Candidate Clapper promises communication and change
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Editor’s note: This is the final installment of a three-part series profiling candidates for the Aspen School Board.
Don’t bother looking for promotional fliers, mass mailings or mission statements from Aspen School Board candidate Tom Clapper.
“The way I look at it, if people want to talk to me, they can give me a call or talk to me face to face,” he said of his unorthodox approach to politics.
If Clapper did adopt a campaign slogan, it would probably involve the phrase “constant communication.” In Clapper’s opinion, this seems to be a failing of the current school board.
“They’re great people, and they’re trying to do the best they can, but their communication with the public is not good,” he said. “But it is something I’m good at.”
Clapper, a local geologist and father of two students in the Aspen School District, said he was encouraged to run for the board because of this lack of communication.
“A lot of people asked me to. They all said, ‘We’re really concerned with what’s going on with the school board, and what’s going on with the schools,'” he said.
A major concern for parents, Clapper notes, is the district’s class-size conundrum. Policy governance, the school board’s system of making and enforcing its own guidelines, should have shielded the district from this problem, Clapper said.
“If they had that [policy governance] all set up, then there should never have been a problem,” Clapper said. “There are some questions out there that haven’t been answered, and I think the school board has been delinquent in their communication with the public.”
Clapper wants to put his admitted “big mouth” to work for the school board. He’d like to establish office hours for board members in order to keep the lines of communication open.
“Then you can come in and talk to me, if I’m on the board, in a nonthreatening way,” Clapper said.
He hopes his constituents would feel the same way.
“I’m not going to tell you how to do your job as a teacher, but it sure would be nice if you felt comfortable enough to come to me, or if I felt comfortable enough to come to you” if a problem arose, Clapper said. “I’d follow the correct channels and talk to the superintendent or go to the principal first, but what’s wrong with talking to somebody and getting it from the horse’s mouth?
“I’m a communicator – I want to talk to people.”
Clapper is ready to talk about the International Baccalaureate program, confessing, “I’m not the biggest proponent of that.” The district spent over $100,000 on the advanced-placement program in the last three years as administrators established classes and trained teachers.
“I believe the financial impact is far greater than what we’re getting out of it,” he said, noting that only a small percentage of students take IB classes. “If we’re spending all this money on 10 percent of the kids at the high level and 10 percent at the low level, what about the 80 percent in the middle? What are they getting?”
Clapper, a frequent volunteer for the district’s Outdoor and Experiential Education trips, believes “in the whole student – Outdoor Ed., athletics, citizenship and, of course, academics is No. 1.
“But if we put all our eggs in one basket, academics, what are we doing with all the other kids?” he said.
Clapper misses the classes from his own days at Aspen High School – auto mechanics, metal shop, even home economics.
“My children don’t know how to sew a button on, hardly,” Clapper laughs. “Those are things that are important in life, not just being able to take a test.”
Apparently, “change” is another phrase Clapper could use in his slogan. That’s what sets him apart from his opponents in the election, he said.
“I feel we’re all three qualified, but my biggest difference would be, if you want the status quo, don’t vote for me,” Clapper said.
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