Kornasiewicz ready for change on school board | AspenTimes.com

Kornasiewicz ready for change on school board

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

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

When a spot opened up on the Aspen School Board in 2001, Laura Kornasiewicz nearly threw her hat into the ring.

Despite the encouragement of family and friends, the Snowmass Village resident eventually declined to run.

“I really felt, if you want to be serious about a position like this, that you really need to do your homework,” she said. “It’s one thing to be involved at the school level or the classroom level, but it’s another thing to be involved – and really know what’s going on – at the school board level.”

Kornasiewicz, the mother of two Aspen Middle School students, has since become involved on nearly every level of the school district. She’s a parent volunteer with the District Accountability Committee and serves on several subcommittees and task forces. She’s a former vice president of the Aspen Education Foundation, and she helped the organization raise thousands of dollars for district programs.

And in the two years since the 2001 election, she’s attended nearly every meeting of the Aspen School Board. She’s done her homework, and, this time, she’s ready to run.

Kornasiewicz is interested in joining the school board for many reasons, “but probably the most succinct one is that I possess the abilities that the school board needs to move forward: a love of public education, a keen understanding of the board’s role in the district, as well as the energy and commitment” required of members, she said.

Kornasiewicz hopes to parlay that energy into a fresh voice for the school board – one that can help the organization improve its rapport with the community.

As a member of the District Accountability Committee’s policy governance task force, Kornasiewicz was recently asked to review several “case studies” involving the current school board’s interactions with the community. One study involved a controversy that erupted in 2001, when a handful of parents publicly criticized the performance of former Superintendent Tom Farrell.

Proper communication might have helped the school board quell the controversy quickly, Kornasiewicz said. Members must remain open to community concerns, she said.

“Communication, as overly used as that [word] is, is a key piece to the improvement of the school board,” Kornasiewicz said.

A second committee, the Choice, Capacity and Class Size Task Force, has allowed Kornasiewicz to study the district’s burgeoning enrollment. The task force will eventually help the district “adapt parameters” in order to manage this growth, Kornasiewicz said.

She hopes to shape these policies both as a task force member and a school board member.

“The steps and measures we have currently in place … are just too loose, they lack consistency,” she said. “That really opens it to someone’s opinion, rather than a group of people or the school board saying, `This is what we believe to be a good policy.'”

Instead, the district needs to build “a statistical model that allows us to continue looking 10 and 12 years down the road,” Kornasiewicz said.

“I think we could ease into this [issue] with diplomacy and sensitivity, and that would be my goal,” she said. “It’s important not to forsake [out-of-district] kids’ quality of education, but, at the same time, meet the needs of those kids who have grown up in our district.”

Quality of education is another Kornasiewicz concern. A possible four-year term would allow her to study both student and district performance, she said.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program – an advanced placement program adopted by the district in 2000 – would benefit from this study, Kornasiewicz said.

“I think that, in the steps to further implement IB, we need to work carefully and closely to ensure that we’re including as many kids and we’re serving as many kids’ needs as possible.”

The Colorado Student Assessment Program can also serve the district, Kornasiewicz said. The state-mandated tests are by no means popular, but they do help Colorado schools in their quest for excellence, she said.

“It’s here to stay. We need simply to embrace it and support it at all levels,” she said.

Kornasiewicz is ready for a change in the Aspen School District. She’ll get it, since the school board must replace two of its five members on Nov. 4.

“It makes me salivate, really,” she laughed. “It’s something that I really look forward to. I don’t view it with any trepidation at all – it’s just a great opportunity to view things outside of the box.”

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

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