Candidates need reality check on what occurs in classrooms
In all of the literature about the current and potential school board candidates, there is never a mention of how much, if any, time each has spent in a classroom as a volunteer, aide or observer. If they did spend a prolonged period in a classroom, they might be more aware of what actually occurs.
Maybe they would get an opportunity to find out some of the problems a student brings to school, which create a distraction to concentration on the lessons. Examples: no food in the home, job loss, homeless, poor home environment, and many more.
They might find that some parents do not send their children to school with specific instructions to pay attention, listen to the teacher, follow directions and have respect for everyone. By volunteering in the classroom, one can learn that some parents do not provide their child with help to improve in subjects the child is finding difficult. Some individuals can’t handle one child but expect a teacher to handle 20-30 in a classroom.
Thus, my recommendation: All candidates for the school board should be required to spend at least a year volunteering in classrooms across the district. Maybe then they would be better able to decide what is best for the students and if they would do the teacher’s job for the same amount of money the teacher is being paid.
NANCY H. MILLER
McVaney uses his wealth for megalomaniacal vision
Andrew Carnegie was one of the greediest, most aggressive people ever to get filthy rich on the backs of the American people. Master of the con game, he and his “robber baron” buddies took advantage of the Civil War and westward expansion to plunder government coffers, exploiting every loophole to amass personal wealth.
But as death approached, Carnegie sought penance through philanthropy. His avenue to righteousness and heaven was, he believed, a better-educated America. So, he built about 1,600 libraries across the country.
Carnegie created an enduring public institution, which consists of greedy, aggressive people amassing personal wealth and subsequently engaging in acts of what they perceive to be soul-saving philanthropy.
The divided soul of Carnegie lives today in this guy, C. Edward McVaney, who is trying to influence our school board election. He amassed a fortune on the backs of the American people and is now throwing money at what he opines to be a philanthropic cause.
McVaney, however, has not been guided by angels to do anything nearly as cool as building libraries. Instead, he puts his money behind self-serving, highly politicized changes to the education system that conform to his narrow, megalomaniacal vision.
If he really wants to improve education, he should spearhead the building of technologically advanced schools that could have positive impacts for a century and more.
Mikolai puts student needs first in decision-making
Having worked very closely with Greg Mikolai over the past four years, I believe he is clearly the best candidate for the seat of School Board in District E.
There has been much written about the Mesa Valley Education Association supporting candidates in order to influence decisions about spending of the District 51 budget. With Mikolai, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Mikolai is not influenced in District 51 decisions except by the students. He is very thorough in gathering information from all sources before making decisions, and he believes that all students can learn with the appropriate teachers, support staff, administrators and parental support. He listens to them all and makes educated decisions based on facts, not party affiliations.
Party affiliation and “reform” are a top priority for some, but Mikolai believes members of his staff are working their tails off with fewer resources than before and student growth reflects his belief. Over the past four years, Mikolai has overseen a 20 percent reduction in the district budget and worked tirelessly to see that the cuts stayed as far away from student learning as possible.
When confronted by the MVEA on salaries, Mikolai worked with the teachers to a consensus resolution of cutting days off the teachers’ contracts and freezing salaries. That’s not being “bought” by the MVEA, as some imply; it’s simply working with the teachers on what is best for their students.
I urge you to think logically about your vote for District E and not what your political affiliation directs you to do. Mikolai stands for students and deserves your vote.
After eighteen years, Coach “Bear” Herb Huskey retired from his position as the Fruita Monument Cross Country team head coach. Assistant coach Terri Bowen who worked with Huskey for eight years also decided to move on to other pursuits. My youngest son, like his two older brothers, is on the team. Between him and his brothers, I’ve been involved with the cross country team for ten years. Here’s what I’ve seen and what I think is most interesting about Huskey and Bowen’s program: it’s huge!
For anybody who ever ran a mile in PE class and thought that there couldn’t possibly be anything more tortuous, cross country is like an extended nightmare. Physically, I don’t think there is a more difficult sport to do. The coaches pick some spot on the horizon, point to it, and tell the kids, “Run to that, turn around and come back.” At least that’s what it feels like. In a typical workout, the kids run for over an hour, sometimes even longer. Over an hour! Running! The football team looks positively lazy in comparison (of course, a cross country runner isn’t periodically slamming into another runner or being tackled).
And yet, as hard as the sport is, dozens of young men and women come out for it, year after year. Only seven kids can run varsity. Only a couple of others have a chance to slip into the varsity spots—the competition is intense—but all these other kids show up every day. How did a program like this develop at FMHS? What’s going on here?
The only answer that makes sense is Huskey and Bowen created and fostered a culture that kids wanted to be a part of. They made kids feel included and valuable. People are hungry for an environment where they believe they matter, and that’s what they got at FMHS on the cross country team.
