School district moving in the right direction |

School district moving in the right direction

Christine Ina Casillas

The county’s school district might be making changes in the right places, school board candidates say, but they don’t agree with everything.

“I don’t agree with the merit pay,” said Eagle resident Mary Ann Stavney, about the school district’s Teacher Assessment Program, or TAP. “When you attach money to a program, you’re going to get some changes in the undercurrent, and you’ll get hostile attitudes.”

Stavney is running against Vern Brock for the Eagle seat – District D – on the Eagle County School Board. The winner will replace Barbara Schierkolk, the current board president, who has decided not to run for re-election.

Stavney and Brock spent time at Fiesta’s Mexican restaurant in Edwards Thursday, talking to a small group of residents and parents about their candidacy for the school board.

Brock agreed with Stavney about the TAP program, saying that it’s going to one of his biggest challenges as a potential board member.

“The TAP program is a major challenge,” Brock said. “If you listen to the teachers and then you listen to the parents, you don’t know what it’s really about because it a 50 percent equation on both ends.

“It’s a hard deal to swallow for the teachers because the parents are saying, “I’m going to hold you accountable for our kids’ scores.”

Brock said those scores relate to factors outside the school system, especially when it comes to non-English speaking students, which also is a problem the school district faces.

Eagle resident Jim Himmes questioned the candidates take on the No Child Left Behind Act, how they intend to incorporate the Spanish-speaking students into an all-English speaking classroom.

“We’re strapped by the No Child Left Behind law,” Brock said.

Himmes said the county has “three major thinkers built into one community.”

“It boils down to economics,” Himmes said. “You have the big city thinkers from Chicago or New York; you have the ranchers and you have the Hispanics. It’s like a mini-Chicago in this small valley.”

“Leave No Child Behind – Basically, I dislike it,” Stavney said. “The breakdown of the act will do some interesting things, and I think there will be lawsuits because of it.”

Stavney said the school district needs to spend more time finding Hispanic teachers and Hispanic leaders for their students, teachers, parents and administrators.

But John Stavney said the teachers in the school district are young.

“Eagle County has a lot of teachers who are young, and it lends a different statistic within the school district,” John Stavney said. “And I think it’s a weakness.”

But Mary Ann Stavney said the teacher turnover has gone down but if varies by school.

A former teacher in the Eagle County School District, Mary Ann Stavney said when she started teaching middle school in 1995, about 11 new teachers joined the district. Nine new teachers arrived a year later.

“They were hip, young people,” John Stavney said.

Because of Mary Ann Stavney’s background as a teacher, she said it will be useful for the school board to have a teacher on their team.

And both candidates say it’s a good time for them now to put their time and efforts into something more challenging that allows community mindedness and change in education.

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at

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