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Stein column: Challenging year ends in joy

Rob Stein

After a year of social distancing, I recently got about 200 hugs in a single day. But I think they were meant for somebody else. I think they were meant for the teachers, staff and parents whose efforts got our students through the most challenging year in memory.

After more than a year of health and safety precautions that separated us literally and figuratively, friends and families were able to come together to celebrate the graduating class of 2021, and the jubilation was impossible to contain.

It was my turn to attend Glenwood Springs High School’s graduation ceremony and to hand students their diplomas as they walked across the stage. My job was actually to give a 10-second mini-lesson to each graduate on accepting a diploma, posing for a photo, and navigating across the stage. I had my lesson plan ready: put the diploma in their right hand with my right hand, make eye contact, say “congratulations,” gently grab their left elbow, say “look at the camera,” and then pivot them to their left, break eye contact and look at the camera, so they knew which way to turn.

But, while turning toward the camera, the first student let go of the diploma and unexpectedly came in for a hug. Hmmm.

I repeated variations on the lesson 229 more times, but no matter what I did, nearly every student gave me a hug. The trend followed no demographic patterns: Latino, Anglo, male, female, tall, short — they all wanted a hug. This can mean one of two things: either I’ve become irresistibly huggable for the first time after two decades of handing out diplomas, or the students this year were feeling enormous jubilation and gratitude at making it to the stage.

I’m sure it was the latter.

After a year of obstacles and isolation, those hugs were meant for the teachers, staff and parents whom I was representing on the stage.

During the pandemic, our teachers and staff overcame discomfort and uncertainty, learned new skills at an accelerated rate, managed increased workloads and maintained an inspiring level of creativity and perseverance.

Our parents got unprecedented views into the learning lives of their children, adapted to constant change, and juggled their own workloads with increased roles in supporting their children’s education. The throughline in all these efforts was serving students, reaching out across physical and digital divides, and getting them through the year with learning intact.

As I have shared before, the notion of “learning loss” doesn’t honor the many gains our students and community have experienced over the past year. Our students, staff and families have shown enormous perseverance and resilience, developed deeper empathy and expanded pathways of collaboration. This growth, while an unexpected outcome of living and learning through a pandemic, will serve all of us in the future.

This year’s GSHS graduation speaker, retiring art teacher Tish McFee, talked about the importance of pausing to experience “aesthetic moments” — moments of beauty that happen when we stop to notice the rainbow colors on the paraglider’s sail (as happened while she was speaking), the mathematical pattern in the pinecone’s shell, or the sun reflecting off the frost outside a window on a cold morning.

As we continue to see more normalcy this summer, I hope everyone in our community has an opportunity to stock up on aesthetic moments, whether that be through nature, the arts or sciences, time with friends and family, or wherever you find beauty.

And, I hope you will catch up on hugs.

Rob Stein is superintendent of schools for the Roaring Fork District, including schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

YouthZone column: Teens’ emotional health impacted by COVID-19 restrictions


It has been well over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic changed all our lives dramatically. The social restrictions put in place to contain the pandemic have left most of us feeling exhausted and stressed out. Families have been in “survival mode” for all or most of that time with children experiencing a range of emotions, including sadness, anger and fear.

The pandemic has been especially difficult for adolescents. Peer groups and social interactions are an important aspect of development for teens, and the loss of these experiences during the pandemic left many teens feeling anxious and disconnected.

If the teens in your life have been struggling to cope throughout the coronavirus pandemic, results from a recent survey conducted by the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics suggest they are far from alone. A national sample of parents was asked about the emotional impact that pandemic restrictions have had on their teenagers. The results, while not totally unexpected in content, are eye-opening in terms of the magnitude of the impacts.

A majority of parents in the survey reported that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their teen’s ability to interact with their friends. Very few parents indicated that their teens have been getting together with friends on a regular basis.

About half of the parents reported a new or worsening mental health condition for their teen since the start of the pandemic. The negative behaviors reported include changes in their teen’s sleep, withdrawal from family and aggressive behavior. More parents of teen girls than parents of teen boys noted an increase in anxiety/worry or depression/sadness.

As parents, guardians and trusted adults, we can support teens by modeling good coping skills, encouraging healthy habits and working to understand and relate to what they are going through.

An important step toward supporting young people through this challenging time is for caring adults to have empathy for what teens have been experiencing. Peer relationships are a big deal for adolescents because their still-developing brains are wired such that they feel rewarded when they socialize. Additionally, time with friends helps teens establish their identities and begin seeking opportunities to establish independence from their families.

The limitations on these social outlets have left many teens feeling lonely and bored. It is important for adults to make time to ask open-ended questions that show you care about what they are going through. Teens need to feel heard, so offering solutions is less important than simply being available to listen.

