Parker touts time on school’s board | AspenTimes.com

Parker touts time on school’s board

John Colson

Elizabeth Parker

Although Elizabeth Parker’s run for a seat on the Aspen School Board will be her first foray into electoral politics, she said she’s already got experience, having served on the Compass board of directors.Parker, 45, is an attorney with three children, two who are enrolled in Aspen High School. But their preschool years were at the Early Childhood Center at the Woody Creek campus of the Aspen Community School, which led her to get involved in the preschool’s “parent board” for a couple of years.Having enjoyed the experience, she agreed in 1998 to join the board of the Compass educational organization, also located at the Woody Creek campus.”It was really great being a community member on the Compass board,” Parker said. At the time, two of her children were at Aspen Elementary, she said, and the directors wanted someone on the board who had no children in programs at the Woody Creek campus, to provide balance.

She said she recently resigned her position on the Compass board to pursue the Aspen School Board seat because she feels the skills she acquired from her work at Compass will be helpful at the Aspen School District board.Much of her time on the Compass board, she said, was spent as head of the executive committee, which had a great deal to do with running programs at the school, particularly since the school was without an executive director for some time.She said she learned a lot about the Colorado Department of Education and its approach to education, as well as about detailed aspects of educational management, such as budgets, personnel issues, salary scales, the process of creating a curriculum and about different kinds of educational philosophy.Her own philosophy, she said, is based largely on the concept of experiential education, which is a big part of the programs at Compass as well as at the Aspen School District.She described it as a “learning by doing” approach in which children are active participants in the learning process rather than merely absorbing lectures from teachers.She noted that the Aspen schools must teach to state standards and follow a somewhat traditional approach, “but they all combine aspects of experiential ed, which I think is very important.”

She said there are four areas of focus that she would pursue if elected.First, she said, it is critical for the district to follow responsible fiscal management practices and avoid the kind of deficit spending that plagued the district under previous administrations.In the 1990s, the district responded to shortages in state funding by dipping into its ample reserves, which were about $7 million after the district sold the Red Brick and Yellow Brick schools to the city of Aspen. Those reserves now stand at somewhere between $3 million and $4 million.She supports voter approval of the proposed $33 million bond (Referendum 3B on the Nov. 1 ballot), she said, and pledged she would keep a close eye on costs associated with the middle school and elementary school building projects. She said she has been on the district’s financial advisory board for a year and is well-acquainted with the financial intricacies involved in the proposed building program.She said the board has done a good job providing for fiscal cushions, including the “inflation factor” of 1 percent per month that was built into the budget and a 10 percent contingency fund. She also feels it would be prudent of the board to hire an “owners representative” to watch over the contractors on the district’s behalf.She also endorsed the proposed mill levy override (Referendum 3A on the ballot), saying “that extra $700,000 is critical to keeping our district running.”

Her second focus area, she said, would be preparing students better for life after high school. The schools must “teach to the tests” to a certain degree, she acknowledged, but added, “we can’t be churning out kids with no soul.” She said she does not think that is what is happening now, terming today’s graduates “happy, healthy, well rounded, curious, confident and competent.”I just want to make sure that we hold onto those values,” she said.If teachers and students work on some kind of “portfolio presentation” at the end of the year explaining what they learned and what they liked about the previous year, she said, it might help gauge student progress in ways that go beyond testing.For the last two goals, she said, she hopes to preserve and possibly improve the district’s focus on experiential ed and improve communication between the district and the community, including parents and the broader population.Beyond that, she said, “I think the district is on a good course,” crediting the current board and the new district administration with having “gone a long ways toward addressing the issues that were at the forefront” a few years ago.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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