People quit the teaching profession much less often than I would think, at least at Fruita Monument, and I suspect through
the entire district.
Why is that?I mean, on the surface the job sucks.Not only is teaching amazingly, unreasonably stressful, it doesn’t pay that well, the health plan has degraded over time, loud voices in the community don’t support teachers’ efforts, and there doesn’t appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel.No one is saying, “Yes, teaching is tough now, but if you just hang in, class sizes will go down, you will be given more autonomy in your classroom, and you will be given less bureaucratic responsibilities that take away from your teaching time.”
Nobody says that.
And yet, not that many teachers quit.In my thirty-two years at FMHS, I know of one teacher who resigned because he felt the district’s educational direction contradicted his own (he’s running a gift shop in Montana now), and another who retired early for the same reason.But that’s just two teachers in all that time.I know more teachers who had to quit because of mental breakdowns than ones who chose to go because of the work itself.
So, I think I’ve found the answer in Mr. Holland’s Opus.What I like about Mr. Holland’s Opus is that Mr. Holland is not an extraordinary
teacher.At least he’s not like Robin William’s in Dead Poet’s Society or Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa Smiles.Those teachers are superstars, icons to the teaching craft, who in their stories pull off teaching moments that mortal teachers aspire to but seldom reach (and certainly not on a day to day basis).No, Mr. Holland started off as an ordinary guy.He fell into teaching because it was his fallback job.He said that he was doing it because he could use the “spare time” to work on his own music—this line, by the way, elicited laughter from the audience when I saw the film, but only the teachers were laughing.
He’s not even a particularly good teacher when he starts.He’s impatient, somewhat insensitive, and, as an administrator pointed out to him, “You are quicker to the parking lot when the bell rings than your students.”
Something about the job got to him, though.Over time he changed.He became like what I see around me at FMHS and in this
district all the time.He didn’t have a job anymore.He was the job.Who he was and what he did became inseparable.
I said that he wasn’t an extraordinary teacher, but I think he wasn’t extraordinary because the teachers who surrounded him shared the same quality of “being” the job.
You know you’re in the right profession when “extraordinary” is the default setting.
When I hear discussions about teachers, when I hear people talking about teaching as if teachers were interchangeable parts and that the job can be described, quantified, and standardized; when I hear politicians attack teachers as if they were part of the problem, and that when teachers advocate for the their students by asking for smaller class sizes, more financial support, and
reasonable work conditions, that the teachers are not being “realistic,” I want to ask them, “Did you watch Mr. Holland’s Opus?
Because if you did, you wouldn’t wonder why teachers don’t quit.You would wonder why teachers aren’t on pedestals.
~Jim Van Pelt
Parrish’s education career makes him strong candidate
I support Tom Parrish for the School District 51 Board of Education. Tom progressed from teacher to school principal and then district administrator over duringf his 30-plus-year career.
I have known Parrish since 2000, when I began working as a program evaluator and Parrish was my supervisor as the executive director of school effectiveness. He always looks for ways to make organizational improvements. His leadership with him included:
• Sponsoring a study of the effectiveness of reading instructional assistants;
• Conceptualizing a way to measure instruction by integrating test scores of student performance and growth;
• Supporting the participation of three district schools in the Colorado Performance Excellence program;
• Facilitating district-wide curriculum decisions in reading programs; and
• Implementing an extensive leadership-training program for principals.
As a member of the school board, Parrish would, I expect, play an active role in developing ways to assess the effectiveness of existing education programs, ways of supporting staff through ongoing development and ways of tailoring education to the unique needs and interests of students.
I expect Parrish to be a strong and influential member of the board because of his personal qualities that include:
—Acting with integrity on what needs to be done, not what is popular;
—Supporting students, teachers, principals and parents;
—Being guided by principles derived from years of educational experience;
—Enacting leadership through example that is respectful, humble and empowering of others.
Without a doubt the schools and students of Mesa County would be better served by Tom Parrish on the board than anyone else I can imagine.
WILLIAM LIGGETT, PH.D.
School children deserve nonpartisan school board
The children of Mesa County deserve nonpartisan school board members who do not intend to push their personal political agendas onto the backs of children if they are elected.