Adults looking to help teens manage their feelings can make a difference by modeling good self-care. When parents and guardians take care of themselves, they show adolescents how to deal with stress and be resilient in the face of challenges. Exercising, eating healthily and getting adequate sleep are all great ways to model self-care for teens.

There will be instances where parents and guardians recognize that their teens need more emotional support than they can provide. This is normal and understandable.

Reaching out to other parents and seeking help from mental health professionals are acts of strength in parenting. One in four parents in the survey reported seeking help for their teen from a mental health provider in the last year, and the vast majority of them feel it helped.

As the pandemic wanes, there is a real opportunity for families and communities to better support teens’ emotional well-being. If you need support with the adolescents in your life, YouthZone is here for you. We offer youth coaching, counseling, parent consultations and mental health support.

Keith Berglund joined the YouthZone team as the assistant director in 2019. After earning a degree in marine biology from Occidental College, he started his 25-year teaching career as a science teacher and basketball coach at a middle school. Over the years his role expanded to youth mentor, public servant, nonprofit manger and Love and Logic Facilitator.

Roaring Fork Schools’ spending on bilingual communications addressed during budget discussion

Equity, and how that plays into school district communications with primarily Spanish-speaking families, became a topic of discussion as the Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education approved the 2021-22 district budget Wednesday night.

The discussion came at the request of board member Jasmin Ramirez, who offered a motion to allocate an extra $5,000 for each district school to provide timely Spanish translation of information in emergency situations.

It also came after diversity, equity and inclusion for all students and families was a major topic of discussion during a day-long board retreat, followed by a presentation from the district’s Equity Steering Committee.

Although the board, on a 3-1 vote, rejected Ramirez’s motion, it agreed to further the conversation about improving bilingual communications to start the new school year in August.

“I believe it’s really important that we recognize our demographics here, and whether our budget is supporting all of our students,” Ramirez said, citing recent statistics that show Latino students now make up a majority of the district’s student population, at 55%, while 35% of the district’s students are classified as English language learners.

While the district has made strides to meet the needs of those students and their families, Ramirez said she worries about critical information not getting to them quickly during a time-sensitive emergency event.

District staff noted there is already dedicated funding within the district’s $78.3 million general fund budget to cover emergency communications and other bilingual translation and interpretation needs.

Those efforts were expanded in the last year due to some of the routine communications that needed to be sent out related to COVID-19 quarantines, they said.

Any additional funds would bolster what’s already in the budget, said Nathan Markham, chief financial officer for the district. But finding where to pull any extra money for budgeting purposes would take some time, and the budget needs to be approved before the end of June, he and several board members pointed out. The school board is not slated to meet again until Aug. 11.

The general fund is part of the overall $114.8 million 2021-22 budget approved by the school board Wednesday, also on a 3-1 vote with Ramirez in dissent.

She pressed the board to make it a priority to have that follow-up discussion and ensure there’s a greater expectation around bilingual communications.

“What I don’t want to happen is that we don’t … have those conversations, and then we have a situation where we’re asking why this or that message didn’t go out in Spanish,” Ramirez said.

Carbondale resident Bryan Alvarez-Terrazas, who attended the local schools, also spoke to the issue from his experience.

“I was the one tasked with translating for my parents at meetings and parent-teacher conferences and with different documents when I was growing up,” he said. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to have those interpretation and translation services be part of the budget.”

Kelsy Been, public information officer for the school district, said some federal funding should come available that might allow for additional interpretation/translation services. But the district would need to put together a plan to qualify for that funding, which won’t happen until fall, she said.

Board member Maureen Stepp acknowledged the importance of continuing the discussion in August, but didn’t want to hold up the budget approval to do it.

“I would like for us to come up with some options, whether there’s money in reserves or some one-time funding, to figure out how to work this into the budget,” she said, adding that will also allow time to get a better handle on costs.

Meanwhile, the district budget approval came literally just hours after the Colorado Legislature approved the School Finance Act for the coming fiscal year, Markham said.

The budget outlook is much better than what the district was anticipating earlier in the year due to forecast shortfalls in state spending on education, he said.

Instead, the Roaring Fork Schools will see a $5.3 million, or 8.6%, increase in general fund revenues over 2020-21 projections. That includes an increase in recurring revenues to restore lost funding, plus $1.4 million in one-time funds, Markham said.

Per-pupil state funding is to increase from $7,225 to $9,289 for the district, which includes public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

The budget includes a carryover reserve amount of $16 million, Markham said.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Guest opinion: Ensuring real student equity in the Roaring Fork Valley


“Your mind is like a parachute; it only works when it’s open,” my seventh-grade teacher counseled. That inspiration — and Mr. Rogers’ assurance that he liked me just the way I am — helped me surmount the challenges of my ugly scoliosis-correcting brace.

