Belinski: Communication key to success
Editor’s note: As part of its election coverage, The Aspen Times will profile one Aspen School Board candidate each day this week.Aspen School Board candidate Charla Belinski believes the main thing the district needs right now is “increased communication with the community … the more we can educate our community members, the stronger families we will have.”Otherwise, she said in a recent interview, the district is “doing a great job” and she hopes to help that performance continue.Belinski, 41, supports the current campaign to win voter approval for a $33 million bond to build a new middle school and make certain changes at Aspen Elementary School. She also supports a ballot question asking voters to let the district boost taxes enough to collect an additional $700,000 per year in revenue.Maintaining taxpayers in the school district have “an extremely low tax burden,” she said parents have “high expectations” for the local schools and ought to be willing to pay slightly higher taxes to meet those expectations.She also is enthusiastic in her endorsement of Superintendent Diana Sirko and the current school board.Belinski, who lives in Snowmass Village with her husband and three children, has a degree in mass communications with a minor in education. She is certified to teach parenting classes, which she does primarily through the Youth Zone agency. She also has taught a class on bullying at Basalt Middle School, and is on the board of the Aspen Youth Center.Asked why she would make a good school board member, Belinski said, “It’s as much about your vision for the district as it is about how you work with people [referring to the need for board members and the district’s staff to get along to some degree]. I’m very open to listening and idea sharing.”Belinski has lived in the area for 16 years, and her children currently attend the Aspen public schools. She said she is “totally a public school proponent.” For a time, though, her children attended Alpine Christian Academy, a private, faith-based school. Belinski said she made that decision because the classes were half the size of those in Basalt, where she was living at the time; she also believed the school fostered “a good, wholesome environment.”Belinski does not believe a voucher system, giving parents state money to enroll their kids in private schools, would be appropriate or beneficial in the Roaring Fork Valley. And “I absolutely don’t advocate teaching the Bible in the schools,” she said. Though Belinski does not believe religious instruction should take place in the schools, she said she thinks teachers should not be afraid to teach about religious subjects. That instruction, she said, should cover Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faiths in observance of the diversity of the local population.Regarding the increasingly tense national debate pitting the religiously oriented “intelligent design” concept against the “theory of evolution,” she said with a laugh, “I can’t imagine it ever going to that point in Aspen, Colorado,” and declared the district has no responsibility to speak out on the issue.”Faith,” she said, “should come into play somewhere else” than in the classroom.Belinski stressed the need for a new middle school, in part because “the middle school has the reputation … of being the hardest place to teach.” Plus, students need a modern educational setting because “there’s so much going on in their little brains [in] the most difficult years for kids, academically and socially,” she said.In general, Belinski said she has no set “agenda,” beyond her desire to push the district regarding “issues that are near and dear to me,” such as promoting “academic rigor” and “challenging every single student to the best of their ability.”One policy she specifically supports is the early release of elementary school students on Wednesdays, giving teachers a dedicated bit of “collaborative time” to plan out their classes and address policy matters. John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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