District E: Greg Mikolai
Hometown: Wells, Minn.
Years in Grand Valley: 20.
Past board/committee or education experience: I have served on the District 51 School Board for four years, and as board president for the last two years. I presently teach at Colorado Mesa University in the Mass Communications department.
Q: Do you believe teachers should be paid based on their evaluations? If so, which qualities should be most important in the decision to boost someone’s pay?
A: I believe merit pay could be a viable component of the district’s compensation package if an objective process, based on consistent data, can be established. The structures surrounding evaluations of teachers, as prescribed by Senate Bill 191, would provide the proper processes; however, another key component is creating a viable compensation model that will not adversely impact the budget of District 51. There may be a misconception that merit pay will save money for the district, but the experience of other districts that have instituted the program speaks against this idea.
Q: Do teachers need more instructional autonomy or should they teach the same lessons as other teachers in the district?
A: We need to have consistent instructional timetables throughout the district due to the great mobility of students in the course of the school year. Our Guaranteed Viable Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment program provides this. The GVCIA, however, does not tell teachers how to teach, but gives them a valuable tool to organize and arrange classroom instruction. Also, GVCIA provides for input into schedule and duration of lessons so that a teacher’s valuable experience becomes part of the process.
Q: Do you believe local students are performing well? As a board member, how would you hope to contribute to improving their performance in the classroom and on Transitional Colorado Assessment Program tests?
A: I think our students are performing very well in reading, as evidenced by our third grade (proficiency) score finishing above the state average. Our math scores at the elementary and middle school levels continue to improve; however, writing could be better. The way to improve at all levels is to make resources available for timely interventions for students who are falling behind, and that is a function of the board to make that a budget and scheduling priority.
Q: Will you vote for Amendment 66? Why or why not?
A: I will not vote for Amendment 66, primarily because of the money allocations described in the companion legislation of Senate Bill 213. One of the more serious aspects of the bill is the amount already set aside for new, mandated programs. Half of the new revenue of the bill will already be allocated before any new money raised by Amendment 66 reaches the district. It is a serious impact to local control.
Q: Name an area where District 51 spends too much money. Also, are there any areas of the budget where the district should spend more?
A: I have already faced $30 million in budget cuts in my time on the school board. There is no fat in the system, which is why School District 51 has been ranked fourth in efficiency in Colorado. I would like to see implementing the coaching program for teachers as evidenced by the success of Clifton Elementary. This mentoring of teachers in that school has shown great success in the classroom.
Q: Are you in favor of longer school days and/or a longer school year in D51? Why or why not?
A: I would love to add instructional days to the calendar because more time in the classroom is always beneficial to our students. With that said, one of the most problematic actions of a school board is dealing with calendar; however, our current schedule does allow for more timely interventions for students who need it.