Vail Daily column: Reflecting on the past year
The New Year is a time of hope and anticipation for what is to come. It is also a time to reflect back on the prior year and consider the accomplishments and challenges — using those experiences to learn and grow.
Marking back one year from today, our community’s schools have some remarkable accomplishments to celebrate and note, including:
• A grassroots movement made up of educators, parents and community leaders had tremendous influence in the legislative session to restore roughly 10 percent of the dollars cut during the recession. A number of individuals associated with Eagle County Schools played important roles in that effort and our own Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush emerged as a strong ally and supporter of public education.
• After years of tough budget cuts and reductions in staff and compensation, the Eagle County Schools Board of Education unanimously passed a budget that gave our educators and support staff a raise and held benefit costs fairly level, provided some relief for staffing issues in schools, brought educational technology back to industry standard, purchased quality curricular materials in literacy and math, and addressed some overdue building maintenance issues.
• As the result of an intensive and targeted marketing and recruiting effort, Eagle County Schools had a bumper crop of great applicants for teaching jobs. Principals from all our schools expressed appreciation for the caliber and quantity of candidates, and we had a tremendous hiring year.
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• At graduation time, our high schools set records for the number of graduates, the district’s highest ever cumulative ACT scores and record numbers of students graduating with college credit through Advanced Placement courses or dual enrollment courses (in collaboration with Colorado Mountain College).
• Despite years of significant staffing and spending cuts during the recession, the district (for the most part) held the line on student achievement results and some new bright spots emerged with the high performance of Eagle Valley Elementary and Eagle Valley Middle School.
• We put the finishing touches on a bold and globally inspired strategic plan for our schools, one patterned after the approaches used in the best performing education systems on Earth.
• We began the school year with teachers and schools focused on delivering consistent instructional quality. Following the approaches of the world’s best school systems, our educators are bringing this about through work around what we call our “big three” concepts — teaching all students to internationally benchmarked standards, customizing instruction to fit the student, and empowering our front line educators.
• Eagle County Schools closed out the “student count day” of Oct. 1 with a surge in enrollment after the past few years of stagnation or tepid growth. Over 200 more students enrolled in our schools than the previous year and the district set a new enrollment record, with over 6,700 students (including preschoolers) attending.
• The district successfully launched an online registration and open enrollment system for parents. Now, what was a paper-heavy and time-intensive process can be completed much more efficiently.
I’m proud of what our community schools have accomplished in the past year and tip my hat to the dedicated and talented employees who made this all happen.
Still, our schools aren’t resting on their laurels. We’ve got much to do and accomplish if we are to meet our goal of being a world-class educational system that creates globally competitive graduates. However, our plan is well underway, and we intend to direct every resource and energy over the next few years to staying focused on that goal and delivering the caliber of education our community’s kids deserve.
On behalf of everyone associated with Eagle County Schools, happy New Year to you and your family, I’m excited about what’s ahead for our wonderful community and what we can accomplish for our kids!
Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.