Vail Valley Voices: Lots to celebrate in the schools |

Vail Valley Voices: Lots to celebrate in the schools

Sandra B. Smyser
Vail, CO, Colorado

Looking back on the 2009-10 school year, what an amazing nine months it has been!

In the race toward the finish line, we are quickly approaching the end of what has been a monumental year in terms of positive transformation, fundamental realignment of systems and success stories to talk about for years to come.

Just of few of the great things that have happened this year …

Twenty teachers from all four high schools and key district office staff members convened to discuss how our high schools could adapt to meet the needs of 21st-century learners. Through subsequent monthly meetings, the 2020 Task Force has worked diligently alongside other teachers to develop collaborative 21st-century lessons and produce engaging and challenging learning activities that will prepare our graduates for success in tomorrow’s workplace.

Brush Creek Elementary School developed the “Green your Routine” initiative. The Green Team assisted in the creation of Sowing Seeds, a pilot program sponsored by the Vail Valley Foundation and coordinated alongside master gardener Sandy Story that teaches kids the basics of gardening and the ease of making healthy food choices.

In addition, Brush Creek Elementary School students and staff are composting everything from banana peels to strawberry stems, recycling ink jets and mobile phones, writing a monthly Green Tips column in the school newsletter, reducing their paper usage by distributing information electronically and organizing green games with Gore Range Natural Science School.

Eagle Valley High School student Joseph DeLia will receive an associate’s degree from Colorado Mountain College this spring at the same time he accepts his high school diploma. DeLia will have completed 61 credit hours through all of the dual-enrollment courses offered at the high school and Colorado Mountain College.

Battle Mountain High School senior Alyssa Evans became the first in 15 years at Battle Mountain and the 10th in 58 years in Eagle County to be selected as a 2010 Boettcher Foundation Scholarship recipient. Evans plans to attend the University of Denver and major in international business, English or cognitive neuroscience and has also been accepted into the Pioneer Leadership Program, a rigorous academic and experience-based program that leads to a 24-credit minor in leadership that spans the four-year DU experience.

Eagle County Schools has always had the goal of pushing students to higher achievement, as confirmed in our mission statement of “Educating every student for success.”

This year, we pushed that goal to a whole new level by developing individual multi-year goals for every single student in grades two through 10. By setting an individual target for each child and designing programs to help students reach those targets, we are paying attention to the needs of each student, whether they are high-achieving or low-achieving.

Our goal is that your child continues to receive the rigorous academic experience necessary for them to succeed.

Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy student Faye Gulini made the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team and represented our country and our community at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Developed in the fall of 2007 under the Eagle County Schools and Ski and Snowboard Club Vail umbrellas, the academy strives to develop and support the rigorous academic, athletic and personal goals of students.

The Battle Mountain ProStart Culinary Team – comprised of JonPaul Ferzacca, Zander Lucero, Clint Hervert and Cliff Rodrick – took first place at the Colorado Restaurant Association’s state competition in March and placed fourth at the nationals competition in April. ProStart and culinary teacher Sharon Wible and mentor chef Paul Ferzacca have helped students in the program win eight state competitions, one national competition and two second places in national competitions.

Seventh-grade Minturn Middle School students Jack Dorfman, Amie Hixon and Rachel Weiss placed first in the regional competition for National History Day and went on to compete at the state competition. This dynamic trio created a documentary on the creation of medical air transportation through interviewing field experts, touring facilities, researching the history of the industry and collecting pictures and footage of helicopters.

Eagle Valley High School Principal Mark Strakbein was named the 2010 Colorado High School Principal of the Year. Strakbein has led the effort to increase student achievement and graduation rates with incredible success.

Since he became Eagle Valley High School principal in 2004, the graduation rate has steadily increased and is now more than 22 percent higher than it was just five years ago.

Along with spearheading these dramatic student achievement improvements, Strakbein has instilled a positive school culture that touches Eagle Valley High School students, staff and community members.

Celebrate the Beat announced a partnership with the University of Northern Colorado Center for integrated arts education to study and document the impacts of programs on its students, specifically students at Avon Elementary School.

Parallel to Celebrate the Beat, Avon Elementary has become known as the “School of Rock” in response to the students’ love for music.

Under the direction of teacher Jake Wolf, Avon Elementary is reinforcing a focus on the art of music, which research proves enhances a child’s ability to learn.

During year two of the Closing the Achievement Gap state initiative, Eagle County Schools worked diligently to use a monthly benchmark assessment system to provide real-time data to teachers regarding students’ immediate needs, focus on effective small-group instruction in elementary reading, concentrate on elementary computational fluency and align our curriculum so that it not only encompassed the new state standards, but it also created alignment across the system.

Currently a candidate for the International Baccalaureate program, Eagle Valley Elementary School wrote their entire International Baccalaureate curriculum, rewrote components of the curriculum in order to align with the changes in Colorado state standards and taught all of the units during the current school year.

Eagle Valley Elementary School will be looking for authorization in the fall of 2010 and, once authorized, this dynamic school will be engaging students in self-directed units of inquiry and providing students with an education that addresses 21st-century learning skills.

The 19th annual Wild West Day was an enormous success! Under the direction of Kathleen Cope, the largest fundraiser of the year raised nearly $20,000 for our nine elementary schools in the district.

Amazing community involvement undoubtedly supports our ability to educate our children for success.

A big thank you to The Youth Foundation, Eagle River Youth Coalition, Snowboard Outreach Society, Meet the Wilderness, Vail Valley Foundation, Public Education Foundation, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Cordillera Motorcycle Club, Gore Range Natural Science School, Vail Recreation District, Western Eagle County Metropolitan District, The Literacy Project, The Resources Center, Gifted Education Team, Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, Red Ribbon Project, Bright Future Foundation, Eagle County Health and Human Services, Early Childhood Partners, Vail Valley Medical Center and Celebrate the Beat for all that you do.

This is just a small taste of our many accomplishments during the 2009-10 school year.

We have a lot to celebrate and look forward to celebrating with you again and again in the future.

Sandra B. Smyser is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools.

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