Kole wants to play ball with board
Andrew Kole, political gadfly and local media personality, said he thinks he’d bring a new dimension to the Aspen School District board.In his seven years in Aspen, Kole has run for elected office three other times, all unsuccessfully.”I’m trying to follow in Lincoln’s footsteps,” he quipped during a recent interview, a reference to the fact that the 16th president of the United States lost a bid for a U.S. Senate seat two years before he was elected president.Kole, 55, is single (he has a 32-year-old son from a previous marriage), lives in Aspen and makes his living as the host of “The Andrew Kole Show” on GrassRoots TV. He sells sponsorships and keeps a portion of the fees for himself, giving the remainder to GrassRoots TV.Kole said he’s running because he likes kids. He has been involved in a variety of school-related programs. Those have ranged from work as a substitute teacher of English and creative writing to coaching football with the Three Rivers Football League to coaching basketball for the schools and Aspen Recreation Department.”I look at the school board as a team,” Kole said. He said basketball teams, for instance, need different types of players to win games – point guards, scorers, rebounders and the like.”It’s the mix that counts,” he said.And he said he feels he will bring “something that currently isn’t there” – the ability to ask tough questions and look at “the big picture … to some degree from the kids’ point of view. Students should be considered first in all decisions.”Kole said he believes students are the least heard among the various constituencies the school board serves.He praised the current board for doing a good job during the past 18 months. But, continuing his basketball metaphor, he said, “I don’t see any of them diving on the floor for a ball.””I’m always on the floor for a ball,” he added.One particular area that needs work, he said, is the level of communication between the school board and the student body, something he said is “not mentioned in the job description.”He pledged the first thing he’d do if elected is “go to the schools and start talking to the students,” primarily at the high school and middle school levels.Kole questioned the school board’s judgment in hiring principals, citing the short tenure of former middle school Principal Phyllis Taylor as an example. She was “not well-received” by students or staff, in part because “she used to go into the lunchroom with a bullhorn and yell a lot,” Kole said.”I think their hiring process has been flawed at times,” he said, although he said the current administration appears to be doing a good job.Continuing with his assessment of the middle school as “the weakest sister” among the local schools, Kole said he believes mathematics instruction at the school is not strong enough.”A number of parents do not think their children are being challenged” in math class, he said.He also hopes to bolster Experiential Education, which he called a great program. In part, he said, it needs to be conducted earlier in the school year, not in mid- to late September, to avoid disruption of regular classes. Plus, he maintained, the district should seek outside funding to provide financial assistance to students who might have trouble paying the costs.Kole endorsed the two schools-related ballot questions before voters on Nov. 1. Calling the middle school “a bomb shelter with bigger doors,” he said a new school would be a “better environment for the kids” and might attract a higher caliber of teacher to the district.As the only candidate without children in the school system, he said he would be able to “speak up” more freely than others who might be worried about upsetting a teacher or a principal with authority over their children. Some have questioned whether Kole should be elected to the school board in light of an incident in 2002 involving a high school girls basketball team.Rangely High was playing the Aspen High Skiers, and its players used the boys locker room to change. Kole, who was a basketball coach at the time, entered the locker room area and, when confronted, did not leave immediately. He said he was retrieving an item out of an office and didn’t know the girls were undressing.No criminal charges were filed, but he was told to leave the school premises that night and later was dropped from the coaching roster. He now dismisses the incident as a mistake.Asked about his combative, sometimes domineering personality, Kole said he recently met with two of the current board members – Sally Hansen and Laura Kornasiewicz – and “they reminded me that board membership is not my radio show … I understand that.” He noted that he would be only one of five, limiting his ability to dominate any debate.John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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