I told this trauma-to-triumph story when applying for school and work, and later to our son as he coped with the challenges of dyslexia. His Aspen School District teachers inspired him to Think Again — he wasn’t different; he just learned differently.

Imagine his pride when chosen to address his eighth-grade graduation where he shared his lesson that though we can’t choose what happens to us in life, we can choose how to react.

People don’t shape stories as much as stories shape people. The Jewish Peoples’ slavery-to-freedom story repeated each Passover for 33 centuries cultivated a collective resolve not just to survive relentless persecution, but to craft ethics centered on human equality, helping civilize the world.

Similarly, America’s July 4th story forged a common identity derived from human history’s most revolutionary ideas — e pluribus unum (“out of many, one”) and the democratic self-rule of a free people who are “created equal.” The conviction that man-made laws must reflect natural law birthed the anti-slavery, anti-Jim Crow, and Civil Rights movements, and attracted multitudes yearning to be American.

As the lucky heir of both stories, I’m alarmed by “anti-racist” theories overtaking institutions, including K-12 schools. To advance “justice,” the book Critical Race Theory: An Introduction advocates upending our “liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, enlightenment rationalism and neutral principles of constitutional law.”

Books like Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility and Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, popularized the absurdity that our liberal order is not systemically self-improving; it’s “systemically racist.” To address inequality, they argue, we must treat people differently based on race.

Coining the term “KenDiAngelonians,” Black intellectuals John McWhorter and Glenn Loury call Kendi and DiAngelo neo-racist cult leaders whose illiberal ideas disempower minority children by suggesting they are unable to compete within objective standards of excellence. Why abandon our “created equal” premise and the dreams it spawned — including being judged by our character, not skin color?

Recently, ASD Superintendent David Baugh and High School Principal Sarah Strassburger ruled out CRT, responding to concerns raised about an “equity survey” administered at Aspen High. Thankfully, survey results reveal a healthy school environment.

They wrote, “Trying to meet the needs of each and every student where they are” and ensuring “all students are seen, heard, and celebrated is not Critical Race Theory,” adding, “public school educators are to be apolitical in the workplace.”

Bravo!

Indeed, lifting differently talented kids from where they are to where they’re capable of going is education’s purpose. Though our son became a reader, not all dyslexics do, even when equally supported. Considering Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and Muhammed Ali were dyslexics whose talents changed the world, children can surmount disparity when inspired to develop their unique potential.

Despite its official rejection in Aspen, CRT’s jargon and vague, unsubstantiated claims linger. A resolution proposed to ASD’s Board of Education “to foster an equitable and inclusive environment” asserts that “racism is systemic” and “rooted into our institutions, policies, and practices,” leaving many “ignored, discriminated against, and marginalized.”

Similarly, Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein — an eight-year veteran — asserted in a June 19, 2020 column that institutional racism “pervades education” and “is latent in our implicit biases and the insidious influence of privilege in our schools.”

With such stinging indictments, you’d expect supporting evidence, and recommendations for specific and measurable interventions. Do those charging systemic racism agree with Kendi, that “the only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination?”

The National Equity Project informing our districts suggests we evaluate “data through an equity lens” to “ensure equally high outcomes.” Though performance metrics in our valley reveal racial disparity, how do we know racism is the cause, and why assume students in each racial category are homogenous, defined only by their race or ethnicity?

Might “systemic racism” be the wrong diagnosis, polarizing people while diverting attention away from specific interventions to help students advance based on their unique circumstances and talents, thereby deriving self-respect and empowerment?

The feeling of “otherness” is the lived experience of generations of Americans, including my grandparents who overcame systemic prejudice to become the architects of their lives. Just as I’m the beneficiary of their story, might minority children benefit from stories of Black Americans who overcame unimaginable adversity to claim their “created equal” birthright?

McWhorter and Loury are in an alliance of Black intellectuals at 1776 Unites whose curriculum (rejected by ASD) is dedicated to empowering children with stories of African Americans who persevered through the harshest circumstances.

“’Yes, we can’t’ has never been the slogan of Black America and it is not now,” insists McWhorter. Nor should it ever be — a declaration worthy of any BoE resolution.

Think Again — to promote real diversity, equity and inclusion, shouldn’t we inspire students to recognize that they’re created both equal and different, and valued just the way they are?

Melanie Sturm, founder of Engage to Win, aims to change communication for good through her training and writing. Encouraging readers to “Think Again, you might change your mind.” She welcomes comments at melanie@engage2win.org.

La biblioteca pública de Carbondale ofrece clases gratuitas de baile en español para familias todos los sábados de junio

Gracias a una colaboración entre las bibliotecas públicas del condado de Garfield y Dance Initiative, los niños y sus padres podrán estar listos para divertirse este verano.

