Computer program pioneer’s passion is public education |

Computer program pioneer’s passion is public education

Glenwood Springs resident Bruce Wampler thinks public schools may be the best thing about the whole country.

“Since the early 1600s, when the first public schools were created in Massachusetts, public education has been our big legacy,” he said. “They’re what sets this country apart.”

Wampler – who’s quick to say he received a public school education from kindergarten through graduate school – is now backing his belief in public education by becoming the newest member of Roaring Fork School District Re-1’s board.

Wampler was appointed last month to replace Tresi Houpt, who was elected Garfield County commissioner in November. This is his first experience as a school board member.

“I’ve thought about being on the school board,” Wampler said, “so it was natural for me to apply when Tresi won the commissioners race.”

Wampler was appointed from a field of five applicants.

“I’m very humbled I was selected from such a high-quality field,” he said.

Wampler applied for a spot on the board “for all the right reasons” said Sue Hakanson, Re-1 board member.

“I’m excited to work with him,” she said. “He’s just been with us for a few weeks, and he’s an interesting person.”

Even before Wampler joined the school board, local education played a large role in Wampler’s family.

“My wife, Katrina Haines, graduated from Glenwood Springs High School,” he said, “and her parents, Bernie and Georgia Haines, were teachers in the district for many years. My two kids attend district schools, too: One goes to Sopris Elementary and the other goes to Glenwood Springs Middle School.”

Education has factored into Wampler’s career as well. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in computer engineering in 1975, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Utah in 1979.

“I was a pioneer in the personal computer software industry,” he said. “I wrote the first spelling checker for a personal computer. I also wrote the first grammar checker for personal computers, Grammatik.”

Wampler has also been a professor – teaching computer science at the University of New Mexico. He now writes computer programming books and consults.

Although Wampler clearly has a strong background in computers, he doesn’t feel computers in local schools are a pressing issue.

“I can add some insights, but for the most part they’re doing fine,” he said.

Instead, he’s more concerned with attracting and retaining top teachers – an issue he feels is the biggest issue facing the district.

“It costs a lot to live here,” he said. “It’s the number one issue to keep up the quality of teachers, given our budget constraints.”

Wampler said more issues and concerns face the school district – among them, demographic diversity, funding limits, and maintaining quality education.

“The kids are doing great,” he said. “They’re doing well on the standardized tests. We want to maintain that level of excellence.”

Wampler also said he’s looking forward to working on the district’s new master plan.

“We want to know what people want to see,” he said. “We want community participation.”

He also hopes to dispel the perception within the district that “Glenwood gets everything.”

Wampler said the district considers the needs of all three of its communities – Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs – pointing out that two of the board’s five members live in Basalt.

One thing is for certain: Wampler’s plate is full.

“I went from having no date book to a full date book,” he said regarding his work with the school board. “People don’t realize the effort and commitment of school board members.”

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext 518

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