Just Doing It: Moms Create Race 2 the Summit to Benefit Horseshoe Bend School District 

Three mothers assemble a supplemental levy, run in sneakers

Lillie Crawford, Malissa Meyer and Melanie Flake decided to do something about the shortage of funding in public schools and organized the Race 2 the Summit.

Tyler Cazier

Lillie Crawford, Malissa Meyer and Melanie Flake decided to do something about the shortage of funding in public schools and organized the Race 2 the Summit.

Early on a summer morning, with the rising sun already promising another hot day, three moms crowded around a high table with coffee cups and papers littering its surface. They asked about each other's families and children, but between the small talk, they inquired about volunteer lists, advertisers and registration fees.

Lillie Crawford, Malissa Meyer and Melanie Flake have 12 children between them, so they knew that when Horseshoe Bend School District's levy failed in March and their kids' favorite programs were in danger of being cut, it was time to take matters into their own hands.

"I was talking to [Flake] on the phone about it and she said, 'We're talking about this and we're all complaining about a lot of stuff; there's a lot to complain about up here.' And she asked me what we were going to do to fix it, and I didn't have an answer," said Crawford. "That's what hit me really hard. We can't just talk about it anymore. We need to make a stand and make a huge difference."

The three young moms are the organizational force behind Race 2 the Summit, a half marathon in Horseshoe Bend that will raise money for the small community's struggling schools. All avid runners, Crawford, Meyer and Flake long dreamed about the possibility of hosting a race in their hometown. Now that their kids' schools are in need, the race is becoming a reality.

"We talked over the years about how fun it would be to do a race here up to the summit because that's a cool road that's not high traffic," said Flake. "Then, with the levy not passing and the school needing money, [Crawford] finally said, 'OK, this year we're going to do it. Let's do it this fall and use the money for the school.'"

The $250,000 levy failed with 250 votes against it, compared to only 93 in its favor. School board officials said while many parents in Horseshoe Bend are supportive of the community's schools, residents made it clear with the vote that they were not in favor of raising taxes to fund them.

"There's a disconnect between the school and the community," said Meyer. "We feel that it was the reason the levy didn't pass."

This was the first supplemental school-funding plan put to a vote in Horseshoe Bend. According to Vickie Renfro, acting superintendent of the Horseshoe Bend School District, that may have been a factor in its failure.

"Horseshoe Bend has never had to seek a supplemental levy before this past year," Renfro said. "The community's proud of that, but they're just not knowledgeable to the needs of the schools."

The levy failure resulted in the loss of district funding for the salaries of a physical-education teacher and a music teacher. A high school business teaching position was cut to part-time, forcing some students to take the class online. Sports funding was cut as well, resulting in the loss of district-provided busing to sporting events for high-school athletes. But parents and teachers are stepping up to fill the void.

"Currently, we are able to offer a music and P.E. program in our elementary school through volunteers and teachers. Everybody's really stepped up together to fill the gap," said Renfro. "All of our coaching staff took 50 percent pay cuts willingly to help us meet the bottom line. A lot of those are just community members that are coaching."

However, if school funding receives any more blows in coming years, the effect could be huge, Renfro said.

"We don't have another instructional person to cut," she said. "We are bare bones."

While volunteer efforts are meeting educational needs for now, sports-budget needs remain. Crawford, Meyer and Flake would like to see the profits from Race 2 the Summit go toward filling that need. At the time of the levy failure, the district worried about needing to cut its kindergarten program, but the three moms encouraged the school board to take a different route.

"We told them, 'if you cut kindergarten, you're hurting the first-graders, the second-graders, third-graders,'" said Flake. "'You're hurting everyone above it because they don't have a foundation. Don't cut kindergarten. Cut from sports. Parents can pay for that. We cannot pay for a kindergarten teacher.'"

Added Crawford, "That's why the booster club started. It wouldn't have started if we'd cut kindergarten. Nobody's going to start a booster club for kindergarten."

The three moms hope to raise enough to fund transportation for high-school sports, which Renfro said will cost around $10,000. However, no final decision has been made regarding the use of the money from the race.

"We haven't made any solid commitments to the school or to the boosters, because we don't know how much money we're talking about working with, $5,000 or $500," said Flake. "We've kind of said, really loosely, we're going to put the money back into the school and into the community. We're going to research the very best, most-efficient way to use our money."

Crawford, Meyer and Flake also hope that their work can help show Horseshoe Bend residents that adequate funding for schools can have a positive effect on the community as a whole by replacing lost revenue outside of the classroom.

"It's a huge domino effect. It's affecting everybody," said Crawford, who knows a district bus driver whose salary was halved after the levy failure.

And although the race won't take place until the end of September, the three moms contend that it has already had a positive effect on their town.

"Things have been neglected because there's been no reason to fix it," said Flake. "But now it's like, OK, we're drawing 500 people from Boise and we don't want a broken drinking fountain in the park. We're going to get those things taken care of."

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