A Year in Review
Garfield Re-2 Superintendent
In June 2016, I came to the Garfield School District Re-2 as a new superintendent with one primary mission — to listen. I wanted to listen to the staff, listen to the teachers, listen to the students, and listen to the community.
When I arrived in Garfield Re-2, I was familiar with the schools because my kids competed in a variety of athletic events in the valley, but I needed to learn more about what is great about the communities of Rifle, Silt and New Castle; what was special about our students; what teachers and staff members made these communities unique. I also wanted to hear about what we could do better — how could we improve the relationships between the school district and the community, our staff, our parents and our students.
Throughout the last year, I have had the opportunity to do just that. I’ve met with the staffs at each of the 10 schools in Garfield School District Re-2, three departments and I’ve ridden every school bus route that we deliver 2,500 students safely to and from school every day. I watched our pre-school, middle school, high school and Colorado Mountain College students graduate and move on to their next adventure. I saw amazing athletic feats on the athletic fields and courts across our district. I witnessed the ah-ha moments that students get when their teacher makes the connection.
In short, it has been an exceptional year. All of the trends I heard from community, parents and staff, I shared with our school board. Evidence from the 81-walkthroughs conducted with our building principals, and the 60 community meetings with area leaders helped guide the school board in their creation of the District Road Map.
The School Board heard that parents love their schools, and their teachers — especially their teachers. There is great concern in the community that our neighbors, customers, clients and student’s teachers continue to leave our valley. The School Board added a new goal mid-year — Goal five to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and staff — and they have charged me and our district leaders in doing just that. This year, we will continue to develop a plan to not only bring the best and brightest educators and staff to Garfield Re-2 and honor our veteran employees. This will include a new salary schedule that will bring us back into competition with our neighboring districts. We will be engaging our teachers and staff in their thoughts about the proposed new schedules and we will tap the creativity of our community and our staff to find opportunities to support our teachers and staff in a way that only Western Garfield County can.
Overall, the School Board heard that parents feel their students are well cared for at school. Parents and community members also saw room for improvement. In the dozens of world cafes and focus groups we have held this year, parents, teachers and staff said that they would like to see more pathways for students — more opportunities to differentiate their education through classes at Colorado Mountain College (CMC), career opportunities and internships. The Road Map begins to address this.
For the last year, our administrators and principals have been gathering data and working on the plans for graduation pathways — opportunities for students to learn about and explore different jobs. You will be hearing more about this in the future. It may take different shapes and include things like expanded CMC opportunities, internships and career fairs.
To support these opportunities, Garfield Re-2 has hired a new districtwide agriculture teacher. She will spend the bulk of her time at Coal Ridge, but will support students and staff at Rifle High School as well. She will add new educational experiences and opportunities across the district. We are excited to see where this new program will lead.
We know that our stakeholders are concerned about the good use of taxpayer dollars. That is why earlier this year, the School Board directed me to cut $500,000 from the District Office budget. I have led this mission, and we have restructured the District Office to be leaner and more efficient.
Finally, the School Board heard that parents are both concerned about the size of our middle schools and they would like to see elementary school last just a little longer for their children. The board has directed me to lead a transition for the 2018-19 school year to return the fifth-grade to the elementary schools. This is not something that can happen overnight, and we will assure every current fifth-grade teacher has a job that wants one. We are beginning now with the planning so that this year’s fourth-graders get one more year at elementary school before making the leap to middle school.
There are many other things we have accomplished over the last year: We began work on learning targets in the classrooms; we hired four new principals, an assistant superintendent and a new food services director, and we continue to put the support structures in for our teachers and staff to achieve even higher.
This is just the beginning. If you would like to see more about the District’s Road Map, it is on the Garfield Re-2 website at http://www.garfieldre2.org. As you can see, last year was exceptional, next year will be outstanding, and the future for Garfield School District Re-2 is EPIC.
Brent Curtice is superintendent of the Garfield School District Re-2.
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Rifle and New Castle are seeing decent increases in tax revenue, according to financial administrators.