This week the team held their end of the season banquet. Many folks cried about Huskey and Bowen’s departure: kids, parents and coaches. What I got from the banquet is what I believe is what is best in American education and what is our true resource in the classroom: caring, amazingly competent instructors who care deeply about what they are doing for kids.
When we foster an environment where teachers can flourish, we build strong schools. When highly skilled teachers engage their students in programs where the kids feel included and valuable, the students soar.
What I think happened in cross country is that instead of the drudgery of the miles, Huskey and Bowen helped their athletes see that the long run can be done in joy. We should all celebrate our teachers who can give a sense of joy to the students in what they do.
Thank you Bear. Thank you Terri. You’ve done more good than we can possibly measure.
~Jim Van Pelt
Teachers want reforms that will truly bring about change
As a parent, I don’t want to see District 51 turned into an experimental playground for extremists. My son may be a couple of years away from entering public schools, but once he gets there, I hope that his school will not have been previously stripped of its morale, resources and autonomy — the unfortunate and sad fate of so many Douglas County schools.
As a teacher in District 51 for the last 17 years and the elected chair of the Western Slope speech and debate community, I don’t want my voice to be ignored.
Consider the many recent rants against public education claiming that teachers’ unions block reforms. Well, if you’ve spent any time in a school over the last decade, you would probably be surprised how dynamic schools actually are and how often change occurs. Teachers want sensible reforms, and those in the classroom know best which reforms can be realistically implemented while still allowing room for individual innovation.
If anything, too many forced changes are constantly happening in our schools. Every year, some new idea is tried but never given the chance to fully succeed. It’s almost comical watching some “reform” come and go — whether it be a federal, state or local mandate.
If there is anything our schools need, it is stability—consistency—simplicity. Hire and retain the best instructors, get out of their way and let them work their magic. Let’s not forget that great teaching has been going on for thousands of years.
To throw away, water down or disregard what already works and call it a reform is the greatest mistake we can make. To believe that what goes into a child’s mind can be simply quantified by a number is shortsighted and ignores many relevant and diverse aspects of a child’s learning.
Only thoughtful policymakers who hear the call of the people in the trenches will be able to face the challenges ahead. Among the many reasons MVEA supports Greg Mikolai, Tom Parrish and John Williams for the District 51 school board is that they listen to the collective and individual voices of teachers, parents and other stakeholders. They have a track record of reasoned decision-making where people work together to solve problems.
Educators don’t want to block reforms; they want reforms they can believe in — reforms that will stick and truly effect change. True leadership is about inspiring — winning over the hearts and minds of those who follow.
There may be some who believe in building resentment and fear, and while this may force a perception of compliance in the short term, those in a free nation will eventually discover the truth.
ANTHONY C. BICHLER
Mikolai ably guided district through tough financial times
We wish to acknowledge and support the recent endorsements of school- board candidates John Williams and Tom Parrish by The Daily Sentinel and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. We agree with their assessments of the talents and expertise that these two candidates will bring to the school board, if they are elected.
We wish, however, to urge voters to consider carefully the proven leadership that Greg Mikolai has to offer at this critical time for our public schools. Of the two candidates running for District E, only Mikolai has had to balance serious financial constraints with government mandates, while serving the needs of a very diverse student population and seeking to improve student performance and outcomes.
As described in detail by outgoing school board member Leslie Kiesler in a guest column last Sunday in The Daily Sentinel, District 51 continues to be a leader statewide in the struggle to meet these often competing objectives.
It has only been through collaborative efforts among teachers, administrators and the community, and with the effective and visionary leadership of Greg Mikolai, that these goals have been and will continue to be met.
Over the last few years, when District 51 had to cut $30 million from the budget, it put people’s livelihoods and children’s education at stake. Due in large part to Mikolai’s excellent leadership as school board president and the cooperation of other board members, the board was able to keep the cuts as far away from students as possible.
Although much progress has been made, the financial and educational challenges faced by District 51 have not ended. This is a time to build on recent successes and support the growth and maturation of creative efforts recently implemented and embraced by teachers, parents, administrators and students. It is not a time to change leadership.
Mikolai has demonstrated he is a strong leader who analyzes every issue thoroughly and makes informed decisions. On behalf of the members of Strong Schools, Strong Communities, we urge you to re-elect him.
Candidates’ contributions from billionaire troubling
I have spent most of my life here. No issue raises the hackles of Western Slope people more than the Front Range people messing with us: our water, our funding and our politics.
I was very suspicious when I learned a billionaire from Greenwood Village, Ed McVaney, was the biggest contributor to the campaigns of John Sluder, Michael Lowenstein and Pat Kanda for the District 51 school board. Why would someone from the Front Range meddle with a school board election in Mesa County?
