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Identity problem at school district

Elizabeth Chicoine

What’s in a name? Plenty, if your name happens to be Meadow Mountain Elementary or Red Sandstone Elementary. Change could be brewing for your neighborhood school.Good scenario or bad scenario?Depends on how you see it.Given the raw data that the school board has wrestled with, I see it as a quandary. Looking at the plain truth of limited dollars, growth, and utilizing existing buildings, no one answer comes forth as harmless. Kids and families are bound to have some negative impacts as a result of this change.The district put together a commendable Coming Attractions Summary Report, which was dispersed Feb. 25, 2005. It was a lengthy, detailed analysis of thoughtful ideas on how to plan for capacity issues in our district.Too bad that this lengthy report couldn’t have been printed along with the local news release (April 15, 2005, Vail Daily) of the administrators recommendation to close Meadow Mountain in order to expand Battle Mountain High School. It would have helped to ease parent tensions on the question that begs to be asked, “How could they do this?”Being a school administrator can be a thankless job. Lots of strife and controversy are biting at the heels of our local administrators. Perhaps they need to market themselves in a better way. All that stood out to readers of our local paper was a bold, large quote from our superintendent, John Brendza, which referenced the administrators saying “They didn’t look at politics, cost, or who’s going to be upsetthey looked solely at kids.”Come on! Market yourself and your administrators a bit better. They did volumes of study on those issues. Don’t discredit that time and thought process. If the district is going to follow the new highly and often touted business model of performance pay, test scores, and reap what you sow, then let’s stay on target. Businesses most definitely look at politics, cost and rocking the boat. Eagle County School District’s mistake is marketing. Sell yourselves. Stick with your motto. If we are following the new market-driven business model, stay the course. Don’t have the superintendent make outlandish statements such as not looking at cost or who’s going to be upset. Parents are your customers. Please tell them that you DID indeed think of all of these in addition to their kids. One more “upset” customer means one more family leaving our public schools for the private sector.If ECSD fails to see parents as customers, there will be fewer kids to solely look at.For example, a recent education headline read that Avon Elementary was seeking a new name. Fair enough. Business 101 says market something that sells. Whoever thought of the name change was dead-on. Avon Elementary needs change. The writing is on the wall at Avon Elementary. Parents have left that school in droves. At least that problem has been recognized and change is in the wind at Avon.Ultimately, what happens at Meadow Mountain is up in the air. Perhaps it is not your child’s school. It is even far-fetched to call any school in our valley a “neighborhood,” as housing is not necessarily built that way in ski towns. But it is fair to say that politics, cost and families being upset are factors to deciding what is best for our kids. We all should pay close attention to how this problem is resolved. The process is perhaps as important as the resolution. Your child’s school could be next in Eagle County’s headlines. Be informed about trends in education both locally and nationally.As I read the news, a domino effect happens with this recommended conversion of Meadow Mountain. Red Sandstone Elementary would become a K-2 school and Minturn Middle would house grades 3-8. Red Sandstone’s reputation is stellar in the district is it smart to tinker with an outstanding school?Grades 3-8 in middle school might work, but let’s hope that a tremendous amount of character education and role-modeling of those older kids with the younger ones is included in staffing allocations. It could be an amazing school model if the staff and parental support is in place.Thank you to those school board members and district administrators who are tackling this decision for our kids. May the voices of your constituents be heard and wrestled with in your hearts and minds. The future of their children’s schools lies solely in your hands.As one reader of Mom Matters recently shared his thoughts with me regarding the school district’s new teacher pay system called TAP (see Opinion at vailtrail.com, March 31 edition), “If it doesn’t feel right, follow the money.” ECSD might want to heed the advice of that thought. Parents, the customers, need to feel right about how their tax dollars for education are being spent. Their voices do matter, along with politics and who will be upset by the choices being made in regard to overcrowding in our valley’s schools. VTElizabeth Chicoine writes about matters of the family for The Vail Trail. She can be reached for comment at echicoine@centurytel.net.


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