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Hansen hoping to make a difference in schools

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

(Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series profiling candidates for the Aspen School Board.)

Sally Hansen’s youngest son, the last of three children, graduated from Aspen High School this year.

But “empty nest syndrome,” a common complaint among parents of college freshmen, hasn’t hit the Hansen household yet.

Hansen, an Aspen resident since 1973, prefers to focus her energy elsewhere.

“I decided that the school district was where I wanted to put my time and where I felt I could make a big difference,” she said of her decision to run for the Aspen School Board. “I feel that I’m pretty knowledgeable about our system, and it just seemed like a great place to make a difference.”

Hansen has sought to make a difference over the years by joining several community organizations. She’s logged countless volunteer hours for the Aspen Junior Hockey program, the Aspen Youth Center, the Aspen Education Foundation and the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation.

A recent survey of district “stakeholders” – including parents, students, teachers and administrators – revealed a need for more open, honest communication, Hanson noted.

“I believe that’s a challenge that needs to be met,” she said.

Facilitating communication could be as easy as establishing focus groups or soliciting suggestions from district staff, Hansen said. She also suggests “assigning” a school to each member of the board, “so that you understand that school inside out and backwards.

“I think it’s very important to hear what people have to say,” she added. “We need to know what our community wants and how they want to educate their children. We need to make sure that everybody understands that somebody is listening.”

As for Hansen’s own educational philosophies, she backs the district’s idea of “the whole child.” That includes the growth of popular district programs such as Outdoor Education and after-school athletics, but it also addresses students’ needs in the classroom.

“I think we pride ourselves on having a district that produces really well-balanced children, and I think we’re on the right track,” she said. “[But] I believe that it’s really important to educate our children as well as we possibly can, that no doors are shut for any child.

“Some kids have vocational needs, and some kids are applying to competitive colleges. We need to make sure we do the best job we can in providing assistance” to both ends of the spectrum, Hansen said.

Test scores are a sore subject for some schools, she said. The University of Colorado has changed its admissions requirements, for example, and Aspen’s students should adjust, she said.

“I am concerned that we have a lot of kids that don’t do as well on their SATs as they’d like to.”

Hansen is also interested in the district’s financial aspects.

“I’m concerned that we really have a long-term plan in place that’s reliable and put together with really good input,” she said.

Most of all, Hansen hopes to help the school board “get in touch” with the district and the community at large.

“We just can’t lose sight of what we want and how we’re going to get there,” she said. “I believe that all schools have their strengths and their weaknesses. We need to build on these strengths, and it’s very important that we define these weaknesses and have an action plan in place.

“What we don’t want is to be sitting here a year from now, talking about the same weaknesses. We need to be talking about how those weaknesses have improved.”

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


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