Alex García-Bernal, coordinador de eventos y educación de las Bibliotecas Públicas del Condado de Garfield, dijo que las clases se impartirán en español como un esfuerzo por conectarse con la comunidad local latina.

“Será una de las primeras cosas que haremos en persona, así que estamos deseando comenzar. … Las clases, por supuesto, están dirigidas a hispanohablantes, pero todos son bienvenidos,” dijo García-Bernal. “Mi deseo es que podamos expandir (las clases) a las otras sucursales de la biblioteca en algún momento.”

Megan Janssen, directora ejecutiva de Dance Initiative, dijo que si bien la instructora, Claudia Pawl, impartirá las clases en español, también es bilingüe y también puede enseñar a personas que no hablan español.

“Realmente permite que los niños se diviertan, y además, si los niños no se consideran bailarines, es una forma realmente divertida de jugar, de estar afuera, de mover el cuerpo y de autoexpresarse,” afirmó Janssen. “Lo otro es conocer más a la comunidad.”

Las clases son gratuitas y están orientadas a la familia, con un enfoque en enseñar a los niños sobre el movimiento. James Larson, gerente de mercadeo y comunicaciones de las bibliotecas públicas del condado de Garfield, dijo que en este momento las clases están programadas sólo para el mes de junio, pero dependiendo de la participación, podrían continuar durante todo el verano.

“Estoy pensando en (venir a las clases) porque acabo de descubrir el parque para perros en Carbondale. Mientras sea en el césped, podría venir con mis perros,” dijo Larson.

Pawl dijo que los participantes en las clases de baile pueden esperar mucha energía y muchas risas. Ella ha estado bailando desde que tenía 3 años y es dueña de un estudio en el valle, Mezcla Social Dance, que se enfoca en bailes de inspiración latina.

“El centro de la clase será la celebración del movimiento. Tiendo a desafiar la mente de los niños sin que ellos se den cuenta, en el sentido de desafiarlos de una manera divertida que hace que lo que estamos haciendo sea algo que ellos quieran hacer,” dijo Pawl. “Y también algo que involucre a los padres, algo que puedan llevarse a casa y hacer por su cuenta.”

Las clases se llevarán a cabo al aire libre en el césped detrás de la biblioteca, y actualmente no hay límite para la cantidad de personas que pueden asistir. Agregó que este verano Mezcla Social Dance está dando clases para adultos los jueves por la noche y animó a los miembros de la comunidad a asistir.

“Creo que será muy divertido. Realmente me estoy enfocando en asegurarme de que todos se sientan incluidos, hay mucha energía y todos celebramos que hemos vuelto a salir y que podemos estar juntos. … Si hay familias que están bailando juntas, para mí eso siempre es una gran motivación para mejorar o para participar de alguna manera,” dijo Pawl.

Puedes comunicarte con la reportera Jessica Peterson al 970-279-3462 o jpeterson@postindependent.com.

 

 

Garfield County Public Libraries’ summer reading challenge is underway for residents of all ages

Garfield County Public Libraries have their summer reading program in full swing under the theme "Tails and Tales."

Animal lovers and bookworms alike are in for a treat with this year’s theme for the Garfield County Public Library summer reading program, “Tails and Tales.”

“We have some virtual events and some in-person to stagger back into that live presentation, live workshop kind of event,” Alex Garcia-Bernal, events and education coordinator for GarCo public libraries, said. “We went into programs that have to do with animals, pets. … It has a heavy focus on kids, but we are trying to spread it to have events that are interesting to all ages and families.”

After signing up at any of the library branches in Garfield County, participants of all ages can begin logging their reading time, and for every 20 minutes, they can go to a branch for a small prize. The community reading goal for all six branches is 750,000 minutes.

“Reading is much more than sitting down with a book, and I think that’s what overwhelms people. But you can listen to an audiobook, the logs are by minutes so it doesn’t matter what you read,” Garcia-Bernal said. “You can read a magazine, a comic book, a children’s book if you’re learning (another language) and are reading children’s books to help you with that, that will count. It doesn’t mean you have to pick up a giant novel and sit there and finish the book.”

Some of the events include meet and greets with shelter pets from the Rifle Animal Shelter and CARE shelter in Glenwood Springs, which will be socially distanced in person, and virtual Zoom meet and greets through the Reptile Discovery program and the downtown Denver aquarium.

Amy Tonozzi, the youth services coordinator for the Rifle library branch, said that after having to make the switch last summer to all virtual events when they were already planned to be in person, she can’t wait to bring community members together through this year’s summer reading program.

“It’s always been fun every year to see how many people we can sign up. And every year try to sign up as many as possible to get kids reading over the summer, so I’ve always enjoyed that part,” Tonozzi said. “Having all the kids come in and watch a fun, quality program and not having to pay for it or anything like that, that’s been great watching that over the years.”

