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Locals say schools, community key in getting students involved in civic life

Amanda Holt MillerPost Independent Staff

Far fewer people turned out for a second meeting to discuss the importance of civic education in Garfield School District Re-2 on Monday at the Learning Opportunity Center.The first meeting, Jan. 9, drew a large crowd of locals, including elected officials, public figures and educators. A few of those folks returned for the second meeting.Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert and Rifle City Council members Allen Lambert and Sandy Vacarro, who is also a Rifle Middle School teacher, were the only elected officials present.The group assembled to discuss plans of action for getting youth more involved in civic life. Re-2 is the first district in the state to take advantage of a grant from the Carnegie Institute, which funds community discussions to achieve greater civic involvement. Jill Conrad, director of the Colorado Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, directed the group of educators and community members to try to represent the views of those who didn’t attend the meeting.Conrad and her associates went away from a brainstorming session Jan. 9 and returned Monday with a list of four proposals. The group had trouble conjuring up positive arguments for any but the final one, which the group unanimously agreed was the ideal.Among the suggestions, the first was “Do nothing. Teaching kids about civics and community life is a private responsibility.” The second was “Activate the community. Community groups, organizations and businesses should step up.” The third was “Depend on the schools. Schools should expand and improve civics courses and curriculum.” The final and only popular answer was, “Develop partnerships. Schools and community should work together to prepare students.”The group spent 15 minutes on each possible direction, discussing the pros and cons.After deciding on the fourth plan of action, the group toyed with the idea of how to achieve its goal and came upon a few roadblocks.”I think people need to feel a sense of urgency for this to work,” said assistant superintendent Ava Lanes. “People have to believe this is missing. And how do we get them to believe it’s important and they need to be involved?”Carrie Clark, a teacher at Roy Moore Elementary School, voiced a concern near the end of the meeting that expanding civics education and social studies might become the straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of teacher work load.”The teachers in this district are going through a lot of changes already,” Clark said. “And I believe we need to be thoughtful of asking them for more changes.”Superintendent Gary Pack defended the idea of incorporating changes, citing standards.”We can view this as something else or we can view this as something we already should have been doing,” Pack said.Social studies is not on the Colorado Student Assessment Plan (CSAP) test. Only math, literacy and now science are tested.”It’s not as high-stakes so it goes to the background,” Lanes said. “I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, but it’s a reality.”


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