Group seeks to separate fact from fiction in C’dale schools
Post Independent Staff
CARBONDALE – The rumor mill is amazingly effective at generating news – particularly inaccurate news.
“Word travels so well in that rumor mill,” said Robin Garvik, Roaring Fork School District Re-1’s school board president.
Carbondale’s public schools spawn all sorts of misinformation: that students aren’t learning at the same rate as other schools in the district, that the teacher turnover rate is high, and that the large percentage of Latino students enrolled in Carbondale is having a negative impact on learning.
That’s why the Carbondale Schools Advocacy Committee is working diligently to dispel misinformation, improve communications, and research and advocate solutions regarding Carbondale’s five public schools – and all on a pro bono basis.
“The committee is really the brainchild of Bill Lamont,” said Garvik. “He deserves a lot of the credit for helping people to understand accurately what is happening at Carbondale’s schools.”
Lamont, a retired city planner, said he decided last spring to organize a group of concerned citizens who could support the school district’s work.
“We started the committee primarily because of the rumors and comments circulating about Carbondale’s schools,” he said. “People in Carbondale and in other places like Aspen didn’t think Carbondale schools were very good. I wanted to know which of these perceptions were real and which were rumors.”
Lamont’s interest in improving the perception of Carbondale’s schools is personal – two of his grandchildren are enrolled there – but there are other reasons he chose to make the committee a priority.
“The quality of our community – any community – is so dependent on the quality of its school system,” he said. “Schools are key to building a solid community base. They’re instrumental in a community’s social interaction and determining real estate values. When children are doing well in school, it reflects positively on the entire town.”
Lamont said identifying problem areas and generating accurate information seemed to be lacking within Carbondale’s schools.
“Schools weren’t getting their messages out,” he said. “It was hurting us not to have a marketing or PR component to help the district get clear information to parents and community members.”
Garvik said Lamont and the committee are just what the district needs.
“He came to us out of the goodness of his heart without any hidden agenda, and asked us how the committee could be of service to the school district,” said Garvik. “The district doesn’t have time to do the kind of research and public relations work that’s needed in Carbondale. The committee is a valuable asset to the district in supporting us in these areas.”
Garvik said Lamont’s demeanor – “he’s so proactive, calm and sensible,” she said – is indicative of the demeanors of the committee’s other 15 or so members, comprised of school principals, teachers, town officials, Rotary Club members, parents, members of the town’s economic development agency, and chamber of commerce representatives.
Lamont said that so many times, teachers and administrators feel attacked, “like they need to circle the wagons,” he said. He designed the committee to avoid any of those negative feelings.
“We’re here to be impartial,” he said, “to investigate what’s going on in the schools, and where feasible, to help resolve issues. This isn’t a defensive situation at all.”
Artie Rothman is the vice president of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce. He also serves on the Carbondale Schools Advocacy Committee. He got involved in the committee because he has a child who started kindergarten this year, and another headed for school in a couple of years.
“I talk to parents whose kids attend Crystal River Elementary,” he said. “They’re really happy with the school, but that information doesn’t get out to the public. I want to help improve the overall image of schools in Carbondale.”
Lamont feels, with the amount of attention, the committee can promote an image that’s accurate and not based on hearsay.
“From the beginning, it was important to us the school district understood our objectives are to be positive, to inform the public and to help the public and school staff to become involved in solutions.”
It seems the committee has been successful.
“They’re a great support to the school board,” Re-1 superintendent Fred Wall said.
“The committee gets the big picture,” agreed Garvik.
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext 518
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