Eagle County School District superintendent calls for more statewide leadership, support in wake of East High shooting
At school board meeting, Philip Qualman says Colorado is 'tragically behind the need' when it comes to supporting education
Eagle County School District Superintendent Philip Qualman called on state lawmakers to improve school safety and support for schools and educators at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting just hours after two administrators at Denver East High School were shot and injured by a student.
Qualman first offered his condolences to the two administrators and the East High School community at Wednesday’s school board meeting before making some pointed remarks about the state of school safety in Colorado.
“My fellow superintendents and I along with many other K-12 advocates have enjoyed some modest success in changing minds at Capitol this year in Denver. We’re seeing more investment in Colorado schools than we’ve seen in a decade,” he said. “But we, as a state, are still woefully behind the rest of the nation, (and) as evidenced by today’s events at Denver East High School, tragically behind the need.”
Qualman referenced the remarks he made last May following the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. At that time, he called for legislators to “realize that school safety is more than just gun control metal detectors and armed guards,” as he paraphrased it on Wednesday. These statements, he said, were “still very valid and timely.”
Qualman then called on legislators to better support schools with the resources they need, particularly amid the nationwide shortage of educators.
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Already, he said that schools were going above and beyond typical instruction to meet students’ basic needs — including mental health support.
“We provide those things because we have to make sure our students feel safe, and well fed and respected as a valued member of our school community before they can engage academically,” Qualman said. “Schools need the best, brightest and increasingly, the bravest among us to do all the things we’re expecting from the schools.”
Qualman added that there are “fewer and fewer people entering the profession every year, and you don’t have to look any farther than the headline today to understand why.”
“Let today’s events serve as yet another example of what life is like in our schools today,” he said. “We need our legislators and our leaders in the state to take this seriously.”
With that, Qualman urged state legislators and leaders to “take bold and innovative measures to bring high-quality educators to Colorado to do the job you’re asking us to do.”
“Recognize what you’re asking us to do, what you’re relying on us to do, and do everything to support that work,” Qualman said. “Before you pass any laws related to education, ask yourself: Does this legislation, does this budget decision demonstrate to our students, demonstrate to our teachers, and our prospective teachers, that Colorado is making a commitment to our children?”
The superintendent then listed several ideas on getting things started toward this end. These included moving stipends for teachers, student loan forgiveness for K-12 educators, scholarships for prospective teachers, providing a statewide benefit pool to improve insurance quality for educators, a tax income credit, and improving funding to “at least at the average per-pupil rate in the country, which we are $3,000 below today.”
“Look for ways to demonstrate that education in Colorado matters so that we can recruit the best, the brightest, and the bravest to this work — it’s essential that we get them here,” he said. “And right now, we’re not.”
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