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Forum Post: Occupy Wall Street candidate runs for Aspen School Board

Posted 2 years ago on Oct. 21, 2015, 8:36 a.m. EST by skiaspen50 (24)
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Mulcahy pushes for teachers' raises:

Despite factual inaccuracies in his original argument, a candidate for the Aspen school board is still opposed to the Aspen School District’s purchase of a $164,000 “activity bus.”

Multiple times over the past month, school board candidate Lee Mulcahy has claimed incorrectly that the district was planning to spend $40,000 to equip a school bus with wireless Internet service. He has suggested the money would be better spent on teacher salaries.

School officials this week sought to clarify exactly what they are proposing to do and to spend. It does involve a new bus, and it does involve Wi-Fi, but the figures are altogether different from what Mulcahy claimed.

“We’re not mismanaging the voters’ money,” said John Bangley, assistant principal of Aspen High School. “We’re actually being very frugal with it.”

On average, Bangley said, the district purchases two new school buses per year at a cost of roughly $110,000 apiece in order to keep the entire fleet under 20 years of age and to comply with Colorado standards. Because the fleet is currently in good shape, district officials plan to purchase just one bus this year, but it’s a special “activity bus” for long hauls to athletic contests and far-flung field trips. Instead of spending $220,000 for two standard buses, the district plans to spend $164,000 on a nicer bus with comfortable seating, reading lights and power outlets so students can read, study and do homework.

The school board — including two members, Sandra Peirce and Sheila Wills, who are currently seeking re-election — has agreed with district administrators that the bus would be a plus for high school students, who can spend anywhere from two to seven hours on the road to events and games in distant corners of the state.

“Seventy-two percent of our kids play a sport,” Bangley said, “and nothing we do is close.”

Upon hearing Bangley’s explanation, however, Mulcahy was undaunted. He tweaked the numerical details of his criticism to focus on the $54,000 difference between a normal “route bus” and the proposed “activity bus,” but he still implied that school officials are spending lavishly in a time of fiscal austerity.

“So the administration wants to actually spend $54,000 on extras in a time of budget cuts from the state?” he wrote in an email.

Mulcahy became something of a local celebrity in 2010 when, as a ski instructor, he openly criticized Aspen Skiing Co.’s pay rates and labor practices. He lost both his ski-teaching job and a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board but has sought since then to leverage his notoriety and seek several public offices, including a position on the Pitkin County Senior Services Council and a seat in the state Senate. He has not succeeded thus far.

With regard to his current school board bid, Mulcahy has no children in school and no past experience as an educator but describes himself as a “product of public schools” and a firm believer in public education.

The Wi-Fi service on the new bus would cost far less than Mulcahy understood. Transportation Director Gary Vavra said the total cost of the bus includes nearly $1,900 to equip the vehicle with Wi-Fi. Monthly service payments for the wireless would be $110 apiece, he added.

Still, Mulcahy took issue with the overall cost of the bus.

“Citizens know I’ll take a hard look at ‘$164,000 buses cum luxurious private jets’ before asking hardworking citizens for another tax increase next year,” he wrote.

The Aspen district has two tax increases in the works. First, alongside the three school board seats up for grabs on the Nov. 3 ballot, the district is requesting a property tax hike that would result in a $991,000 revenue boost. If approved, the measure would add $3 per $100,000 of residential property value to homeowners’ tax bills.

Next year, district officials already have said they’ll be back on the ballot in November to seek renewal of a city of Aspen sales tax that benefits the schools. They hope to see some kind of annual contribution from the town of Snowmass Village, as well.

These various fundraising measures are designed to counteract what is known as the “negative factor,” a budgetary tool that lawmakers have used to slow the rise of state spending on public schools.

Aspen Journalism and The Aspen Times are collaborating on education coverage.

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[-] 2 points by skiaspen50 (24) 2 years ago

Mulcahy's response in competing local newspaper:

Mulcahy to Times: I have been a teacher Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Printer-friendly version Email this Story Editor:
 Firstly, I’d like to thank God, my late father, family and friends for their letters, love and support. I’d especially like to extend gratitude to Aspen City Councilman Bert Myrin and Snowmass City Councilman Bob Sirkus for their endorsements and donations.

One of my proudest characteristics is my sense of humor so please take this with a grain of salt.

Did you see the hit job on the front page of the Aspen Times yesterday? You can boil it down to “life’s always high school” or small town politics. I really like Sheila (the incumbent) — sometimes we completely disagree but still hug afterwards. That’s community.

Yesterday’s author, former editor of the Times, has long curried favor with the incumbents (read cheerleaders for the status quo/administration). Last election cycle, the Times endorsed the incumbents over the local Aspen high graduate (a hard working teacher) because of “professionalism.” The results of their leadership speak for themselves. This is what another candidate stated in the Times yesterday:

“It appears that coherent governance has led the school board to abrogate its responsibilities to the superintendent, and limited its ability to act, with disastrous results. Under coherent governance, we have had four principals over five years, significant discord between teachers and administration, the high school ranking has fallen from No. 1 in the state to seventh, math and science is struggling, college placements are increasingly challenging and we have difficulties funding the school district operations. Currently adopted coherent-governance policies limit the ability of the Board of Education to directly intervene in school matters that are delegated to the superintendent. I believe the board should retain more authority to direct the superintendent when warranted.”

I agree.

Regarding the Times’ hit piece, let me shoot down just one of the sentences:

“With regard to his current school board bid, Mulcahy has no children in school” — neither do the incumbents — “and no past as an educator but describes himself as a ‘product of public schools’ and a firm believer in public education.”

Now wait just a New York second — teaching college courses at a university doesn’t count? More here: http://www.pr.com/press-release/634023.

Thanks for all the chuckles, Aspen Times.

Seriously, why vote for Lee Mulcahy? I’m proud to be a Baylor Bear, an Eagle Scout, a Sorbonne grad, a PhD but most importantly, a voice for the common man. Yes, our teachers deserve a living wage for Aspen. Yes, the superintendent needs to be bridled. Now, he’s the BMOC (big man on campus) surrounding himself with a small but expensive army. Consequently, he’s tone-deaf. However, the most troubling is the Times’ reports of an atmosphere of fear and retaliation against kids or jobs. That’s not the Aspen we want.

We need change. Freedom and truth shouldn’t be on the run. It’s not our history. I would be honored to receive your vote.

Lee Mulcahy Aspen

[-] 2 points by skiaspen50 (24) 2 years ago

Letter: School board candidate shows commitment

Article Comments (1)

I am writing in response to the article that appeared Monday on Lee Mulcahy (“School board candidate still anti-bus despite clarified cost,” The Aspen Times, Oct. 19). First I would like to say that it’s shameful for The Aspen Times to show a bias for or against one candidate in any election.

First, Mulcahy was an educator at Baylor University in Texas. He has a doctorate degree and is committed to community service. He volunteers for many local causes, including Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, the Buddy Program and more.

He is the first to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

The Aspen School District has gone through many principals and many problems. It is bleeding money and trying to raise taxes to fill only part of the shortfall. I agree with Mulcahy that this is not the time to purchase “activity buses,” which are buses equipped with lounger seats, special lighting, Wi-Fi and more. Do our kids really need to sleep and play video games or be on social media while on the bus?

And Mulcahy is the only candidate who supports and celebrates the diversity of Aspen. He is against having outdoor education and important school events on the holiest of days for Jewish families. He wants our kids to learn about and respect people of all faiths, races and backgrounds. I think it is the biggest insult to have to force Jewish families to choose between their religious beliefs and public school events. I think we need a candidate who speaks the truth and doesn’t just toe the party line.

Renee S. Grossman