Farrell attends conference for resort superintendents in Jackson Hole | AspenTimes.com

Farrell attends conference for resort superintendents in Jackson Hole

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The nation’s school districts share many common concerns ? drug prevention, technology upgrades, the needs of Spanish-speaking students.

However, few schools share the concerns of Aspen’s top administrators.

This problem recently sent Aspen Superintendent Tom Farrell to Wyoming for a conference of school administrators from resort towns.

Though Farrell and his peers frequent national conferences, the superintendents found little in common with the administrators they had met. This frustration led Sandee Oehring, superintendent of schools in Jackson Hole, to organize a conference of her own, Farrell said.

“[She] thought it would be a good idea to get the superintendents of the ski resorts together,” he said.

So, in mid-October, Farrell joined superintendents from Vail, Park City, Utah, and Sun Valley in Idaho for their first intermountain conference. The five administrators spent a weekend discussing everything from drug prevention programs to academic standards ? the usual fare for administrative conferences ? as well as delving into issues unique to their resort schools.

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Problems related to teacher turnover ? affordable housing, adequate salaries and raises ? are still a major concern for mountain districts, Farrell said.

The group also examined programs unique to each school district; for example, Sun Valley’s “trimester” schedule. With three terms in a school year, Sun Valley’s student athletes ? most often young skiers eyeing professional competition ? are able to take a small sabbatical to focus on their sport.

Aspen’s host of unique programs ? among them, experiential education and a designated college counselor for high school students ? were also examined, Farrell said.

“We started with four or five topics and ended up with 20,” he said. “We actually didn’t want it to end, it was so valuable to all of us.”

So valuable that the five school districts plan to continue their private conference. And the next installment, scheduled for April, will take place in Aspen.

That conference will include, of course, a tour of the recently expanded high school. The district will also provide presentations on its International Baccalaureate program, an advanced placement curriculum for AHS students. The program, which offers a specialized degree for graduating seniors, is offered in less than 200 schools worldwide.

“They all wanted to look at the IB program. They’re all quite envious,” Farrell said.

In a prelude to next year’s conference, Oehring will visit Aspen next month with a team of Jackson Hole administrators, Farrell said. Oehring plans to personally visit each school district that participated in last month’s conference.

[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is jenniferd@aspentimes.com]

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