Langley: Expand students’ horizons
October 20, 2005
Aspenite Bob Langley will have at least one child in each of Aspen’s three schools for the next seven or eight years, so he “might as well know everything that’s going on.”So Langley, a ski instructor who has been involved in commercial real estate for the past 15 years, is running for a school board seat.”I’ve got a vested interest in what happens in the schools,” he said.Langley, 55, has never run for elected office before, but his community service record includes stints on the boards of the Aspen Buddy Program and the Aspen Skating Club.He first came to Aspen in 1976 as a visiting member of the Kansas City Blues rugby team, playing at the annual Ruggerfest championship series. He later moved here and, for a time, played for the Gentlemen of Aspen rugby team.
But before coming here to stay, he spent three years at a Roman Catholic seminary in Southern California, from 1982 to 1985. But he was coming to Aspen for the summers, playing with the Gents, and in 1984 he spent the summer at the Snowmass Monastery before concluding in 1985 that the life of a priest was not for him.He ended up teaching for three years at a private Catholic school in Atlanta, where he volunteered serving meals at a soup kitchen. Still, he would come to Aspen for extended stays, bunking at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and in 1988 the Rev. Tom Bradke invited him to come and teach religious education classes for the parish. He did that for a couple of years, then got married, started a family and was forced by economic necessity to find higher-paying work. He ending up a commercial real estate broker and ski instructor.Although he has a religious background, he said religion should not be taught in public schools.”I do not see inconsistencies between evolution and Genesis,” he said. “It depends on how you read it. I am not going to make my decisions based on what the church is telling me to do.”This is not the first time Langley has considered running for the school board. He thought about it two years ago, but two of his friends already had declared, so he backed off. One of those friends, Laura Kornasiewicz, won the seat and will be on the board for two more years, at least.
Langley said he supports what the board has been doing, mentioning specifically the style of management introduced when Superintendent Diana Sirko came to the district two years ago.He said he feels the board is holding to the correct line of management by hiring experts and setting policy criteria that highlight the responsibilities of staff members and the tasks they must perform.The only policy issue Langley referred to specifically was that he is “very sensitive to the successful testing of the students … what the schools do is form the whole person.” To do that, he said, community service must be a curricular requirement “instead of an occasional thing.””I think if we can expand the horizons of our students, we are encouraging them to have a conscious impact on their own life,” he said. “I want to expand their horizons so they can see the bigger picture.”He said the Experiential Education program should incorporate team-building exercises as well as a community service component, such as working in a soup kitchen in Denver, rather than simply giving students a chance to get out in the wilds of the West and have a good time riding horses, kayaking or hiking.
As for standardized testing, Langley said it is necessary but, “I don’t think you do that at the exclusion of a balanced curriculum.”He said he does not want to turn out graduates who are “great at taking tests but don’t think, don’t feel, don’t care,” though he said he does not feel that is what Aspen graduates are like now. He said he feels the district is striking a good balance in developing students’ personalities.Langley also said Sirko appears to have a good grasp of the district’s needs and the respect of her staff and of the board.”I don’t have an outstanding agenda,” he said. “I think they’re going in a direction that, for the most part … I’m glad to see.” He endorsed ballot referendums 3A and 3B, which seek money for the local schools, and said that the district is acting correctly in commencing “gatekeeping” at the kindergarten level to monitor and control the number of out-of-district students entering the Aspen schools.John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org