Editor's Note: The following letter was sent to the State Board of Education.
The following concerns are in response to your ridiculous decision to grant a Montessori charter school despite the community and Steamboat School Board's opposition to the charter.
As an educator and school psychologist for 30 years, I cannot believe your decision and have significant doubts about your respective abilities to address our local concerns. In an article from Steamboat Today on May 30, Vice Chairman Jared Polis is quoted several times, but the following statements are of the most concern and were exceptionally infuriating and patronizing:
"Our state board agonized over that decision" ... and to further add insult to injury, "We did determine it was in the best interest of the community to open the charter school." It is obvious that you know very little about our wonderful, innovative school system that has been ranked within the top 10 percent for years, plus being recognized as having an elementary school of excellence for several years.
In all your "agony" did you talk to any local educators, other parents, students who attended the Montessori preschool and then went on to the public school? You talk about what is best for our community, yet you fail to discuss how few will be impacted in a positive way (if any) compared to how many students will be negatively impacted by a siphoning off of income to the school system just to serve a relatively few vocal and influential parents who want a private school without having to pay tuition.
Even if money and services were not an issue, why would we want to add a specific learning system that has not proven itself for a viable and broad based educational system for a wide variety of students. That is what a public elementary school should be. I am all for implementing empirically based educational practices. Some of Montessori education works, but the whole system for a public school is very suspect and most of the educational professionals I have talked with do not want to experiment on our children with public funds.
Montessori education is certainly not unique and much of the educational practice is based on a rather debatable developmental educational philosophy (despite what supporters have published in newspaper). But the practice of taking concepts that were basically designed for an early childhood developmental educational program and extrapolating them to older children is questionable at best, harmful, at worst.
The education and training of Montessori teachers is also of a significant concern, especially when qualified teachers are required to be licensed and have much more rigorous training to be in their profession. I wonder why you think that you can make a better decision than our elected board members, the public school teachers, and most of the community?
I have certainly not seen or heard of anything that sets you apart in your ability to make sound judgments. You only make bad decisions. We, on the other hand, are left with the fallout for years to come. Why don't you agonize on that for a while?
E. Ray Koch