Show-and-tell time for Steve Schultz

Congratulations to Steve Schultz, the man chosen to become the next superintendent for School District 51.

Now it’s time for show and tell — although perhaps in this instance we should reverse that old school standby.

Schultz must tell residents of the school district what he intends to do to reverse the district’s abysmal performance in statewide academic tests. And he must show everyone — from teachers to parents to students to taxpayers in general — that he is serious about effecting change within the district.

The status quo should not be satisfactory to Schultz, the District 51 Board of Education or anyone else in these parts.

We have a president who appointed a reform-minded school administrator as his secretary of education. President Barack Obama also urged school districts across the country to consider longer school days and longer school years to better prepare students for the 21st century. And he blasted educators who seek relaxed academic standards because their students are having a tough time on tests.

School District 51 must change to adapt to the current situation, and it has already begun doing so. When the district’s performance on the Colorado Student Achievement Program tests tumbled below state averages in most categories last year, Superintendent Tim Mills outlined a multipronged effort to improve scores. It included more summer school, efforts to better engage parents, better curriculum consistency and new systems to track students from school to school.

When Schultz takes the helm from Mills, he should continue those efforts. But he should also look at additional ways to improve academic performance in the district. As the president suggested, longer days and school years may need to be part of that formula.

It’s true that CSAP scores aren’t the only measure of a school district’s success. There is much that schools must do these days, and much that Schultz will have to contend with, from school safety to adequate buildings to stewardship of the district’s resources. But educating our students remains the primary mission of our schools. And in Colorado, CSAP tests are the best measure of how well schools are doing in that respect.

The school board chose to look within District 51’s ranks to find a replacement for Mills. That’s not an unreasonable decision when the economy is constricting and national searches are costly.

Schultz was the only applicant for the job, but he is reportedly a highly capable educator.

He certainly has a lengthy history with this district. As a result, he should have a clear understanding of both the problems and amenities in the district.

We hope Schultz will use that experience and his talents to push for real change, with the aim of making District 51 one of the top academic school districts in Colorado and the nation.


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