For those who complete the 1,000 minutes of reading, they will be entered into a drawing for several grand prizes meant to get families out and about in the community. There’s an option to stay overnight at the Sopris Alpaca Farm, go on a horseback riding family outing, visit the Rifle Fish Hatchery or go on a fly-fishing float trip for two.

“The prizes are not age specific. They’re designed so if a teen, a child or an adult wins, they can use the prize for the whole family. … We thought that people have been pretty cooped up, so we can bring them something they can go outside for,” Garcia-Bernal said.

Tonozzi said one of the best ways to encourage children to read is if they see their family members doing it. While the program is meant to minimize learning loss from students over the summer, she said the reading challenge is a great way to connect with the community and as a family, too.

“I think it’s important for everybody to read. And also it’s important for children to see their parents, their grandparents, their siblings reading. That’s a really important aspect of early literacy,” Tonozzi said. “And we’re trying to get so many minutes as a community this summer, and I think that’s just a nice community aspect to it too.”

Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or jpeterson@postindependent.com.

Carbondale Public Library offering free family dance classes in Spanish every Saturday in June

Thanks to a partnership between Garfield County Public Libraries and the Dance Initiative, young kids and their parents can get ready to groove this summer.

Alex Garcia-Bernal, events and education coordinator for Garfield County Public Libraries, said the classes will be taught in Spanish as an effort to connect with the local Latino community.

“It’ll be one of the first things we do back in person, so we’re looking forward to that. … This one, of course, is directed at Spanish-speakers, but everyone is welcome,” Garcia-Bernal said. “My wish is that we can expand (the classes) to the other library branches at some time.”

Megan Janssen, executive director of the Dance Initiative, said that while the instructor, Claudia Pawl, will be teaching the classes in Spanish, she’s also bilingual and can accommodate non-Spanish speakers, as well.

“It really allows kids to have fun, and also if kids don’t think of themselves as dancers, it’s just a really fun way to play, be outside, move your body and find self-expression,” Janssen said. “The other thing is to meet more of the community.”

The classes are free and designed to be family-oriented, with a focus on teaching young children about movement. James Larson, marketing and communications manager at GarCo Public Libraries, said right now the classes are scheduled for only the month of June, but depending on the turnout they may decide to continue with them throughout the summer.

“I’m thinking about (joining in), because I just discovered the dog park down there in Carbondale. As long as it’s in the lawn, I might come with my dogs,” Larson said.

Pawl said participants in the dance classes can expect high-energy and lots of laughter. She’s been dancing since she was 3 years old and owns a studio that focuses on Latin-inspired dances, Mezcla Social Dance, in the valley.

“The focus of the class is going to be the celebration of movement. I tend to challenge kids’ brains without them knowing it, in the sense of challenging them in a fun way that makes what we’re doing something they want to do,” Pawl said. “And also something that includes the parents, something they can take home and do on their own, as well.”

The classes are going to be held outside on the lawn behind the library, and there’s currently no limit on how many people can attend. She added that Mezcla Social Dance is back to hosting classes on Thursday nights this summer for adults and encouraged community members to come out and attend.

“I think it will be a lot of fun. I’m really focusing on making sure everyone feels included, and there’s a lot of energy, and we all pretty much celebrate that we’re out again and able to be with each other. … If there’s families that are moving together, for me that’s always a huge motivator to enhance that or to be a part of that in some way,” Pawl said.

Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or jpeterson@postindependent.com.

Columna de Stein: Asegurémonos de que todos los estudiantes estén listos para aprender

Rob Stein

Dondequiera que veo en este momento, educadores y legisladores están hablando del “aprendizaje perdido.” Incluso el gobierno federal ha asignado millones de dólares para que las escuelas reciban fondos para ayuda de emergencia con el fin de “recuperar el aprendizaje perdido.”

Considerando cuán disruptiva ha sido la pandemia durante el último año, no es de extrañar que a la gente le preocupe que nuestros alumnos tengan que ponerse al día. Pero antes de gastar millones de dólares y alterar aún más la vida de los estudiantes, asegurémonos de que estamos en el camino correcto.

La lógica tras el aprendizaje perdido relacionado con la pandemia es que los estudiantes tuvieron menos oportunidades para aprender debido a la educación a distancia, a interrupciones en sus vidas y familias, y a los constantes cambios en el programa de este año. Estamos preocupados por la forma en que la pandemia afectó el aprendizaje de los estudiantes y estamos enfocando nuestros esfuerzos en asegurarnos de que todos los estudiantes estén listos para aprender a su nivel cuando comencemos el año escolar 2021-22. Lo haremos mediante la supervisión del trabajo de los estudiantes y ajustando la instrucción según los datos reales de aprendizaje, acelerando el aprendizaje en vez de remediarlo, y enfocándonos en conceptos y habilidades fundamentales para su grado.

