Roaring Fork School Board Candidate Q&A 2
Name: Debbie Stone BruellAge: 42
Hometown: CarbondaleOccupation: Mother/Artist/Community Volunteer/Grant WriterYears lived in the Roaring Fork School District: 7
Why do you want to be on the RFSD school board? I want all children in our District to receive the highest quality education possible. Given the dedicated professionals and volunteers at our schools this goal is clearly within our reach. However, our District also faces serious challenges. In Carbondale, we face demographic imbalances at our schools and a loss of middle income families from our schools. In order to address these and other challenges we need a strong partnership between the School District and our communities. As a Board Member I will work on valuing community and teacher input and building a strong relationship between the District and all of our communities. Collaboration is essential to making our schools the best they can be.
What are two main issues affecting the RFSD currently and what is the best approach to solving these issues? 1. The achievement gap and graduation-rate gap between native English speakers and native Spanish speakers. The best approach to addressing this issue is to focus our energy and resources on fostering early school success for native Spanish speakers expanding pre-school opportunities, finding funding for full-day kindergarten, and building effective language acquisition programs at the elementary level that help students progress academically as their English language skills develop.
2. Demographic imbalances in our schools and the flight of middle income families from our schools. This issue has broad implications for our children, our schools and our communities. In order to address this issue we must first recognize it as a problem; examine the negative impact it is having; and explore the root of this problem in our community by communicating with parents those in the Re-1 system, those who have left the Re-1 system, and those with pre-school age children who have yet to make decisions about where to send their children.
What are the impacts of the constantly changing demographics in the district in terms of population and an increase of English language learners, Is it being dealt with or what could be done better? The changing demographics in our District is not only due to an increase in the number of English language learners in our schools; it is also due to an increase in the number of native English speaking families choosing schools other than their neighborhood public school. The impact of these changes on our children and our schools are numerous. For example, when schools serve a large majority of native Spanish speaking students, this imbalance creates tremendous pressure to increase scores on state achievement tests. (It is no surprise that students taking the test in their second language generally score lower than students taking the test in their native language.) As mentioned above, there is more work the District could do in terms of fostering early school success for native Spanish speakers and building a better understanding of why so many families are choosing schools other than their neighborhood public school.What are your thoughts on standardized testing and what role should it play in the schools? Good standardized tests play an important role in our schools in terms of measuring the effectiveness of our teaching for all of our students. Unlike the way the state has used standardized testing, it is essential that these tests are used to measure academic growth in individual children (rather than comparing one group of children to a different group of children) and the tests must be used as a tool to evaluate and improve teaching effectiveness (rather than a tool to punish schools with low test scores). While good standardized tests are useful in terms of improving teaching effectiveness, we also need to recognize that effective teaching and high student achievement are not all that is needed to create a well-rounded and inspiring educational experience for our children.Is enough being done to ensure that advanced students are getting the education they need as well? Meeting the needs of our advanced students is integrally tied to the issue of demographic imbalances in our schools. For example, many people have left RFHS in search of more opportunities for advanced learning at other high schools. Moreover, as advanced students leave a school, the school must cut back further on programming for advanced students. We cannot create the best possible opportunities for advanced students at our schools without simultaneously addressing the issue of creating more demographically balanced schools.
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