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