En muchas partes del país, los estudiantes no han estado aprendiendo frente a frente durante el año escolar, y existe un amplio consenso de que la educación a distancia es menos efectiva. Pero en nuestra parte del estado, los estudiantes han estado aprendiendo frente a frente la mayor parte del año. Y aunque los días escolares han sido más cortos, lo que ha generado menos tiempo de aprendizaje, la mayoría de las escuelas han continuado priorizando materias clave como alfabetización y matemáticas. Y dado el mayor repertorio de herramientas de aprendizaje a distancia que nuestros maestros han estado utilizando para complementar la instrucción en persona, los estudiantes en nuestros programas en línea están haciendo grandes avances.

Desafortunadamente, justo cuando necesitamos mejores datos sobre lo que los estudiantes han aprendido este año, el estado decidió no evaluarlos a todos en las asignaturas principales y niveles de grado. Por este motivo, uno de los principales ajustes que haremos el próximo otoño es adoptar un enfoque basado en más datos que nos permita supervisar el aprendizaje y realizar los ajustes necesarios.

Por “datos” no me refiero a las pruebas estandarizadas, sino a observar de cerca muestras de trabajo de los estudiantes para hallar evidencia de las habilidades que los estudiantes dominan y de las brechas en su comprensión. Equipos de maestros revisarán el trabajo de los estudiantes semanalmente, colaborando en cómo ajustar la instrucción y ayudando a los estudiantes a superar las oportunidades de aprendizaje perdidas.

Otro compromiso importante que estamos asumiendo es el de acelerar a los estudiantes para que vuelvan a su nivel de grado, en lugar de ir más lento o de retroceder. Piensa en lo que haces cuando se te hace tarde, por ejemplo, para ir al aeropuerto. Aceleras y evitas desvíos innecesarios para recuperar el tiempo perdido. Y sin embargo, por muy intuitivo que suene esto para recuperar el tiempo de viaje, las escuelas suelen hacer lo contrario: retroceden y luego avanzan a un ritmo más lento.

Cuando se trata de poner a los niños al día, retenerlos un grado para luego proceder a un ritmo más lento no tiene más sentido que cuando se trata de tomar un avión. Una gran cantidad de investigaciones afirma que poner a los estudiantes en grupos más lentos o en grupos de recuperación, o hacerlos repetir el grado anterior, sólo consigue que se atrasen aún más.

Es por esto que también mantendremos el compromiso de brindar a los estudiantes oportunidades de aprendizaje a su nivel, centrándonos en los conceptos clave y en las habilidades que son esenciales para el entendimiento en cada disciplina, y sólo cubriremos las brechas según sea necesario para avanzar. Al adoptar un enfoque dirigido a lo que los estudiantes realmente necesitan saber y ser capaces de hacer, podremos ayudar mejor a todos los estudiantes a aprender a su nivel y a desarrollar conocimientos de mayor profundidad que perdurarán.

Aparte de estas estrategias educativas importantes—monitorear y ajustar según los datos de aprendizaje reales, acelerando en vez de corrigiendo, y enfocándonos en conceptos y habilidades clave para cada grado—tenemos que trabajar muy duro para mantener un fuerte sentido de pertenencia para todos los estudiantes y atender sus necesidades socio-emocionales y académicas. Nuestro compromiso filosófico y programático de que todos los alumnos sean miembros de un grupo nos sirvió bien para monitorear a los alumnos y a las familias durante la pandemia, y será una importante estructura de apoyo en el futuro.

Para que todos los estudiantes puedan venir a la escuela diariamente listos para aprender, vamos a invertir algunos de esos fondos federales de recuperación en incrementar el apoyo socio-emocional, los servicios de salud mental y los recursos familiares, así como los apoyos académicos. Queremos asegurarnos de que todos los estudiantes y familias tengan los recursos que necesitan para participar de manera significativa y tener éxito en la escuela.

También me dicen los maestros y el personal que la noción de aprendizaje perdido no honra los muchos logros que nuestros estudiantes y la comunidad han experimentado en el último año. Nuestros estudiantes, personal, y familias han demostrado una enorme perseverancia y resistencia, han desarrollado una empatía más profunda y han ampliado las vías de colaboración. Al igual que la generación de mis padres, que experimentó dificultades durante la Gran Depresión y la Segunda Guerra Mundial, surgió como “la mejor generación,” también los estudiantes de hoy podrían recordar este año como un año transformador que le dio forma a su generación.

Cuando hablemos de lo que se pudo haber perdido durante el año pasado, tengamos también en cuenta las increíbles lecciones que hemos aprendido.

