Vail Daily column: A view from the inside
September 6, 2016
The typical tale of the public's engagement with their community school system is fairly distant and uninvolved. Unless you have kids in the schools, most people are peripherally aware of their schools — only taking note when they encounter a school bus on the roads or a student raising funds knocks on the door.
While disappointing, we shouldn't really blame the public in most communities for this — many school systems don't make direct efforts at really engaging the community. While there may be great things happening for kids, they too often go unnoticed by (and unreported to) the community.
Eagle County School's approach flies in the face of the typical model. Genuine community engagement and a sophisticated approach to communication is part of our strategic plan and the work we do every single day.
From a strong social media presence, constant contact with the local media, and even this weekly column — Eagle County Schools takes community engagement seriously.
One way we go about this work is through an effort we call the Insider's Academy. Now in its fourth year, the Insider's Academy brings together about 25 community members each year to see the "magic behind public education" in five evening classes from October to February.
Participants get to know the historical foundations of the public education system, which date back to the writings of the founding fathers. They also learn more about our community schools here in Eagle County, including demographic information and the wide variety of educational choices we offer.
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We spend time talking about the politics surrounding education — at the federal, state and local level. And we get into how our local schools are governed and who is running them.
As it's the central work of education, participants in the Insider's Academy get to talk a lot about something we call the "instructional core," the relationship between teachers and students in the presence of what they are learning. This connective relationship forms the nexus by which learning takes place in schools and is a central component of the Academy.
Insiders also get to go in-depth on special programming for gifted and talented students, students with disabilities, early childhood education, and students who are learning English. We also touch on the variety of advanced placement and early college credit options our students have access to.
Finally, the Insiders learn about all the operational supports we have to support students and to create quality learning environments. Things like transportation, technology, food services, and our grounds and facilities. They also get a primer on how school finance works and how public school dollars are spent.
With the graduation of this school year's class next February, Eagle County Schools will have had nearly 100 community members go through the Insider's Academy. Besides educating our public on the important things happening in our schools, our goal is also to (over time) build a veritable army of informed, engaged, and connected community members who are both knowledgeable and passionate about public education.
Because we recognize most potential attendees have daytime commitments, the Academy meets in the evenings and starts with conversation over dinner. Then, we move into deep and interactive discussions on these relevant topics. The Academy is a conversation, not a one way-communication, and we enjoy the give and take and in-depth conversations we have with community participants.
If you are interested in being part of this year's Insider's Academy, enroll today by visiting http://www.eagleschools.net/insiders, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited, so sign up soon. We look forward to learning with you!
Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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