Guest commentary: Here to help students get the opportunities to pursue their dreams

Christa Gieszl
Guest commentary
Aspen School District Board of Education candidate Christa Gieszl is running for one of three open positions in the 2021 school board election.
Courtesy photo

As a doctor, a lifelong advocate for public health, a passionate believer in public school education and the mother of three children, I bring a unique skill set to my candidacy for the Aspen School Board.

On my 40th birthday in January 2016, I received a cold call from Dr. Kim Scheuer of Aspen Medical Care asking if I knew anyone who might want to work as a doctor in Aspen. My husband and I, who are both board-certified internal-medicine physicians and the parents of three young boys, almost immediately said yes. The biggest draw was the Aspen school system, which is rightly regarded as one of the best in the state and the country.

And yet the system is at a crossroads: COVID continues to challenge us as a community, our children are at varying levels of education due to the disruptions of the past year and a half, and we have had recent changes in school administration. The past 18 months have brought stress and often fostered divisions between health care workers and citizens, and among parents, administrators and teachers. My skills and experiences make me well-suited to bridge these divides. As someone who is at home in these disparate worlds — public health, educational and parental — I can forge the necessary compromises so we can better address these challenges.

As the co-chairman of the Aspen school district’s District Accountability Committee, a position I have held since 2018, I actively pushed to expand the International Baccalaureate program. Through introducing open meetings, I helped foster better communication between the school and the community, an area that had been consistently identified as falling short.

When the COVID pandemic complicated the return to schools across the country in fall 2020, I cooperated with several like-minded advocates to work at the local, county and state levels to secure free weekly COVID testing at the school for all staff members — the first free testing that was available in our county. Through regular testing, we accomplished our goal of having students attend in-class school full-time.

As we enter a new school year, we face the continuing challenge of managing the COVID epidemic as well as the fact that students are returning to school at varying levels and abilities due to the disruptions of the past 18 months. As a member of the school board, my goals would be as follows:

– To advocate for all students at all levels of ability to receive the support and enrichment they need — whether they are gifted and talented, require special education services, or occupy the space in between where it is easy to be overlooked

– To ensure that the $93.4 million bond issue for facilities as well as the $2 million renewal of the Snowmass Village property tax and Aspen sales tax bond be spent effectively

– To pursue policies based on science that will keep the members of our school community healthy, both mentally and physically

– To prioritize investments in housing and other programs so that our excellent teachers can continue to live and work in our community

– To foster a climate of compromise and inclusivity so that, working together, we can begin to heal our community and move forward

I am a product of public-school education. I grew up attending public schools in small-town Wyoming and Colorado, and it was through the help and encouragement of my teachers that I realized that my dream of going to medical school was even possible. Our children deserve the same opportunities to pursue their dreams, whatever their socioeconomic backgrounds and starting points. I will work hard to make that so.

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 will be mailed out Oct. 8.