Rob Stein es el superintendente del distrito escolar de Roaring Fork en Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, y Basalt.

 

Comité de equidad estudiantil del distrito escolar de Roaring Fork obtiene un puesto en la mesa y la junta escucha la primera lectura del presupuesto para el año escolar 2021–22

Los miembros de la junta del distrito escolar de Roaring Fork se sentaron con atención, escuchando en cada uno de sus paneles de Zoom mientras los dos representantes de la escuela secundaria de Roaring Fork compartían sus ideas sobre cómo incluir más voces de estudiantes en la capacitación contra el racismo.

“Creemos que incrementar las voces de los estudiantes en lo que respecta a la formulación de políticas, abre la puerta para abordar todos estos otros problemas, como la falta de diversidad en las escuelas de Roaring Fork,” dijo la estudiante Keiry Lopez Perez.

Perez es una estudiante de último año graduada de RFHS, pero también se presentó con Joy Bouchet, una estudiante entrante de último año que ocupará una posición de liderazgo en el comité de equidad estudiantil el año que viene.

“Lo que esperamos hacer el próximo año es desarrollar un consejo de equidad estudiantil en todo el distrito,” dijo Bouchet. “Para todas las escuelas que permitan la voz de los estudiantes en la toma de decisiones importantes … y también para crear posiciones de liderazgo estudiantil en los diversos comités para garantizar la voz de los estudiantes.”

Solo tres miembros de la junta estuvieron presentes, pero aplaudieron la presentación, especialmente los planes para iniciar estas conversaciones sobre equidad incluso antes de que los estudiantes lleguen a la escuela secundaria.

“Realmente me gusta el hecho de que tengan como mentores a estudiantes de secundaria (en el plan),” dijo el miembro de la junta Maureen Stepp. “Porque muchas veces lo que sucede es que estas iniciativas comienzan, y luego ustedes siguen con sus vidas, ¿cierto? Te gradúas … y luego esto ya no funciona porque no hay nadie en quien delegar y que mantenga la pasión.”

El miembro de la junta, Jasmin Ramirez, y la directora de Servicios para la Familia del distrito, Anna Cole, mencionaron la necesidad de respaldar el proyecto de los estudiantes para mostrar la intención de darle continuidad y asegurarse de que la junta haga lo que pueda para finiquitar el proyecto.

“Un par de estudiantes se unieron a nosotros durante la última reunión (del Consejo Asesor de Familias) y fue muy, muy significativo y poderoso escuchar sus voces en dicha conversación. Creo que apoyar públicamente de manera visible es una forma concreta de indicar apoyo,” dijo Cole.

Ramírez apoyó formalmente al consejo de equidad estudiantil y sus planes, lo que significa que la junta trabajará para lograr una mayor representación e inclusión de los estudiantes en los comités de gobierno del distrito.

“Antirracismo fue el nombre del seminario que hicimos con el Aspen Institute, y a partir de ahí, a lo largo del seminario, comenzamos a observar todos estos problemas, aunque el seminario en sí mismo no fue suficiente para cambiarlos realmente,” dijo Pérez.

Primera audiencia de presupuesto

La conclusión más importante que el director financiero, Nathan Markham, presentó a la junta en la primera lectura del presupuesto fue que financieramente el distrito está en mejor posición de lo que se había anticipado.

“Al regreso el ciclo presupuestario 2020-21 no tuvo antecedentes en términos de volatilidad. Salimos a las vacaciones de primavera esperando un incremento del 3–4% en la financiación por alumno y … terminamos perdiendo cerca del 5% de nuestra financiación por alumno,” según Markham. “El ciclo presupuestario 2021–22 es mucho más positivo. La calamidad económica que esperábamos no sucedió. Todo para lo que nos preparamos, todo salió mejor de lo que la mayoría esperaba.”

Ramírez mencionó el hecho de que sintió que las audiencias presupuestarias no se comunicaron suficientemente a los miembros de la comunidad, específicamente a las familias del distrito de habla hispana.

“Especialmente con el año que tuvimos, creo que darle a las familias la oportunidad de tener una reunión a la que pudieran asistir y pudiéramos deliberar y escuchar sus comentarios, y hacer un mayor esfuerzo para asegurarnos de que vengan a esta reunión … es necesario,” afirmó Ramírez.

La junta discutió sus funciones, con cuánto de anticipación avisarle al público, y si había un interés real de los miembros de la comunidad en influir en el presupuesto.

“En cuanto al presupuesto, solo quiero recordarles … es muy importante para nosotros, como si este fuera nuestro trabajo principal, asegurarnos de que nuestro dinero se gaste de la manera correcta,” dijo la vicepresidenta de la junta, Jennifer Scherer. “Pero siento que también pusimos en marcha un proceso para eso, para que cuando llegue a nosotros, realmente ya haya sido examinado por muchas personas diferentes.”

