Record school enrollment expected this year
EAGLE COUNTY — For the first time, more than 7,000 blessings from above are expected to show up for classes in the local public school system when school starts next week.
“We expect record enrollment, cracking 7,000 students for the first time,” said Jason Glass, superintendent of Eagle County Schools.
The district’s licensed staff — 567 teachers, principals, guidance counselors and other licensed folks — are gathering this week at Battle Mountain High School for Ed Camp, a series of seminars to help prepare for the school year.
School board member Kate Cocchiarella welcomed the crowd. Her six years on the school board have been a roller coaster.
Veteran staffers have been through a series of budget cuts. For the rookies, it might sound a little like listening to grandparents talk about the Great Depression.
“Through it all, the thing that has never suffered is the quality of our educators,” Cocchiarella said.
School districts run about 200 Ed Camps around the country, said Ann Heckman, the district’s director of educator quality.
With a host of seminars available, teachers get together in a room and talk about specific subjects. Heckman told them that if they’re not getting what they thought they would in a specific session, they can vote with their feet and go to another.
Facts, not fads
District officials aren’t chasing fads, Glass said. They’re staying the course and focusing on their instructional core.
“I know that sounds like a radical concept,” Glass said.
Teachers don’t spend their evenings by the glow of candlelight. It’s the glow of iPads and laptops, Glass said.
“I know that at this time of year we get anxious about all the new work. We know that it’s the beginning of so many early mornings and late nights,” Glass said. It’s also opening day for the students, and they’ll be making all kinds of memories,” Glass said.
Glass said the school district remains focused on three things:
• Teaching all kids to high standards.
• Student response to instruction and teaching kids according to their level of readiness.
• Empowering educators.
“They are an instructional triumvirate by which all high performing schools have paved their way to greatness,” Glass said. Others schools and districts might be pursuing other goals. These are ours.”
It’s all part of preparing students to compete in a global economy, Glass said.
“Global-ready” skills is an idea Glass said he stole from his Samsung phone.
“You can take it anywhere in the world, turn it on and it will work,” he said.
By the way, Harvard professor Tom Wagner compiled 800 studies on education and found that the biggest influence on the response to instruction model is students engaging in their own progress, a bottom-up approach to learning.
The district polled school district staffers to get a feel for how they feel in general about the district’s goals. Better, it turns out.
• Headed in the right direction, 78 percent, up 6.8 percent.
• Headed in the wrong direction 4.8 percent, down 5.3 percent.
• 65 percent gave local schools a B, up 6.2 percent.
• 11.7 percent gave them an A, up 2.4 percent.
“We see incremental changes, and that’s how quality happens,” Glass said. “If you hear stories that may sound too good to be true, they are.”
Many of us were passengers on an educational assembly line. Adults made all the decisions for us, as we were moved through the system, Glass said.
“The best education happens when the practitioners are in charge of it,” Glass said “We have not handed out a manual telling you how you’re going to do that.
“We’re not a teach-by-numbers district. We don’t tell you what you’re going to do or what you’re going to say. We try to treat people like professionals,” Glass said.
In terms of area, it’s the county’s smallest conservation deal ever. In terms of location, it’s one of the county’s rarest acquisitions.