A tale of ski towns | AspenTimes.com

A tale of ski towns

Aspen, Steamboat and Telluride are small-town, world-class mountain resorts. The schools have similar demographics and emphasize balanced lifestyles and a whole-child education approach that focuses on teaching instead of testing, while traditionally still achieving outstanding results.

In 2010, the Aspen School District ranked No. 3 in the state according to the Colorado Department of Education, right behind Telluride at No. 2 and ahead of Steamboat at No. 9. All also have seen changes in district leadership since 2010. Eight years later, the Steamboat school district ranks No. 3, Telluride is still at No. 2, while Aspen has dropped to No. 20.

According to the Colorado Department of Education, since 2010, Steamboat and Telluride increased spending per student in line with the state average of $961. Aspen, $3,673 (380 percent more!). However, Aspen's average teacher salary only increased $2,331, Steamboat's increased $5,359 and Telluride's $7,083, 230 to 300 percent more than Aspen. They prioritized teachers. Aspen?

Most troubling, the work environment in our schools has suffered. Forty percent of respondents to Aspen's 2017 internal staff survey disagreed with the statement: "There is an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect amongst staff in my school." This sentiment has been backed up by both public and confidential comments from teachers and staff, with some of them describing the climate as toxic and one of fear.

What explains these differences? Since 2014, current and former district staffers and teachers who've spoken up have been clear: the poor leadership of our superintendent, mirroring the circumstances that forced him to resign in Indiana and once again, dividing a community.

Others are doing better, we can do better. For these reasons we respectfully request that the Board of Education appoint leadership that will unite our community and create the collaborative environment our principals, teachers, students and community deserve. Do not delay, a third party will not change these facts.

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Aspen Parent Action Committee