C’dale students walk out to support teacher
CARBONDALE More than 100 Roaring Fork High School students walked out of class at noon Tuesday in support of longtime Spanish teacher Jill Knaus. After more than 21 years in the district – including 14 at Roaring Fork – Knaus said she intends to resign. Her students don’t want to let her go, and she doesn’t want to go, either.”I started crying when I told my Spanish III class this morning. All of them are taking Spanish IV; I didn’t want them to think I was abandoning them,” Knaus said after the impromptu rally, where more than a dozen students stood up and spoke out.Several students and parents have spoken out recently about the problem retaining good teachers at Roaring Fork, and concern over seeing students who live in Carbondale choosing to commute out of the district.Retaining teachers is a problem at most valley schools because of the cost of living. But tensions have been building among students, parents and teachers and the administration. “We have got great kids at this high school, and they deserve so much better than what they’re getting in so many respects,” Knaus said, adding that she was aware of up to 10 other teachers planning to leave.”This was a huge decision for me,” she said. “I am not ready to be done teaching. I’m old enough and I could retire, but I have a passion for teaching, and I’m passionate about these kids, and I love this town. It breaks my heart.”Principal Dale Parker said he’s received only three official resignations from teachers to date. Last year, six teachers left the school for various reasons.He said the enrollment didn’t justify Knaus being a full-time Spanish teacher next year, and that she has options to stay. Knaus said she will resign because she cannot do what Parker is asking while maintaining the standards she has set for herself and her students.If she stayed, she said she would have to pick up another class because there are not enough students to fill two sections of the lower-level Spanish. Knaus said she couldn’t physically take on another class. Her other option was to work for five-eighths time, which she said meant teaching more students for less money.The students aren’t going to let Knaus go without a fight, though.Her resignation serves as a symbol of what some teachers and students feel is an erosion of Carbondale’s only public high school. As they ready to move into a new $18.6 million building in the fall, several Roaring Fork juniors said they were considering going to other schools.”Knaus used a great term when she informed us of her resignation, she called it a ‘tipping point,'” said junior Torrey Udall. “I’m sick of kids having to depart Carbondale and their community and their school and their friends just because there’s an administrative issue.”Junior Krispin Jewkes said Knaus has been an inspiration to all the students.”Knaus is by far one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. I think it would be a mistake to let her go,” Jewkes said. “It’s been really disturbing to me when people come up to me and ask, ‘Should my child go to RFHS?’ But I’m starting to realize why. We’re losing the best of this school. … She is not going to leave without us fighting for it.”Several of the school’s Latino students stood up to support Knaus.”[Knaus] is one of the teachers who cares about the Latino population the most,” said Pumpkin Murillo.Her mother also came to the walkout and urged the students to help get the community involved in the issues at the school.”Please help me get the community involved to keep Mrs. Knaus. She is the best thing we have at this high school right now,” said Chella Murillo.The walkout took place in front of the school in view of Parker and assistant principal Barbara Mason’s office windows. Neither administrator came outside, and most of the students went back to class after the rally.
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