Vail Daily’s Don Rogers: Where heart fails; hard lessons for our school board |

Vail Daily’s Don Rogers: Where heart fails; hard lessons for our school board

No one can doubt the hearts of Eagle County’s school board members. It’s their heads I’m worried about .

Most recently the board caved in to understandable pressure from people connected with each elementary school to keep theirs open in the face of a $6 million shortfall next year.

That would be parents, educators and politicians pleading that out of the glut of these schools from Edwards east, theirs is the most important and a gem to guard with their very lives.

Even if their school’s enrollment has dwindled to half its capacity and has kids from out of town going there, some driven past closer campuses.

The evidence is reasonably clear that teachers matter more to educational quality than buildings or even class sizes.

But the school board, bless their hearts, went with the buildings. The district’s leaders displayed the same weakness, unfortunately, that led to an ill-advised election campaign for a school tax increase after a third-party poll showed rather decisively that it would fail. As it did, decisively.

The hard fact is that their circle is too small. They continue to mistake noise from a few people for the sentiments of the whole community. Then they ignore compelling evidence that their tight circle does not speak for the valley.

So they squander precious time and energy on failing ventures, and fall for heart-tugging pleas that lack much-needed logic in hard times.

This partly is the community’s fault, if assigning blame. We’ve left the school board to become insular — recruiting to fill vacated seats by appointment and avoiding elections. Few run for this hard, volunteer duty in which you are assured of making no friends for the cold work needed.

Closing two schools would save a million dollars, money that could and should be invested in teachers if the aim truly is doing the best job possible to educate children.

If the school board would focus squarely on education, maybe they’d be better able to withstand well-meaning but flawed appeals to their hearts. As it is, the district is exacerbating its problems and not showing real fiscal discipline.

Which in part is why last fall their pleas to the community’s heart fell flat. What we need most are sharp pencils, not “Save MY School” buttons.

The path to passing a school tax increase runs through the whole valley, not the shrill voices who failed to muster votes in November.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the leaders guiding education could show that they are capable of learning?

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

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