CARBONDALE — If the Roaring Fork School District is to lay out a long-term vision for what the community desires in its public schools — their purpose, general characteristics, and what student outcomes they should achieve — who best to turn to than the schools’ “most important customers.”
Fifty students from Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale gathered Thursday as part of the school district’s ongoing community visioning process to give their thoughts on those very questions.
“It’s a little cliché, but we are the future, as they say,” said RFHS senior Riley Marshall, one of the students nominated by her teachers to take part in the discussion and to complete the accompanying electronic survey.
“We are the ones whose education is at stake here, and to get feedback from those of us who are most affected makes the process more valuable,” she said.
Freshman Lorenzo Andrade might just get to see some of the outcomes of the schools’ visioning process play out over the next three years before he graduates.
“I think we have a different perspective, and it’s nice to be asked to share our opinions,” Andrade said.
The “most important customers” comment came from District Superintendent Diana Sirko, who was on hand for the student session along with the district’s chief academic officer, Rob Stein, RFHS Principal Drew Adams, and a team of professional facilitators who are helping to guide the discussions.
“We asked teachers to select a good cross-section of students who have a variety of perspectives,” Adams said of the student group assembled at RFHS Thursday.
“We wanted to be sure it wasn’t just the high-achieving students, or those who may feel satisfied with the education they are receiving,” he said. “We also asked for students who feel disenfranchised with their learning.”
The student meeting was one of several taking place in Carbondale, Basalt and concluding in Glenwood Springs next week, as the district seeks to create a guiding vision for K-12 schools in the three communities for the next several years.
On Wednesday, more than 30 local business and civic leaders gathered in Carbondale to share their thoughts about how to improve student success in the district’s schools.
In Basalt last week, a similar-sized group of high school students participated, as did more than 50 Latino parents and community members who attended a meeting that was presented in Spanish, Sirko said. Another 110 people attended a follow-up session presented in English.
Similar community meetings took place in Carbondale this week, and separate sessions invited teachers and school administrators to add their perspectives on how the schools are doing and how they could improve.
“We are on target with the numbers of people we wanted to see participating,” Stein said. “It’s important that we reach enough people for the process to have some validity, and I think we are getting that.”
At the Thursday student session, the students were asked to discuss with each other the purpose of education in the community, and then share some of their ideas with the group.
Some of the answers:
“A better future for our community and the valley.”
“To be better members of the community.”
“So we can be financially supported.”
“To challenge students, and encourage deeper thinking and problem-solving.”
“To develop skills to succeed in the world outside of school.”
“To learn to interact with our peers and with our elders in the world.”
Students were also asked to select from a list of choices their top three student outcomes and goals, and characteristics they’d like to see in their school.
Following that was a series of questions about what they would like to see emphasized in core academics, nonacademic and extra-curricular activities, and what’s important in their school environment.
“We’re not always pushing our school district to be the best it can be,” RFHS sophomore Emily Mata said after participating in the discussion.
“It is important to ask us what we think, because we are the ones who are going to go through some of these changes,” she said.
The Roaring Fork School District visioning meetings will continue in Glenwood Springs next week, including a civic and business leaders breakfast at 7 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the District Office on Grand Avenue, and a community meeting in Spanish (translated in English) starting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Glenwood Springs Elementary School.
On Thursday, Oct. 10, a group of Glenwood Springs High School students will have their chance to weigh in, followed by a community meeting in English (with Spanish translation) at 5:30 p.m. at Glenwood Elementary. Free food and child care is available at each of the evening sessions.
Once the visioning process is complete, the district plans to post a summary of the comments and some of the survey results online at www.rfsd.k12.co.us, and will send an email to those who sign up to receive information.
A full report is to be presented at follow-up meetings in each of the three communities in late November.