Without question, a school board election is the one election that should never be political. It should be about electing board members who care about kids, support teachers and do what they are charged to do — oversee the generalities of the district. In short, school board members must do what is best for students. Making the upcoming election one about political gain and the privatization of our entire district is repugnant.
I am confident that parents, grandparents, students of voting age and anyone else who truly cares about children will see through their agenda and will vote for the candidates who are running for school board who have no interest in making this a political race, but are pro-public education, based on accountability, transparency, responsibility and doing what is best for kids.
Mesa County has never been a wildly or even mildly liberal area, so making this a political race is sad. Please listen to all the candidates and consider what they are saying. If you care about the education of students in Mesa County, please listen and get the facts.
Do what’s best for kids and public education. Please vote in support of children, not politics, when you receive your ballot in the mail.
School board elections are to be nonpartisan for a reason. Partisan elections emphasize politics that are not helpful in selecting school board members.
Furthermore, party labels distract voters from asking who has the knowledge and skills to serve the educational needs of students. All party affiliations have a vested interest in local public education.
The strength of our community is directly tied to economic development and to creating a community that attracts more business and industry. Both are directly affected by the training of our future workforce. Smart change is needed.
School Board candidates must work collaboratively as a five-person board to make careful decisions to help our school district improve in spite of diminishing resources. We need a board to create strong schools today to ensure a strong community and a strong America for our future.
We invite our neighbors who wish to work toward smart change to join us in the effort.
Co-chairs of Strong Schools,
Strong Community Group
Clifton Elementary Shows How Money Can Help
The recent comments of some prospective school board candidates should provoke a response in a number of serious-minded citizens across the valley.
Candidate John Sluder wonders “if we throw another billion dollars at our education system (is it) going to improve overnight?” His supporters and he claim “No!”
As a 14-year teacher in School District 51, I take that comment personally because the real answer is a most emphatic “Yes.” As a matter of fact, it has already happened right here in our own school district.
Clifton Elementary received a federal grant in the amount of some $866,000 a year, for three years, to improve educational results as a “turnaround school.” Those who find high-stakes testing to be the most valid measure of school success might be surprised to learn of as much as a 40 percentage point boost in reading test scores, 35 percentage point boost in writing test scores and a 54 percentage point boost in math test scores attributable to this funding, (considerably short of the billion Sluder suggests will fail).
Sluder also suggests spending the “bare minimum” to comply with unfunded federal mandates. With special education being a major “underfunded mandate,” is it Sluder’s contention that the education of students with special needs doesn’t deserve the equitable attention (money) set aside for the education of all other students?
Sluder’s comments betray a cynical point of view, playing to the fears of taxpayers while schools prove every day to be worthy of all the support they can muster. Virtually every school in this valley receives high marks from the parents of its students. Virtually every individual teacher, as well.
Sluder might want to rethink his approach to education and decide if he intends to serve both students and his constituents as a member of the school board. Will he use a critical eye or more platitudes to achieve his goals?
Republicans seek one-party rule on District 51 school board
By Bill Grant
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
After the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce led the charge to install a conservative Grand Junction City Council, Republican women have now launched a crusade to install a thoroughly partisan District 51 Board of Educaition.
Comparing the November school board election to this month’s recall of state Sens. John Morse and Angela Giron, Lois Dunn-Susuras, chairwoman of the Mesa County Republican Party, suggested the local school board races, like the Front Range recall elections, could involve unprecedented amounts of money and provoke interest and financial contributions from outside the district.
Though the campaign will be costly and will require extensive volunteer time, Dunn-Susuras said, “We do believe this is worth it — it’s a very big race we need to win this time.”
Referring to current board members Ann Tisue and Jeff Leany, who are not up for election this year, Linda Gregory, president of Mesa County Republican Women said, “Our two need more help.”
It is unclear why Mesa County Republican women have chosen to politicize the District 51 school board election. What is political about cafeteria policies, school zoning issues, student transportation, safety and other issues likely to be dealt with at the local school board level?
Most of all, how will politicization of the school board enhance student learning outcomes?
Many education experts believe non-partisan school boards are the foundation on which our public education system rests. Free from partisan pressure, school board members are more likely to make sound decisions favorable to students and teachers, and more likely to take actions that enhance learning.