I’m not bothered that MVEA was a big contributor to Tom Parrish’s and Greg Mikolai’s campaigns. If teachers want to support them, it makes sense for the teachers’ organization to contribute. Those teachers live and work here. They understand the strengths and weaknesses of our local school district.
What business does a billionaire from the Front Range have in our local election? Unless, of course, he hopes to “do business” here. Unless, of course, he’s hoping to buy our school board and be able to expand the private schools he owns. I say Western Slope issues need to be resolved by Western Slope people!
Can we really trust candidates who can’t raise enough funds locally and have to get funds from someone living on the Front Range? Sluder, Lowenstein and Kanda have walked into a hornet’s nest by accepting McVaney’s money.
Mikolai, Williams, Parrish understand district’s complexities
As the husband of a fourth-grade literacy teacher, the father of two District 51 students, and a public school graduate, I think I’m particularly qualified to comment on the current School Board debate. District 51 is the 12th largest district in Colorado, yet it is the second lowest funded on a per-pupil basis. In the past 4 years the District has cut over $30 million from its budget (a 21% decrease); eliminated dozens of teaching, administrative, and support positions; cut programs; reduced services; decreased teacher benefits and contract days; and increased many fees; all while complying with increasing performance mandates and accountability measures. The point is that District 51 truly is doing more with less.
Certainly there are challenges that need addressed, but first we need to get away from the argument that our schools are failing. Anyone who is willing to make that claim hasn’t spent much time in a school lately and is only fueling an unfounded and anecdotally fed public cynicism. Candidates preaching about “getting back to basics” have a generically appealing message, but it’s a message that displays an obviously deficient understanding of our schools, the extraordinarily demanding profession of teaching and the true challenges that face the district.
Why have a variety of parent-led PTOs, the Mesa Valley Education Association, Save Our Students and Strong Schools/Strong Communities endorsed Mikolai, Williams and Parrish? And, why have The Daily Sentinel and the chamber endorsed Williams and Parrish? It’s not to protect the status quo or to advance a liberal agenda, as some have said.
It is because these candidates have all spent time in our schools and understand that the complexities facing the district can only be tackled by a partnership that values public education and its place in our community. Anything less is a disservice.
BENJAMIN DAVID HOFFMAN
Williams has worked in nonpartisan manner
For eight years I watched John Williams work with the people of Gateway to resolve potential conflicts with the development of the Gateway Canyons Resort. Before Gateway Canyons hired Williams, there was a great deal of conflict in the community and public hearings for the development were lengthy and contentious.
Williams came on board and immediately began listening to the residents to better understand their concerns and to identify potential problems with future projects. He literally went door to door, taking time to hear the concerns of each resident and worked with them to find a solution.
Williams was always respectful in his interactions with the residents. He didn’t take their comments personal and tried to see the situation from their perspective. While some of the residents weren’t happy with all the outcomes, the majority of the residents were, and that was due to the efforts of Williams.
Listening. Working with residents. Seeking win-win solutions. Showing respect. Those are all characteristics that are important in a school board member, and those are the reasons I am supporting Williams for school board.
I’ve never known Williams to be partisan. In fact, until just recently, I didn’t even know his party affiliation. It never mattered to me, because he was always focused on personal property rights, was pro-business and worked diligently to balance the two. Williams and I may not agree on everything, but after eight years in office when I look back, I don’t always agree with myself.
So, if you are looking for a candidate who is in lockstep with 100 percent of your beliefs ... good luck with that. But, if you want a candidate who is thoughtful, positive, solutions-oriented and who listens to the people, then Williams is that guy.
Outsiders’ money shouldn’t sway school board election
How heartbreaking to learn that candidates vying for positions at the core of our education system, candidates who are supposed to stand up for and expect nothing less than what is best for our local school children, feel it’s appropriate to allow nonlocal money to infect this critical school board election. Perhaps if a candidate is unable to gain support from local residents, there is a reason and that person should not be in a position that local residents must trust in and depend on.
It is one thing to look to other communities and school districts for examples of innovation, potential or qualities we might emulate, but it is not OK to look to them for money for a local position, allowing someone who doesn’t know us, our neighbors, our teachers or our community to play a role in deciding what is best for our community.
Personally, I don’t feel it’s OK for people who are not members of our community and/or don’t have kids, grandkids or perhaps even friends’ kids in our community’s schools to have the loudest voice of support for people who may take on a significant role in our school district.
This is one more reason I will be voting for Greg Mikolai, John Williams and Tom Parrish. Collectively, coming from 273 individual sources, 80 to 90 percent of donations to Mikolai, Williams and Parrish were locally obtained.