Students and teachers need good environments |

Students and teachers need good environments

Voting for a tax increase is never easy regardless of the merits of the proposal. Dealing with a higher cost of living is our price of admittance to the privilege of being in our valley instead of a major urban area. We all work too many jobs, too many hours. We all have unmet financial needs in our homes and families. Yet, if there is one area which must rise to the top, it’s not merely the education of our children, but the quality of the education they receive. Consequently, I would encourage you to look favorably upon the Roaring Fork School District Bond Issue 3B.

Having been in the classroom for 40 years, I have a feeling for the factors that significantly affect the quality of a child’s education. One of the things I learned early in my teaching career is all students are different, and these differences affect the way they learn. Some students are such that if you give them a book, a barn and a candle they will learn. Sadly, most don’t fall into this category. They require teaching, individualization, motivation, mentorship and a positive school environment.

Research, let alone common sense, tells us the quickest way to increase the effectiveness of a school is to increase the quality of the teachers educating the students within it. It’s the same as any other institution. If a business owner needs to increase the percentage of customers who purchase a product, he seeks out and hires better salespeople; if his website isn’t working, he seeks out and hires someone with better Internet skills. One could draw parallels in every industry.

In our valley we have difficulty attracting the very best teachers because they will take both a pay cut and house cut. Our competition is the large urban areas where the starting teacher salary average is in excess of $40,000 and the annual cost of housing (whether by rent or mortgage) is $10,000 or more less than here.

Closer to home, we lose teachers every year to Wyoming, where a teacher will immediately get a $10,000-15,000 raise and the average cost of a home is $263,000. We all know what $263,000 will get you in Glenwood. Realistically, we will never get sufficient additional funding from the state to compete on the basis of salary, consequently we must focus on one factor we can try to control: housing. Our supply and demand market does not provide affordable housing, consequently and even regrettably this means the school district must enter the real estate market. The affordable housing component of this bond issue will help us attract and keep quality educators.

Research, let alone common sense, also tells us students learn best in an environment conducive to learning. Beyond quality educators, student learning will increase when they feel safe, they are in an uncrowded room where teachers have an opportunity to deal with every student’s individual needs, have state-of-the art resources and don’t have to spend precious learning time traveling between buildings. Our teachers need to be spending their time increasing the learning of each student rather than moving buckets to catch the water from a leaky roof. Our students and teachers deserve an environment that enables the learning of all students.

Additionally, the number of students in our schools has increased dramatically, and this growth doesn’t show any signs of letting up. We can’t expect the facilities built in the 1980s, let alone the ’60s, to adequately service these larger populations. Meeting a student’s individual needs isn’t best done in an elementary school with 700 or more students.

Modern and uncrowded educational facilities also play a part in our ability to attract quality educators. A great surgeon isn’t going to be attracted to a hospital that is an old design, has heat and cooling issues and doesn’t contain the most current equipment technologies. The same is true for educators. The passage of the bond issue for Roaring Fork School District will facilitate the quality of education our students deserve. Please consider voting yes on 3B.

Bryan Whiting is from Glenwood Springs.

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