Colia inspires great turnout at Re-1 board meeting |

Colia inspires great turnout at Re-1 board meeting

Carrie Click
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – School board meetings typically don’t draw large crowds, but that wasn’t the case Wednesday night when parents, teachers and students supporting Cliff Colia, Carbondale Middle School’s principal, showed up to participate in the meeting’s public forum.

Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd, Robin Garvik, Roaring Fork School District Re-1 board president, welcomed audience members to the district office.

“We know and respect that you care what happens in your school,” said Garvik. “We also want you to know we care.”

Colia, the school’s principal since 1994, has been the focus of a campaign of support after he told teachers and school staff his position was under evaluation.

On Tuesday night, Roaring Fork School District board members and administrators met with Colia in a closed-door meeting called that day. Afterwards, Colia and Re-1 superintendent Fred Wall announced Colia would remain principal of the school.

The meeting and announcement left some members of the community feeling like the school board didn’t want to hear what they had to say regarding Colia’s job performance.

At the meeting, Garvik said that wasn’t the case, but Colorado state law prohibited the board from discussing Colia’s issues publicly.

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“A public forum is designed for us to take input on school issues,” she said. “However, Colorado state law prohibits us from discussing personnel matters. It’s against the law to do so, just as it’s against the law for us to respond to you. We are also not allowed to engage in debate.”

Still, Garvik reiterated the board’s desire to hear from the community.

“We want to hear your perspective,” she said. “Feel free to e-mail, fax or call us.”

Garvik briefly explained how Colia’s evaluation was conducted. She said it’s up to the board to evaluate all the district’s administrators, and the board “charged Dr. Wall with that task.”

“This is not unusual,” she said. “We’re required by law to evaluate all staff members.”

Garvik said those evaluations are done “with the kids’ best interest in mind.”

After explaining the public forum format, Garvik asked how many people would like to speak. Six people raised their hands, among them Colia.

“Again, I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart,” he said after audience members gave him his second standing ovation of the meeting. “These past two days have affirmed that all of us are interested in the school becoming even a greater place.”

Colia is not bound by state law from speaking publicly about his own personnel issues.

Still, he chose not to go into detail about his personnel evaluation except to say, “I am in complete agreement that we want the best education for our students.

“I think it’s clear I’ve got the qualitative aspect of my job down. I pledge to work on my quantative leadership. That’s very doable. There’s a positive thing going now. I’d like us to keep focused on that, because that’s what it’s all about. Let’s surf the wave for our children.”

Following Colia’s comments, several community members spoke out.

“Cliff is a quality person. From my perspective, it’s like trying to diagnose cancer without knowing what the issues are,” said Deborah Evans, a parent and former CMS employee. “We can’t work on a solution if we don’t know what the problem is.”

Ann Weaver, the parent of two children at CMS, gave the board a thick pile of paper with petition signatures and noted the “incredibly positive momentum” made between the district office and Colia.

“We invite Judy and Fred to come to Carbondale Middle School next week and discuss issues and concerns,” she said, speaking to assistant superintendent Judy Haptonstall and Wall. “We need your help. Help us make Carbondale the best it can be.”

Craig Overbeck of Glenwood Springs, husband of a CMS staffer, said the problem at Carbondale Middle School is coming from the state level.

“We’re a little deficient on our CSAP tests,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s fair the state applies a blanket policy to all kids taking that test. I think it’s incumbent upon you (the school board) to rattle some chains.”

Following the public forum, which lasted about a half hour, the board took a short recess. Only two audience members remained for the school board’s regular meeting.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

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