“That’s designed by the State of Colorado,” explained Steve Burkholder, former mayor of Lakewood and lifetime Republican. “Local school boards are to be non-partisan.”
Or at least they used to be.
The Republican’s “three great candidates” are Pat Kanda in District C, Mike Lowenstein in District D and John Sluder in District E.
Although these candidates are distancing themselves from their party affiliations, they cannot hide their partisan base. “This is the slate that the Republican Party has decided to back,” Gregory announced.
She assured the public, “We do believe in conservative values and we found the people we thought follow our way of thinking. It is a non-partisan election and I don’t know how they’re registered.”
This, however, is contradicted by the weeks Gregory spent vetting the candidates. Before they were selected as the conservative candidates, these three were thoroughly investigated by Republicans, including facing 20 interested citizens for two hours.
They were also extensively interviewed by the Republican Party, which approved the slate as party candidates.
For a taste of what may be coming, parents, students, teachers and people who value public education unpolluted by politics need to look no further than the reading list proposed by Leany last January.
After he scoured books used by District 51, Caprock Academy and Mesa County K-12 on-line courses, Leany declared himself “not too pleased” with the district’s choice of texts, especially in the area of history and civics.
Leany proposed to replace these questionable texts with a hodgepodge of right-wing propaganda, at least one of them written by the late Cleon Skousen.
Skousen was a veteran of the John Birch society who had drifted so far to the nutty right that all but the most right-wing of his followers had rejected his radical politico-religious ideas. That included all but a radical right-wing fringe of the Mormon community.
Stanford University constitutional scholar Jack Rakove declared Skousen’s work “a joke that no self-respecting scholar would think is worth a warm pitcher of spit.”
This lurch to the right by school boards is not limited to Mesa County in Colorado. Both Jefferson and Douglas Counties preceded Mesa in politicizing their school boards.
In other school districts around the country where Republicans dominate, similar plans to politicize the local school boards are also under way.
Education professor and philosopher Diane Ravitch describes this movement as “another kind of politics ... in which educational institutions become entangled in crusades marked by passionate advocacy, intolerance of criticism, and unyielding dogmatism, and in which the education of children is a secondary rather than a primary consideration.”
Watching partisan politicization consume the District 51 school board, it is impossible not to conclude, as Ravitch does, that “such crusades go beyond politics-as-usual, they represent the politicization of education” itself.
Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at William.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Between now and November 5th will be - to say the least - busy. Here’s what’s in store for us this week:
· Many of the answers to your questions surrounding SB191 can be found here. There has been one question about “How prepared do I need to be for my Professional Performance Plan (PPP) conference?” that is not currently on the FAQ document. The short answer to that question is that you need to have reviewed your self-assessment and at least have some notes and ideas to begin developing your PPP with your evaluator.
· To find out more about MVEA’s recommended candidates for our school board, please click here.
· Tonight at 6:00 p.m. is the first of several candidate forums. It is being held in the CMU Ballroom on the corner of 12th and Elm. Get there early to get a good seat. Remember, democracy is a participatory sport! Bring your family and show them what it is to be an engaged citizen. Tomorrow’s news will largely be dictated by who cares enough to be in the audience tonight. On a side note, Mr. Manning has agreed, on behalf of the Broncos, to save all of the excitement for after the forum. Seriously, though, this will be done by 7:30 p.m. There will be plenty of football left.
· There’s a thought-provoking Letter to the Editor that you can read here regarding our obligation/responsibility/privilege to provide ELL services. It is the second entry under fellow member Jim Van Pelt’s blog entitled “Why the Internet was Invented”, a very worthy read, as well. The cartoon Jim found to include in the blog is HILARIOUS! Jim was asked to begin blogging on our site because, in his own words, he is “relentlessly pro-teacher and pro-education”. How refreshing. Check in regularly to read his ( and other members’) work.
· Rocky Mountain PBS is screening "The Graduates" which looks at the pressing issues in education today are explored through the eyes of a diverse array of Latino and Latina adolescents from across the United States in this eye-opening documentary on the challenges facing both the students and their families. It will be shown on Wednesday, October 16th in the Mesa County Library Community Room. For more information, click here.
