Roaring Fork Re-1 school board outlines ‘vision’ during retreat | AspenTimes.com

Roaring Fork Re-1 school board outlines ‘vision’ during retreat

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – Success stories in Roaring Fork District Re-1 schools from Glenwood Springs to Basalt are many, school board members agreed during an all-day retreat with district staff Friday at the Third Street Center in Carbondale.

Communicating those successes in a way that reaches not only those directly involved with the schools, but the broader public, is the challenge at hand.

And effectively engaging the public in areas where improvements can be made is also critical, board members agreed.

“When I look back 10 years from now, I want to know that we provided all of our kids the opportunity to be successful in school,” Re-1 Board President Matt Hamilton said as the board and district staff discussed what they would like to see as their legacy.

“We might have disagreements along the way on how to get there, but I think we can all agree on that,” he said. “And, communication is a big component of building and achieving a broader mission.”

Hamilton is one of three newcomers on the five-member Re-1 board following the November election, along with Daniel Biggs and Terry Lott Richardson.

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A standard practice whenever there is a significant change in the make-up of any elected body is to have a retreat, usually led by an outside facilitator, to go over goals and objectives, and to generally get to know each other better.

There was some business at hand at the special Friday meeting, including a closed-doors session to receive the results from a 360-degree district staff survey regarding Superintendent Judy Haptonstall’s leadership. The board does not intend to make any decisions on that front until the first week of January at the earliest.

Most of the day was devoted to a broad discussion of short- and long-term goals, on everything from the district’s efforts at education reform to creating a culture that honors and respects teachers. The retreat was facilitated by longtime Roaring Fork Valley public policy consultant Michael Kinsley.

Nearly every point made came back to improving communication, and coming up with effective ways for anyone who’s interested about school district policies to have their say.

“A big challenge over the years has been communication, which really means integrating all of the stakeholders,” said Bob Johnson, the board’s longest-serving member. “It is the overarching issue … getting everybody swimming in the same direction.”

The board re-affirmed its commitment to completing an independent audit of both internal and external district communications during the spring semester. Former school board member Bill Lamont is working with a consultant from the Colorado Association of School Boards to do the audit.

An effective communications plan is seen as a way to clear up some of the negative perceptions about local schools, and public education in general.

“People tend to pay attention to what’s wrong with education, but not what’s right,” Lott Richardson said.

Some of that starts with providing adequate support for teachers in carrying out what’s being asked of them by district administrators, Biggs said.

“Teachers and parents talk a lot,” he said. “So, it does start with teachers.

“The more we can help sustain and balance them, that all takes care of itself,” Biggs said. “As long as teachers are complaining to the parents, we’ll never fix that.”

No decisions have been made yet about how best to utilize the new mill levy override funds approved by district voters in the Nov. 1 election. But one consensus among school board members is that teacher compensation needs to be addressed, especially after multiple years of wage freezes and salary cuts.

The board plans to have that discussion soon after the first of the year, once individual school teachers and administrators have a chance to establish priorities for use of the mill levy funds.

Other goals touched on at the retreat included improving parent involvement in schools, continued support for and improvement of the district’s “Moving On” standards model, increasing support for Re-1 schools by area businesses, and maintaining adequate facilities and access to technology.

jstroud@postindependent.com