Change we can’t believe in
First, let me commend the district and its teachers for receiving the Accredited With Distinction award. Only 14 of the 183 school districts statewide received this honor.
For the past two years ASD has placed in the top five districts for ACT scores. Our graduation rates were 97.78 percent in 2007-08 and 94.7 percent in 2008-09. Like the majority of districts in Colorado, this has been accomplished using a traditional school-year calendar.
A “balanced calendar” is not appropriate for ASD. The District Accountability Committee found, “There is not much solid data to draw upon. Research to date has been mostly incomplete or poorly designed.” Aspen is a successful district that does not need to try a different approach.
A change to a “balanced calendar” is directed at remediation of less than 10 percent of our student body, roughly 149 students, at an estimated additional annual cost of $40,000 to $60,000. As a taxpayer I am frustrated that the proposed changes were not mentioned before the November elections. Would the citizens to whom you report have approved the recent increases knowing a flawed calendar was looming?
The proposed changes will have a sweeping impact on our small community. How is daycare going to be provided in two-week gaps for working parents? The city of Aspen has already made significant budget cuts. Where is the money and qualified staffing coming from to support the necessary daycare programs? Children who participate in sports will not be able to attend family vacations due to scheduling conflicts. Teens who work in the summer will be hard pressed to find employment for a nine-week period. Local businesses will still need staff for our visitors after our kids have returned to school in August, during summer high season.
Finally let us not forget our teachers. We have extraordinary, highly qualified teachers in our district. Shortening the summer means they will have limited time to advance their own education. Those that supplement their annual income during the summer may be forced to leave due to economic difficulties.
The district has stated a desire for “transparency” but has yet to answer a single question posed on this controversial issue. Letters sent directly to the BOE have not been made public, a violation of district policy “EGAEA,” which states, “Electronic mail sent or received by the Board, the district or the district’s employees may be considered a public record subject to public disclosure or inspection under the Colorado Open Records Act.”
Considering changes to our calendar to accommodate our families is a great idea, but changing from a traditional calendar to a balanced calendar does not make sense given our district’s already-spectacular performance.
Before we turn this community on its ear, please give serious consideration to other options, including upgrading academic materials and more training for teachers. Our children’s education should not be an experiment. Let’s keep the positive trends going and continue to provide a quality education for our children.
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