Vail Daily Editor and Publisher Don Rogers: Schools earn lots of praise |

Vail Daily Editor and Publisher Don Rogers: Schools earn lots of praise

Don Rogers
Vail, CO, Colorado

It’s great to see the avalanche of headlines lately about the successes of our school district.

My favorite remains Avon Elementary’s remarkable comeback being recognized as one of those rare Blue Ribbon schools nationally.

It shows what a passionate and dedicated principal (Melisa Rewold-Thuon), a fired-up staff and help from the Youth Foundation can accomplish in just a few years.

Five more schools here were selected for state honors: Brush Creek Elementary and the Eagle County Charter Academy earned the John Irwin Award for academic growth; and Edwards Elementary, Eagle Valley Middle School and Gypsum Creek Middle School won Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Awards this year.

Maybe the most interesting attention came during Bill and Melinda Gates’ visit to Eagle Valley High School in October. They spent pretty much the whole day with students and teachers to learn what Eagle Valley is doing.

Last month, Bill wrote about the school in a Wall Street Journal essay, praising master teacher Maryann Stavney and the school district’s pioneering efforts in paying teachers on measurable performance.

This is heady stuff for our school district. There’s quite a bit for us all to be proud of, too.

A capper was Sandra Smyser, the superintendent of Eagle County Schools, being named Colorado’s “Superintendent of the Year.”

Smyser and the board built upon what previous boards and superintendents did. Mel Preusser, who retired in 2003, and that board brought the merit pay system to Eagle County. John Brendza had the heavy lifting in the early days when the program was especially unpopular, and the current leadership refined it.

Don’t discount her accomplishments, however.

During her watch, the district was forced to undergo deep cuts and still improved on the quality of the education provided to our kids. That has been no mean feat.

Be jealous of her pay if you like, criticize her for not being Millie Hamner, the then-superintendent of Summit County’s public schools who turned her bonus down during the bottom of the recession while Smyser made the PR mistake of holding tight to hers, but I can pretty much guarantee that few critics would have returned theirs if they had the chance.

Also, thank administrators such as Michael Gass, who has served throughout the reigns listed above and been a major driver in the district’s progress.

They’ve well earned their plaudits.

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at or 970-748-2920.

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