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Parents envision ideal Eagle Co. school superintendent

Matt Terrell
Vail CO, Colorado
Kristen Anderson/Vail DailyAvon resident and parent Kristi Ferraro, left, gives her ideas for the ideal Eagle County school superintendent at a focus group at Battle Mountain High School.
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Parents say there are those universal qualities ” all the makings of a good leader ” a school superintendent needs to have: Vision, integrity, experience, creativity.

But then there are those complex, in-the-trenches problems the perfect leader will have to understand and solve to be of any help for Eagle County School District, they say. There’s keeping good teachers in the valley, closing the achievement gap between English- and Spanish-speaking students and the controversial way we pay teachers, just to name a few.

At a series of focus groups this past week, parents, teachers, administrators and other district employees were asked what sort of person they wanted running the schools. One of the first questions parents were asked was how would they describe the community to someone who was thinking of moving here.



Tara van Dernoot, a parent at Edwards Elementary, said it’s important that the new superintendent understands all the cultural and socio-economic factors that contribute to the achievement gap between English-speaking students and their Spanish-speaking peers.



If it came down to two great candidates, she would choose the one that was bilingual, she said.

“They need to understand a Spanish-speaking family’s perspective,” van Dernoot said. “They need to understand why we have an achievement gap.”

Tom Gladitsch, a parent and a teacher at Red Canyon High School, said he’d like a superintendent who could understand the Teacher Advancement Program, be an advocate for it, but also see where it needs work and how it could be improved.



The program, which has stirred controversy, pay teachers based on how students perform.

Bob Cito of the Colorado Association of School Boards, the group conducting the superintendent search, told the group that the Teacher Advancement Program brought out some of the most passionate responses from all the groups, both positive and negative.

The answers from all the focus groups will be used to create application questions, interview questions and screening criteria that reflect all those things the community and school board wants to see in a superintendent, Cito said.

Kristi Ferraro brought up the animosity between schools that she witnessed during the heated debate over funding a community building for the Eagle County Charter Academy. Another parent said she was embarrassed by the harsh words she heard at a school board meeting where the community building was discussed.

The parents agreed that the new superintendent should be someone who could unite schools and parents. They want superintendent who is visible in the community and regularly visits schools so they get to know the parents and teachers. Interim Superintendent John Pacheco, who replaced John Brendza at the beginning of this school year, has set a good example in that respect, they said.

Hopefully, the new superintendent would understand what a large impact cost of living has on teachers and how many teachers are lost because they can’t afford the mountain life, they said.

And one big factor isn’t entirely related to schools. They’d hope a superintendent and his family really wants to be here and participate in a different way of living.

“We want someone who appreciates our mountain culture,” one parent said. “We moved here for a reason.”

The next step?

Still to come in the superintendent search” national advertisement, brochures describing our school district and community will be sent out, applications will be sifted, top candidates will be interviewed by the school board, and someone will be chosen.

The school board will make the final decision on March 19. The new superintendent will observe school district operations for a couple months, then officially start work on July 1.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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