New Eagle County Schools superintendent spends first day on listening tour
July 1, 2013
EAGLE — At least half of communication is listening, and Jason Glass did more than his share Monday.
Glass spent all day Monday on a listening tour, hitting six valley communities on the first day of his new job. He started in Vail at 8 a.m. and ended in Gypsum late afternoon, talking with and listening to hundreds of people along the way.
"There's no reason the schools in this community cannot be as good as any schools anywhere in the world," Glass said.
At each stop Glass opened the discussions with three questions:
1. What should we keep doing?
2. What should we stop doing
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3. What should we start doing?
The responses were consistent:
• Keep doing: Keep the good teachers and run off the bad ones who are left.
• Stop doing: Less testing or at least make the testing mean something to students and parents.
• Start doing: More foreign language instruction, even after the school district cut all foreign language except Spanish.
Some things, though, the school district can't do much about. One woman pointed out that girls in high school and middle are school are mean to each other.
The easiest question came from Joe, a middle school student from Edwards.
"Could you make the school year shorter?" Joe asked.
No, was the short answer, because state law sets the number of days, Glass answered. But what you do with those days is a different matter.
They could break up the year, Glass said — go to school a couple months, then take a week or two to learn about things like rocket building or cooking.
Education is shifting away from a content-based system where you deal with facts, to how you synthesize information, Glass said.
"Communication and critical thinking are the top skills listed by CEOs," Glass said. "Instead of the dates and death totals of wars, what led up to that war? Those are 21st century skills."
Second language learning should start in kindergarten, not freshman year of high school, said a mom during the Edwards meeting.
Glass said he's a fan of graduating kids who are bilingual or trilingual, suggesting starting second language instruction as early as kindergarten. By the time they get to middle school high school they would learn to speak English and Spanish without an accent, then learn a third language.
He said he wants to keep the dual languages where they are, and possibly expand them.
Those decisions and many others are based on a budget that cut $9 million in two years.
"It's all budget related — small class sizes, electives, extracurriculars," Glass said.
With the worst seemingly behind them, the school district is trying to figure out which programs to reinstate and how quickly, Glass said.
Teacher turnover is higher here than almost anywhere in the country, but similar to other districts in the Central Rockies resort region, said Brian Childress, the school district's human resources director. Much of that turnover can be traced to salary and cost of living, Childress said.
Speaking of saving money, local high school students can knock out half of their college education through dual enrollment classes taught through Colorado Mountain College. Local students earned 1,200 college credits last year and three earned their associates degree, Childress said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org