La conclusión a la que llegaron es que si hay varios asistentes que tienen comentarios o críticas en la segunda lectura del presupuesto, programada para la reunión de la junta del 9 de junio, planean realizar una reunión adicional sobre el presupuesto para que los miembros de la junta tengan tiempo para pensar y responder a lo que se discutió.

“Mi esperanza es que obviamente sepamos comunicar esto en español, lo mismo que a nuestras familias. … Mientras estemos comprometidos a asegurarnos de que todo se comparta, estoy de acuerdo con esperar hasta el 9 de junio,” dijo Ramirez.

Puedes comunicarte con la reportera Jessica Peterson al 970-279-3462 o jpeterson@postindependent.com.

 

First year Roaring Fork School District teachers speak to their growth after finishing a pandemic school year

Sopris Elementary School kindergarten teacher Leah Berns does a fun frosting project with kids on the last day of school Thursday.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Rosalind Brokaw smiled as “Sunday Best” by Surfaces played over the loudspeaker at an empty Carbondale Middle School the day after classes were let out. She said now she has a reflex to look for her thermometer and get ready to check student temperatures whenever she hears the song play.

“Then they’d come in, they should have hand sanitizer by this point in the day. So, it definitely was a little checkpoint in the day and then the announcements came on right after that,” Brokaw said. “But it was actually kind of a nice regular thing because I taught from here when we were online too. So I would play it for them, I think everyone had a sense of familiarity (with it).”

It was Brokaw’s first year teaching at CMS and she said some of the challenges she faced off the bat were connecting to students and meeting them virtually for the first time. Middle schoolers don’t like turning on their cameras, Brokaw said, so she had to get creative with the ways she could engage them in lessons.

“I would try to make conversation with them, like greet them all by name when they signed on. … It was just like a lot of energy trying to put it right in the screen so they knew I was there, paying attention to them,” Brokaw said.

Roaring Fork High School Spanish teacher Savanna Pearson had her first year in the Roaring Fork School District after teaching for three years in Spain.

“I think I overestimated the Spanish abilities of Spanish 1 because of my nerves. I spoke to them 100% in Spanish my first class and then had to go back and apologize because obviously they’ve never spoken Spanish before,” Pearson said.

Pearson said she felt lucky in a way to have started off during a pandemic year, since she went in knowing there would be a lot of firsts for everyone. A goal of hers was to provide classroom work that was pushing native speakers she taught as well as students who were beginners with the language.

“Luckily from my experience I was able to bring in a lot of cultural aspects into the classroom and get the kids excited about other things. I was able to start an intercambio (language exchange program) with a school in Argentina late in the year because of COVID. … I think the biggest challenge was trying to make Spanish a balance of challenging and exciting,” Pearson said.

Fifth grade science teacher for CMS Sarah Strattan was also in her first year of teaching but said being able to survive throughout the pandemic year helped reassure her that teaching is what she wants to be doing with her life.

“I think it cemented my decision more than it would have otherwise. I think if we can survive a year like this, and we still want to teach and we still care about the kids, I feel like … everything else should be relatively easier,” Strattan said.

She said the effects of quarantine on students she said was fairly evident. Having a chaotic, unexpected schedule for the school year was reflected in their behavior. Once the year ended, she said she was also surprised at how many students expressed difficulties they overcame in the past year.

“At the end of this year, I kind of got feedback from students. More than I expected said that they had had a stressful year, a sad year, a weird year. And then we ended the year on a good note but a lot of them didn’t have a great school year it sounded like. … Learning wasn’t so much the top priority, it was more kind of just surviving,” Strattan said.

Being a first year teacher did have its advantages, Strattan said. She found she couldn’t plan more than a few days out at a time but that it was easier to adapt for her than in the case of some other teachers who may have been following a curriculum they’d been teaching from for years now.

“On the flip side I do think because I came into this year knowing it’d be hard, I think I had an easier year than maybe the teachers that have been teaching for 20 years. Maybe they’re not as familiar with chromebooks or technology. … Because they’ve been set in their ways for teaching for that many years,” Strattan said.

Pearson said the support and collaboration from other schools around the district made a huge difference on her experience and adaptability as the year went on.

“I think for students and teachers alike, this year was a really big call to growth. … It was really cool to see and talk to other teachers in the building who had epiphanies just like I did about teaching and students, and the connections we can make,” Pearson said.

Despite all the ups and downs from the year, Brokaw said her favorite moments were being in-person with the classroom and seeing them just be kids.

“It was nice to see them in a lot of ways be kids in their interactions with each other. You know, COVID or no COVID, they’re just still middle schoolers,” Brokaw said.

 

Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or jpeterson@postindependent.com.