Chris Gallen: Another school district ‘stealth’ decision
OK, now I’m actually getting legitimately angry. The school district cuts the ? That’s bad enough, but it was yet another “stealth” initiative that caught everybody by surprise.
Ditching the winter recreation program really cuts into exposing all our elementary kids to our mountain culture and to the core of why many of us live above 9,000 feet. It is a weak and irrelevant argument to tie it as a direct negative impact to CSAP scores; education doesn’t translate to just those three to four CSAP testing areas. If there is a timing conflict, move the program to before the test season as a kickoff to buckling down, or move it to after the test as a reward for hard work. Timing is easily solved, and may bring to light other unknown reasons for this short-sighted decision. Once a program is gone, it never comes back. Kids will do great things with the right motivation. There are quite a few parents in this community who feel passionate about the winter outdoor program and winter sports in general. Having our children exposed to the varied activities and participating in these activities with friends was one of the highlights of their year. Will they ski or ice skate outside of school? Yes, many will. It is ironic that as we currently argue over “equal access,” we simultaneously pull the rug out from under many of these same kids who may now never participate in any of these activities in their life. How is that “equal access”?So I have to return to the reason provided: not money, not denying equal access, but rather a tunnel-vision “teach to the test” mentality. While there is no direct line to new superintendent Heidi Pace, I fear it is a harbinger of what is to come, and what her leadership is encouraging. Colorado Springs (her previous district) isn’t exactly known for a commitment to progressive thinking. The new M.O. of Summit School District seems to be: a) Teach to the test b) Do it at the expense of higher-achieving students c) Slash any program that isn’t test specific I fear the International Baccalaureate (IB) program lands on the chopping block next with a stealth letter to accompany it. Or simply pick the program du jour that doesn’t directly deal with the TEST – removing or reducing social studies, recess, snack, art, music, school plays, and so on. I chose to live in this community based a lot on what it has to offer, but also because I saw a great school district to help educate my children. The district wasn’t just ABCs and 123s, but showed a strong commitment to broad-based education. I don’t want to have to reevaluate my decision, but lately some of this small-mindedness is raising concerns. I know parents of high-achieving students that are questioning staying in this district and many that have already answered those questions and moved on. Kids are portable and there other options. Losing the winter recreation may not cause parents to flee, but certainly with the hot button issues lately – equal access being one – the Summit Schools’ PR machine isn’t exactly hitting home runs. In aggregate, a lot of these recent decisions raise multiple red flags. I’m glad to see there is pushback from the community, and I hope it continues. Cutting the soul out of this place isn’t worth a few extra points on a test.Beyond that, it doesn’t take too long to realize that if your highest test scorers migrate to other areas … well, the net result is the district accomplishes nothing. It is a shame and I really hope we put an end to some of this nonsense. I realize budgets are tight, but was the mill levy simply a “bill of goods?” When the decision isn’t financial, it stings even more. I understand principals need to improve their scores, but there are options. Don’t just cut out winter recreation (or any other program, class or club) in the form of a letter, with no active or transparent discussion of an alternative. Lastly, a simple suggestion: If test scores are the motivating factor, why not make the winter recreation program a reward in the same way the swim party (for Accelerated Reading) is a reward? Again, kids will do great things with the right motivation. Have them earn it.Seriously, we need to address these questions not just from the perspective of test scores, but from the perspective of education and the unique features of this community. The last eight to 10 surprise decisions from the board and the district have been beyond disappointing. These back-room, unilateral decisions are quite odd. The shroud of secrecy has me deeply concerned for the future direction of this district. Some basic Public Relations 101 would go a long way. Beyond that, a wholesale change to the school board may be in order.I’m going to outright ask the program be reinstated. I know that is naive and wishful thinking, but I hope others will request the same.
Editor’s note: The decision to cut the winter rec program was apparently made last spring, before the new superintendent had arrived.
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