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