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Hamilton running for District B seat

John StroudPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Matt Hamilton
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The Post Independent concludes its question-and-answer series with the candidates for the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 board of education. Today, we profile Matthew Hamilton of Carbondale, who is running unopposed for the Director District B seat.The Nov. 1 mail ballot, which was sent this week to registered electors in RFSD Re-1, also includes contested races for the District C seat between Phil Weir and Terry Lott Richardson, and for the District D seat between incumbent Myles Rovig and challenger Daniel Biggs.The RFSD oversees public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, and takes in portions of eastern Garfield and western Pitkin and Eagle counties.Although school board members must reside in a particular director district within the larger school district, they are elected at-large by all Re-1 voters to represent the entire school district.

Matthew Hamilton, 38, has lived in Carbondale since 2005. His wife, Jennifer, is a teacher at Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale. Their two children, ages 3 and 7, attend school at CRES.Prior to relocating to Carbondale, Hamilton lived in Denver for six years. He was born and raised in Norwalk, Conn., and attended public schools through high school. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Middlebury College and a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University. Hamilton works as director of sustainability for the Aspen Skiing Company.

Q: What interests you in seeking election to the RFSD Re-1 school board?A: Public education is the great equalizer of American society. It’s a vital component of strong and vibrant communities. Too often, I hear concerns about the district. My decision to seek a seat on the school board is driven by a belief that RFSD has highly qualified teachers, staff and administrators who are incredibly committed. I will provide leadership and a focus on policies that support our teachers allowing them to do what they do best, teach. Q: What skills do you believe you would bring to the board?A: I am willing to listen and be informed by all parties before making decisions. I am committed to ensuring that we create a work environment that celebrates our teachers, embracing creativity and problem solving. I bring a willingness to make tough decisions and to rally our community to support our schools. I hope to refocus the board on setting clear policy, and setting high expectations for our staff to develop sound, complete proposals. Lastly, I am willing to ask the tough questions as we seek to most effectively spend the community’s funds to achieve exceptional results.Q: From your perspective, what are the primary issues facing the school district?A: Effective implementation of Moving On – do teachers have the support to properly implement and do parents understand the goals? Evaluate the program at all grade levels to ensure it works for our students.Intense focus on testing and constant evaluation detracts from teaching and does not allow teachers the freedom and creativity to inspire students.We need to develop a culture of respect and listening throughout the district that embraces multiple viewpoints from all parties.Q: What is the school board’s role in addressing these issues?A: School boards set policy and vision for success. The board creates the conditions and direction that allow our teachers and staff to do their jobs while meeting districtwide goals. The board provides leadership and champions success. The board must not operate from an ivory tower insulated from its constituents, but must create opportunities to effectively listen, then synthesize those opinions to develop policies. Throughout, the board must model transparency and respect while setting high expectations. The board must ask tough questions that push our staff to be the best. Last, but not least, no matter the financial situation, good or bad, the board must spend tax money as efficiently as possible.Q: How would you address the sometimes negative opinion people express about the public education system in general, and Re-1 schools in particular?A: Effective listening and communication. Without these, negative opinions persist. See my platform for a more complete description.Q: What is your opinion of the “Moving On” levels approach to student placement now being employed in Re-1 schools?A: Tremendous resource and implementation challenges seem to be a constant. Conceptually, the program may be appealing, but the school board needs to understand the challenges teachers and administrators are facing every day. In particular, is Moving On appropriate for our youngest students? Does shuttling students between teachers allow kids to fall between the cracks and remove the bond so many of us remember with our elementary school teachers? Does segmentation eliminate role models for high achievement? If we fail students early on, we set them back significantly and build a weak educational foundation.Q: Do you support the proposed mill levy override?A: I support the mill levy. RFSD budgets have declined by $5.1 million in the past two years as the state has cut $375 million in education funding from its budget. In 2012-13, the state will likely cut in excess of $200 million, leading to a cut of $3 million locally – equivalent to the budget of one of our elementary schools or the salaries of 65 teachers. Vote for Our Kids provides RFSD with $4.8 million in funding annually, controlled locally by the elected school board. It’s not subject to the whims of the state Legislature. The additional tax amount is equivalent to $36 per $100,000 in home value, or $3 per month. For less than the price of a Fat Belly Burger, the community can ameliorate past and future cuts and invest in our communities children. Quality schools are critical to vibrant communities. Quality schools are integral to creating desirable communities where home values appreciate and the economy flourishes. Businesses depend on quality schools to attract and retain employees.Q: If the override does not pass, how should the likely resulting budget cuts be handled?A: The process the district employed last year was somewhat effective, though I’d push for greater community involvement earlier. With no mill levy, the RFSD board will be considering draconian cuts that will hurt every community. No stone will go unturned. Of utmost importance will be transparent decision-making coupled with effective listening.Q: What is your opinion of charter schools?A: Rather than pondering the funding that leaves RFSD as a result of the start-up of a charter school, the district must ask tough questions about the instructional environment it has created and the root causes of the community’s desire to establish a charter school. We must embrace the challenge and develop compelling educational programs that draw all students to our schools.Q: What about vouchers?A: Vouchers are fraught with legal challenges as demonstrated in Douglas County. At present I am not aware of any voucher proposals affecting RFSD. To truly formulate an opinion I would need more information.


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