Guest commentary: Board of Education candidate will help area schools reach highest potential
I never knew how lucky I was to grow up in Aspen until I was able to raise my family here in the little hidden gem we all call home. Aspen’s focus on mind, body and spirit permeated the schools which stressed a whole-child educational philosophy. In addition to academic excellence, programs like Outdoor Ed instilled an appreciation for our environment and an independent spirit.
That’s how Aspen School District became one of the best rated districts in the state AND country, attracting families who trusted our schools to not only educate their children, but lift them to their highest potential. Unfortunately, the Aspen school’s reputation and rankings have slipped dramatically in the last few years. With all our schools having suffered serious setbacks, I’m motivated to help ASD re-summit the peak.
When my eldest entered kindergarten, I dove, heart and soul, into school-related volunteerism. For over a decade, I’ve been a teacher-helper in the classroom, served on both district and school accountability committees and become a confidant to many educators and parents.
When it became apparent that our previous district leadership was failing our teachers and students, I led the effort to expose our declining academics and deteriorating culture and climate, resulting in a difficult but necessary change. I then served on search committees that hired our outstanding new Superintendent and principals.
With new district-wide leadership in place – and my youngest out of diapers – I’m eager to bring my experience and consensus-building skills to the Board of Education. My highest priority is to address both opportunity and achievement gaps as well as pandemic learning and social-emotional losses, both of which hit vulnerable students hardest.
According to recent testing, over half of our current 5th and 6th graders don’t read on grade level, and seven out of 10 have fallen behind in math. Considering other distressing trends in our school, including social/emotional regression, it has frustrated me that these concerns have barely been discussed in this campaign. These aren’t just statistics; they are our kids!
Considering these imperatives – as well as the need to ensure affordable housing to attract and retain teachers – I was disappointed that the Aspen Education Association asked in its candidate questionnaire questions on national partisan issues like vouchers and school choice. These national issues are irrelevant in our district and an example of how union priorities can conflict with parents’ concerns and teachers’ actual interests, often eroding community trust and good will.
Not surprisingly, I wasn’t endorsed by our local union, but I do have the support of many current and former teachers of all political stripes who have worked with me directly and are thankful for my years of service. I was thrilled to see Superintendent David Baugh and High school principal Sarah Strassburger insist that “public school educators are to be apolitical in the workplace,” because I believe our teachers, parents and community members don’t want our schools to become infected with corrosive national politics.
Our kids are fortunate to have had dedicated educators. Their passion and teaching ability have inspired the hearts and minds of our children– but I worry that the unending demands and expectations placed on our teachers are burning them out.
I’m determined to continue fighting for our teachers and students by not just listening but by asking the hard questions to help our teachers, staff, and administrators address the remaining problems before us. If given the chance to serve on the BoE, I am confident that together, we will recapture the pinnacle of education excellence that the Aspen community expects and deserves.
Editor’s note: There are six candidates running for three open seats on the Aspen Board of Education. The Aspen Times has offered each candidate a guest column of 600 words or less. The election is Nov. 2; ballots were mailed out Oct. 8.
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“Beauty Noted” is a new column from Timbah Bell, a former Aspen High School English teacher who currently works as the Aspen Sister Cities English teacher based in Shimukappu, Japan.