· If you have a student teacher, let them know that for a one-time $23 fee they can have legal protection (and all the other benefits of the Association) during the entire time of their student teaching AND that amount will be refunded them when they join as a employed teacher the following year. It’s a no-brainer. They sign up on the same form that all other members do, just attach a note they are a student member with their check for $23 (obviously, they won’t have a payroll deduction) and send it in to our office. We will do the rest!
· Reminder: while candidates must come from the Area they represent, every voter will be voting for ALL MEMBERS of the school board.
· If you haven’t signed for volunteer training yet, please do so here. Remember, it takes less than an hour, you will get to personally meet the candidates, and dinner is provided for you and your family. Plus, you will have all the tools needed to help with this election! Ballots drop in 22 days…
No, not just for cat videos.
Interesting and odd items for teachers fill the Internet, and the miracle of a fast connection and digital display technology means that we can either entertain ourselves or share with our students. The best stuff, though, is hardly ever the straightforwardly educational. It's the emotional or funny that catches my attention.
For example, I don't understand half of this video, but I'll bet our physics and math students will find "Bohemian Gravity" whimsical and memorable (and pretty darned clever--clearly not all the grad students in the world have enough to do).
In the same manner, chemistry students might find Tom Lehrer's "The Elements" pleasantly diverting.
English teachers can share the powerful poem from Taylor Mali, "Tony Steinberg, Brave 7th Grade Warrior." And for themselves, when the world seems excessively bureaucratic, his "I'll Fight You for the Library" reminds them that other teachers struggle too.
Sometimes we just need something funny to start the day, like the Trunk Monkey videos.
And, finally, if the day is dark and my teaching soul needs provocation, fifty seconds with the Despicable Me minions and the "Banana Song" will start me on the path to recovery.
~ Jim Van Pelt
State and feds mandate English language programs
I read with keen interest the summary of comments made by school board candidate Pat Kanda at the recent coming-out party held for him and two other candidates at the Mesa County Republican Women’s ice cream social in Lincoln Park.
Kanda stated that he is unsure about the effectiveness of having an English as a second language program in local schools, and he feels sports fees aren’t covering as many costs as they should.
We might have had a lively discussion about the English Language Learner program and athletic fees, had I been invited to attend.
Republican Women’s President Linda Gregory indicated that a “subgroup” had spent two hours interviewing the candidates, apparently prior to endorsing them by inviting them to the ice cream “social.”
I was not invited, nor was I interviewed. Had I, as a candidate, been interviewed, a seemingly logical step prior to making endorsements in a nonpartisan race, I may have at least earned an invitation.
But failing that, perhaps I can make a comment here in a more open forum.
The English Language Learner program requirement comes from Title III of the “No Child Left Behind Act.” Its purpose is to ensure that every school district provides children identified with needing assistance in English language development with instruction that will allow them to achieve the same education standards and outcomes as we expect of their English-fluent peers.
ELL is a federal and state requirement and, when you think about it, really an imperative if we are to actually reach one of the great values of public education — providing a solid base for all children so that they can succeed in careers and as citizens.
Perhaps before voters are called upon to cast a ballot in the District 51 School Board races, all the candidates will have a chance to discuss educational issues in forums that allow voters to make informed choices.
School Board Candidate
Let’s get right to the update:
· Your AR has some very interesting news surrounding the election. Please speak with them today! After speaking with your AR, you will know the importance and significance of this link. Please know there will be food available (i.e. pizza dinner), and this will be a family friendly environment.
· Speaking of elections, it’s impossible to vote unless you are registered. Check your voter registration status and register to vote here .
· Listen to this Colorado Public Radio story, and then consider coming to "The Reformers" at 6:30pm on Monday, October 7th at the Mesa Theater and Club. The filmmaker, Brian Malone, will be there to discuss his documentary. To say this is timely and relevant is quite an understatement. He is coming to Grand Junction for a reason.
· Several members have asked for the PowerPoint that was presented at the SB191/EE training. It can be found here.
· Interested in reading about the use/misuse of student data in teacher evaluations? Take a look at this article.
· MVEA receives $6 per year ($.50 per month) in what is called the Every Member Option (EMO). This money allows us to promote and advocate for public education policy. If you choose to have that money refunded to you ($6), that is absolutely your right.
We are heading in a very good direction. Remember to contact your AR today.