This school year kicked off with a renewed sense of purpose and excitement in the Roaring Fork School District. The district has come a long way in the past couple of years, and we’re about to ramp up that progress even more.
This month marks the start of an ambitious community visioning project. We’re asking everyone to join us in sharing your hopes and dreams for everything our children could be gaining from their years in school and exploring strategies for turning those dreams into a reality.
In the past two years, since beginning my service on the board of education of the Roaring Fork School District, the district has made tremendous progress. We’ve invested in our teachers who are the key to our children’s education. We’ve purchased a new English/Language Arts curriculum for the first time in 13 years. We’ve enhanced our professional development team to provide teachers the training and support so many cite as having been lacking for too many years. We’ve undertaken some critical maintenance of our school buildings, ensuring the longevity of our infrastructure investments. And we’re bringing an exciting new approach to education to Glenwood Springs Elementary School.
None of these accomplishments would have been possible without your support. The passage of the mill levy override in 2011 provided the school district with a much-needed cash infusion at a critical time. The $4.8 million in support you elected to take out of your pockets for our children has made a dramatic difference in the quality of education we can provide for the children of our community.
The passage of the mill levy also established the solid financial footing we needed to embark on the districtwide visioning process that will begin this month. You’ll hear words like vision, mission, strategic plans and other lingo. Ultimately it’s about creating schools that inspire, captivate and provide the tools to allow all to succeed that we owe to our community.
Over the next three months we intend to develop a clear set of goals that will guide the district for the next seven to 10 years. We will ask critical questions such as:
• How can we capture the minds of students and bring a joy of learning into the classroom?
• How can we capitalize on the strengths and passions of our teaching staff?
• How can our schools draw upon the unique strengths and resources of our communities?
• How can we ensure that every child graduates college- or career-ready and has gained the skills they need to be productive members of their communities?
• How can our schools prepare our children for the unique challenges of the 21st century?
• What is the role of testing in our children’s education?
• Why do so many parents seek out alternatives to the non-chartered public schools?
It’s these questions and many others we hope you’ll discuss as you share your vision for our schools. We hope that out of these conversations will emerge a clear set of district wide goals that parents and staff alike can emphatically support.
If you’re unsure about what I mean when I discuss clear goals for our schools, I call your attention to the work of the Danville, Ky., school district. Good Goals Start with Good Schools by Tom VanderArk (http://gettingsmart.com/2012/12/good-schools-start-with-good-goals/) highlights a clear set of goals that moves beyond the test scores that have come to dominate the current lexicon of quality in our schools. It talks about deeply engaging children in their education while bringing to bear the incredible talents of teachers as more than vessels of multiple choice tests. The graduation requirements highlight students who are defined not only by ACT scores but on values of what it means to be a citizen and community member. I read these goals and say “yes please” – it’s the kind of educational outcomes I hope and dream about for my own children.
Once we establish these goals, we will once again engage each of you (in concert with our professional staff) to explore specific educational approaches or curricular models to achieve these goals. These need not be the same for every school.
The current changes at Glenwood Springs Elementary School are the beginning of creating a student-centered, teacher-led school district that is capable of nothing less than being one of the leading rural school districts in the country. Never before has our district been as well positioned as it is today to deliver an amazing and compelling public education for every child.
I hope that each and every one of you will take time from your hectic schedule to participate in upcoming community conversations. The more stakeholders that are involved in this process, the stronger our schools will be. Whether you are a parent or not, please remember that high quality schools are a leading contributor to a strong and vibrant local economy. The desirability of our valley is deeply connected to the desirability of our schools.
So, please join me in guiding this district to the greatness I know is possible with the community’s support. I look forward to your participation as we go forward.
Discussions will take place in a small group format in each of the communities in our district. Everyone is welcome.
When it comes to the future of our schools, we would love to hear what is on your mind. Come to one of these community visioning sessions and educate us. I hope to see you at one of these meetings.
Matthew Hamilton is president of the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 board of education.