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Candidates grilled on CSAP, public relations

Eben Harrell
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The three candidates vying for the Aspen School Board faced an array of topics in a forum last night at the Aspen High School.

Tom Clapper, Sally Hansen and Laura Kornasiewicz, who are seeking two seats in the Nov. 4 election, were quizzed on policy governance, standardized tests, budget concerns, the district’s substance-abuse policy and the importance of communication.

Also discussed was the relationship between the school board and its constituents.

The candidates answered three questions from the forum moderator before responding to audience questions.

The topic that sparked the most discussion was the schools’ use of standardized tests. While all three candidates agreed that aptitude tests are important for measuring scholastic performance, their feelings varied on the Colorado Student Assessment Program, a statewide series of standardized tests.

Clapper, who equated the abolition of CSAPs to the woman’s suffrage movement, said he is dead set against the tests. He said they stifle teacher creativity and put undue pressure on students.

“Testing is important, but we should use our own tests,” Clapper said.

Hansen gave her qualified support of standardized tests and said they are a good indicator of overall trends and individual assessment.

But she agreed with Clapper that too much emphasis is put on CSAPs, believing the test to be less an indication of aptitude than of how well a student’s performance is aligned with the state’s curriculum. Instead, she said more emphasis should be put on SATs and ACTs.

“We need to ensure our students are competitive in the college application process,” Hansen said.

Kornasiewicz was the most supportive of standardized tests, saying that CSAPs, although controversial, can be a useful tool in a school’s pursuit of excellence.

“Colleges are full of successful, happy, well-rounded kids with good standardized test scores, and that doesn’t mean they had to relinquish anything for that,” she said.

The candidates also had differing views on how to enhance communication between the school board, the schools and the public, a topic of concern for many.

Clapper suggested office hours for school board members and making one member a week available for public drop-ins and discussion. Hansen argued that enhanced communication should be the responsibility of the board members, advocating greater participation in school activities on the ground level. Kornasiewicz suggested a monthly round-table work session for the board, which she believed would be more accommodating to the public than the current formal meetings twice a month.

The final question to the candidates concerned their experience on past boards or committees, and their familiarity with the school board itself.

Hansen said she had not attended any board meetings in the past but stated that her extensive experience on the boards of the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation and Aspen Education Foundation makes her a strong candidate for the position.

Clapper said his lack of experience and position as a slight outsider gives him a fresh and unique perspective. “Sometimes, people can be too close to the trees to see the forest,” he said.

Kornasiewicz said that she has only missed one board meeting in the past year and that her extensive board experience, including as vice president of the Aspen Education Foundation, makes her the best choice for the school board.

“My clear vision, strong leadership and local knowledge make me a natural fit,” she said.

[Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com]


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