VAIL, Ariz. — When an employee of the Vail Unified School District challenged her peers to participate in a local marathon, 56 of them — including the district's superintendent — showed up to run.
Transportation Supervisor John Nunes offered the district's school buses as a means of transporting the runners; instead, he was asked by marathon officials to provide bus service to all of the marathon's participants. As it turned out, he stumbled upon a way to alleviate the district's budget woes.
The district has now participated in two marathons and raised $16,000 that is being put toward the district's transportation department. Nunes told SBF in an interview that this success is due to the Vail district staff's enthusiasm for promoting wellness to students.
"The Vail School District staff is very proactive when it comes to health, wellness and fitness. From the superintendent on down, there are a significant number of people who feel that it's important for the adults to model for the students what a healthy lifestyle is all about," Nunes said.
When Nunes was initially asked to provide transportation for the Mt. Lemmon marathon in October, he was concerned about taking business away from local companies.
"It was a tricky issue for us, in that we're a school district, not a for-profit business," he explained. "I wanted to make sure that we were not taking business away from private companies that could have provided the same service, so I submitted a bid like everybody else and we were the low bid."
Pam Reed, a participant in the Mt. Lemmon marathon and a well-known professional runner, asked the district to provide transportation for the Tucson Marathon, for which she is director. In that event, the district was one of four organizations providing transportation for runners. Thirty-five of the district's buses took runners to the start lines, and another 21 buses provided transportation back to parking lots and hotels at the end of the race.
"My intention originally was just to provide that service for the Vail employees, but we're all dealing with some tough economic times," Nunes said. "We're dealing with budget cuts; we're dealing with the potential for reduction in workforce for the coming school year. Arizona's got one of the toughest state budget crises of any state in the nation right now — it will directly affect education. So it was not a hard decision to make when there's a way that we can bring some additional income into the district."