Vail Valley Voices: Pioneer spirit still strong in Eagle County Schools
Vail, CO, Colorado
In my home in Eagle, I have a little book detailing the history of Eagle County. Contained in this book are many images from the county’s mining and pioneer past. One image that stands out in my memory is of the old Avon School.
While the photo is black and white, my imagination makes the building a freshly painted white with sharp red trim and the sound of a clear bell that kids for miles could hear in the valley around Avon and up into Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch long before anyone had the radical idea of strapping planks on your feet and skiing down the mountain.
That old school in Avon is long gone, as are many such school buildings that once dotted this valley. But the pioneer spirit that built it, and the belief that by going where others would not and doing what others feared, is still very much alive in this valley.
Eagle County Schools is the proud heir to those little red schoolhouses. The 19 schools, 6,000 students, and 900 employees who make up this district continue the pioneer spirit today. Just some examples of this spirit:
n Eagle County Schools teachers are truly exceptional. An astonishing 70 percent of our teachers get more academic growth out of students than national norms expect. For most districts nationally, this number is only 30 percent.
n Eagle County Schools is a national innovator in performance-based compensation. Every person working for Eagle County Schools is paid based on their own performance as well as student achievement results. We are thankful for and reverent of the resources our communities provide us and use these strategically and with purpose.
n Eagle County Schools provides several career paths for teachers so they can grow in their profession. One of the unfortunate things about the education profession is that (for the most part) teachers have to leave teaching to grow professionally. In Eagle County Schools, we have mentor and master teacher career paths so that teachers can grow professionally and stay connected to the classroom.
n Eagle County Schools is cutting edge in the use of student data. ECS uses a sophisticated set of assessment tools to individually track the progress and needs of every student. We tailor individual goals for each kid and make sure all students have challenging goals that set them up for success in life. We provide teachers with access to student assessment data and set up time every week where teachers talk about student data and how instruction can change to best meet students’ needs.
n We embrace the diversity of this valley and consider it a strength. Many students who graduate from Eagle County Schools will go out into the world fully fluent in two languages and learning a third.
n We provide experiences to grow great human beings. We have neighborhood schools and relatively low class sizes where every kid has a name. Our schools provide art, music and athletic programs so our kids can be creative, cultured and well-rounded people.
n The schools are technology-rich. Through the continued support of this community, all of our schools have high speed internet access and large flat panel LCD displays in every classroom, all teachers have laptop computers, and all students have access to state of the art computer labs. Teachers also have access to computer-powered interactive white boards, document cameras, and hand-held electronic student response systems.
n We value each kid who comes into our schools. We turn no child away and we believe that character and greatness can emerge in every student.
n Eagle County Schools provides challenges for students. With Dual Enrollment and Advanced Placement options, ECS graduates often go off to college with their freshman year already completed.
Despite these tremendous successes, Eagle County Schools is still growing and learning. We can do better for our special education, English language learners, and gifted/talented students and we have efforts under way to dramatically improve the experiences for these kids. We can do better in speaking and listening to our community. This column is part of that effort.
The values of this organization match the pioneer spirit of this community. We work hard for a better future. We adapt, learn, and grow to be better than where we were before. We see the future in the eyes and hands of the kids in our classrooms and we look with hope for a better Eagle County, a better nation, and a better world.
Jason E. Glass is the director of human resources for Eagle County Schools. He can be reached via e-mail at Jason.Glass@eagleschools.net.