously to place a $215 million bond issue and a $14.7 million operating increase on the Nov. 4 ballot.

In between, Barry issued challenges to students, parents, teachers, business leaders and "the entire school district" while celebrating the district's largest gains in state test scores in six years.

He urged grade school students to read 25 books a year and their older classmates to finish 10. He asked parents to volunteer in schools and urged teachers to visit their students' homes. He asked business leaders to seed a scholarship fund for Aurora graduates and encouraged every district employee to mentor a child.

Barry himself mentors a boy at Aurora Central High School - "He's a tenth-grader," he said proudly. Aurora's recent success under Barry's leadership spurred numerous civic leaders to turn out at Tuesday's back-to-school celebration, including Oates and Mayor Ed Tauer.

It also is likely to help sway voters to approve the ballot questions, including $215 million to build a high school on a 100- acre site at East Sixth Avenue and Harvest Road and a nearby school for preschool through eighth grade.

The $14.7 million increase for operating expenses would finance a raise for classroom teachers and would expand the number of full- day kindergarten seats.

Originally published by Nancy Mitchell, Rocky Mountain News.

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