Donovan new to school board, but not schools | VailDaily.com

Donovan new to school board, but not schools

Scott N. Miller

Preston Utley/Vail DailyPat Donovan is the newest member of the Eagle County School Board.

AVON – Pat Donovan knows about white flight and the changing racial makeup of the local public schools. That’s why he was ready to run for a spot on the Eagle County School Board this fall, the Vail Resorts executive says. As things turned out, Donovan didn’t have to campaign, or even ask for votes. Because he was the only person from the Avon district to run for the school board, he got the job. When he’s sworn in Nov. 9, he’ll replace Louise Funk, who decided not to run for another term.Donovan and his wife, Marcy, are the parents of three kids. Two attend Avon Elementary School, and the youngest will start there next year.With Marcy a former teacher and Pat coming from a family with a lot of public school teachers over the generations, getting involved in their own kids’ school came easily.Marcy is involved in the Wild West Day fund-raiser for local elementary schools, and Pat for the last few years has been on parent committees at both the school and district levels.Those “accountability committees” meet with principals and district administrators to make sure schools are keeping the books balanced and making progress on their academic goals for kids, among other things. Working on those committees gave Donovan the push he needed to seek a spot on the school board.

If he had run a campaign, Donovan said, he wanted to talk about the need to better market the school district’s accomplishments, provide parents better information about how the schools and their kids are performing, and to find ways to address the changes that are driving many white parents in the upper valley out of the public schools.”I’d like to see more focus by the board to address what’s causing people to lose faith in the public schools,” Donovan said. “We do a good job in the schools, but we could do a better job of promoting that.”The kids the district does best educating are those that stay at the same school for a number of years. Recent results from the Colorado Student Assessment Program, or CSAP tests, show that white students who are in the same school for a few years do as well as any kids in the state.But throughout the district, about 40 percent of all students don’t end the school year where they started it.”That’s a really big challenge,” Donovan said.To help educate the kids who move around, Donovan said, the district needs to look at what’s been done in other school systems with similar problems and learn from those that are the most successful. All that needs to happen while doing a better job of getting information to parents, in a form they can understand.”I’ve seen the amount of data collected, and it’ll blow your mind,” Donovan said. But that information is often presented in a form only teachers and administrators can understand.

“It needs to be in plain English,” he said.Donovan said he’d also like to see some fine-tuning of the district’s Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP.”I’m a fan of performance-based systems,” he said. “But we still can do a better job.”Mostly, he said, fine-tuning TAP means simplifying the program and, perhaps, clearing up the ties between professional development and pay.”If development is tied to pay, it can get confused,” he said. “You can lose your focus.”While Donovan is new to the school board, his time on the parent committees has given him an idea of the time he’ll need to devote to his new, unpaid job. And one of his neighbors thinks Donovan will do a fine job.”He was very conscientious, and very involved,” Bob Hintemeister said.

Hintemeister, a former member of the Avon Elementary School oversight committee, said Donovan did his homework, and, as the school’s representative to the district’s oversight committee, always came back with good information.”He’s concerned, and an involved parent,” Hintemeister said. “That’ll help him.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado