Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Shalee Cunningham is seeking the community's input to better set and reach broad-based district goals.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Shalee Cunningham is seeking the community's input to better set and reach broad-based district goals.

Schools seek input from community to help set goals


How to help

To sign up for the community planning committee, call the Steamboat Springs School District offices at 879-1530.

— When Superintendent Shalee Cunningham asks what the Steamboat Springs School District stands for, it's not a rhetorical question. But she has found that district administrators and officials often have a hard time coming up with an answer.

Cunningham hopes to change that by establishing a set of three to five broad goals for the district, and she wants the community to be part of the process. Cunningham is organizing a planning committee comprised of 30 community members who will help identify the district's goals.

"I am recognizing as the new superintendent in town that people can't answer for me what the beliefs are and what the desired outcomes are for the 2,000 kids in this district. And without that, I'm floundering," she said last week.

Cunningham is organizing a three-day brainstorming session this month. Volunteers will meet to develop ideas of where the district should devote its time and resources. With input from community members from a cross-section of society, Cunningham said the results will represent the community's desired direction for the school district.

"Some people I definitely want be sure they are involved (including) the police department, the fire department. I want somebody representing the different faiths in the community, child care, First Impressions. There are some elements of the community that really need representation," she said.

Two members of the Steamboat Springs School Board also will be part of the planning.

District priorities and community desires have been oft-mentioned subjects at recent School Board meetings.

"We need to make sure we're representing the community and that we have that information," School Board Vice President Denise Connelly said at a board workshop Jan. 24.

Cunningham said the goals presented by the community planning committee will be integrated with the budget to make sure any expenditures are used to further the long-term goals.

"This logistical plan will also translate into the budget so we will no longer have goals and a budget. They are blended so when we develop the budget every year it's based on the priorities of our logistical plan," she said.

Examples of broad themes from a plan Cunningham helped create in the Orinda Union School District in Orinda, Calif., include "improved learning environments by accomplishing a limited number of high-impact facility improvement projects," implementing a new technology plan, finding new funding sources and the creation of a writer's workshop for students.

The goals the community comes up with could take three months to three years to complete, Cunningham said.

School Board members have expressed concern that whatever comes of the process is seen to fruition. This is not the first time the school district has sought community input. In 2003, superintendent Donna Howell met with business owners and parents to create a similar plan.

"We don't want policies that the next person can come in and easily change," board President Robin Crossan said, referring to a future change in district leadership.

Cunningham said she has no plans to leave the district and that she would like to include a sustainable element to the plans so that any future superintendent would be able to continue the work.


stillinsteamboat 8 years, 1 month ago

How about programs for HS students who don't plan to attend college but need life skills and help finding a career. College isn't for everyone and there doesn't seem to be help for kids who aren't gifted, troubled or involved in athletics. The good kids in the middle are falling through the cracks @ SSHS.


ybul 8 years, 1 month ago

Good comment, I think that the current dogma that you need a college degree to get ahead, no longer applies. This because of its cost. $100,000 in terms of real costs of tuition and lost opportunities for wages, could provide some nice start up capital for ones own business.

In hearing a former fed chairman speak last year, he stated that what is lacking in education is the entreprenurial spirit in education. What if in middle school the students were required to help operate a business. Incorporating all facets of their education into this operation, english, math, science, speech, etc..

Personally I found it very difficult to simply open up a text book and learn for the sake of learning. Have a greenhouse, put the students on a task of their choice, to examine one facet of that industry, prepare a composition for that and give a presentation to classmates on that issue. Have them all work out the financial analysis of the operation, to gain real world math knowledge. With all the issues of hormones in middle school.

Maybe slowing the kids down and having them focus on a task for more than 50 minutes would encourage longer attention spans. A friend does this in high school on the front range in an integrated english-social studies course. The students have been shown to do better, the parents like it, the problem is that the scheduling coordinator does not as it causes problems for them. Maybe, look to the Montessori program, as that seems very successful here and has been scientifically shown to be better than other methods. A friends brother is being flown all over the world to help set up such middle schools and high schools as a result of this recent research.

Current education teaches in fragments even though all segments interrelate, and teaches people in a reductionist fashion even though in the real world, if you change one variable all others will change with it.


Roger Burton 8 years, 1 month ago

Several years ago I was associated with a new high school in New York State where they established a store in the school selling books and all kinds of supplies normally found in a bookstore or office supply store, including snack foods, school novelties and apparel.

Students in the business related curriculum ran all aspects of the store and were counseled by the teachers in the program. The details of operation of the store were part of the classroom related studies.

The store was required to have regularly scheduled hours of operation, but the hours of operation were determined by the business class participants.

All students participated in the classroom work, which included the basics of the business. Actual work hours in the store was on a volunteer basis, but with pay and extra credit. Payroll had to be per state statutes.

The students determined the products to be sold, did the ordering and stocking, scheduled the staffing and kept the books. There was also a window in the main corridor where displays had to be designed and implemented. Products were sold for prices comparable but slightly less than retail at outside locations.

Profits were used to buy new store fixtures and displays, improve the facility, expand the merchandise line(s) and pay a minimal wage to the "employees" and "owners" for hours worked. Original capital was very limited and provided by the school district, but had to be re-paid.

Each year the goals of the business were reviewed and set for the new year by the new student groups.

The students got hands-on knowledge about all aspects of running a business including start-up, interviewing employees, scheduling, buying, unsold inventory, bookkeeping, profit & loss, payroll, etc.


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