Bargell: Friendly rivalry and the rise of Summit County’s educational star |

Bargell: Friendly rivalry and the rise of Summit County’s educational star

Cindy Bargell
Mountain Mom

This column has been swirling in my brain for the last couple of weeks. I’ve considered a number of different approaches, everything from gloating, to glossing over, the recent Summit School District successes. (OK, mostly gloating.) Neither, however, seemed entirely appropriate. It simply comes down to this — thanks for the hard work, it’s paid off. Let us know how we can continue to build on the recent success. For many of us it is the future.

Growing up in Boulder in the ’70s meant there were two high schools of choice — Boulder or Fairview. The rivalry between the schools often was fierce. It’s safe to say, however, that both local Boulder schools would readily unite against a common nemesis, adorned in red, white and blue, hailing from South Denver. When it came to sports we looked forward to playing “Creek” with equal parts dread and anticipation (OK, mostly dread). Cherry Creek was a bigger school, clearly filled an endless supply of bigger kids, all of whom had, we were certain, every advantage we probably lacked. One of the best moments of my final high school year was when our boys’ basketball team took state, topping Creek and various rivals along the way. I was just one student in a sea of hundreds, but the entire school shared in the achievement.

Recently, the Colorado Department of Education upgraded the Summit School District’s performance-based ranking. Summit moved up from roughly 68th in 2010 to 16th in 2014 out of 143 total school districts, and has earned the right to be identified as a district “accredited with distinction.” Under any math standard it’s a statistically significant jump. After hearing how Summit fared I just couldn’t help myself. I went online to see how other school districts did in this particular pairing, including my beloved Boulder (ranked 18th) and the fearsome Cherry Creek (ranked 38th).

Rankings, of course, are a product of evaluation criteria. CDE’s ranking criteria is based on academic achievement, academic growth, closing the achievement gap and post-secondary and college readiness. As a parent in the district, the movement is a welcome indicator that our schools are continuing to improve. Another ranking source, Colorado School Grades placed Summit High at 49th of 345 high schools identified statewide, while Boulder comes in at 89, Fairview at 58 and Cherry Creek moves up to 37. US News and World Report sees it all a bit differently, ranking Fairview as No. 3 and Creek as No. 7 statewide, while neither Boulder nor Summit make the top 50 list — at least, not yet. I’m encouraged because growth has been one of our district’s strong suits as three schools, Dillon Valley Elementary, Frisco Elementary and Summit High School, each received The Governor’s Distinguished Improvement award, given to schools that demonstrate exceptional student growth.

Summit hasn’t topped every ranking list, but the district’s movement up the CDE ranks — and its receipt of an English Language Proficiency Act Excellence Award, one of 10 districts in the state — deserves recognition.

So, even though Summit hasn’t topped every ranking list, the district’s movement up the CDE ranks — and its receipt of an English Language Proficiency Act Excellence Award, one of 10 districts in the state — deserves recognition. Like the long-ago state championship, our family comprises a mere .06 percent of the student population. Still, it’s fun to share in the achievement, although I know gloating is irksome (no matter the justification), so I’ll keep in mind that there always will be someone, some school, that ranks just a bit higher, and those that don’t fare quite as well.

What then is the appropriate response to this good news? For starters to say thanks. To the taxpayers who continuously, and generously, foot the bill for our schools. The recently released data shows there are people working to put the revenue to good use. To the teachers who have endured innumerable changes in the past decade it’s my hope the information provides some satisfaction that the work is paying off. Thanks, too, to the naysayers whose honest criticism has motivated the district to consider, and implement, changes to make our schools better, and to the administrators who get this job done. To the Summit students on the front line, I hope the recent accomplishments affirm your ongoing efforts. At the end of the day, however, taking charge of your future is the real reward. Never be complacent, but continue to use any friendly rivalry as motivation to achieve what might previously have seemed unthinkable. Me, I’m just one of the roughly 4,000 parents around the county who think it’s OK to take a minute to be proud of the home team.

Cindy Bargell is a mom and attorney who lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She welcomes your comments at

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