District 51 principals, teachers air concerns

Having the opportunity to speak frankly with District 51 board members is a golden opportunity and a start to making positive changes in local schools, some local principals and assistant principals said Saturday morning.

About 30 administrators gathered in an open forum at Colorado Mesa University with all board members present, John Williams, Tom Parrish, Greg Mikolai, Jeff Leany and Ann Tisue.

The informal gatherings, which are slated to become a monthly occurrence, are open to the public, yet the crowd was overwhelmingly made up of school administrators Saturday.

Officials took the opportunity to report about daily life in schools. Problems include not having enough counselors or psychologists to help with at-risk students, and teachers needing more training to deal with students’ behavioral issues.

Principals reported that truancy is a widespread concern among schools, yet district policy doesn’t have enough teeth to ensure that parents regularly get their children to school. Educators said they often can tell by second grade if a student is going to have truancy issues throughout his or her schooling career.

One idea might be to tie government benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid to whether a family’s children are showing for school; or more regularly take parents to court for not getting their children to school, administrators suggested.

“A lot of kids don’t even make it to middle school,” said Anna Goetz, principal of R5 High School. “One kid I talked to was incredibly brilliant and said he hadn’t really been to school since second grade. Truancy is one of the keys to look at.”

Another issue is keeping and attracting qualified teachers. Administrators said it would be helpful to offer more incentives to lure certified math and science teachers. Often the pool of candidates for those positions is limited, and even among the choices available, many candidates are not well-qualified. However, openings for teachers in other subjects such as physical education, social studies and art receive a whopping number of candidates to interview.

School board members said they were considering ways to solve that problem.

As for the open meetings, board president Greg Mikolai said they would continue.

“You’ll see more of these,” he said.


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