Our View: Meeks rolls the dice

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Editorial Board, Sept. 25, 2011, to January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter

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The Steamboat Springs School District’s plan to hire a new director of teaching and learning comes with a high price tag and a history of questionable success that leaves us wondering whether it’s really the best way to spend six figures.

The new administrative position was approved unanimously by the School Board on Oct. 17. It was proposed by new Superintendent Brad Meeks, who said the absence of a curriculum director has resulted in a lack of coordination in some curriculum areas between the district’s elementary, middle and high schools. 

“Revisiting the teaching and learning position will be a move that will strengthen this district,” Meeks told the School Board. “I believe this will allow us to make our already high-performing district even stronger.”

The director of teaching and learning will earn between $82,000 and $107,000 per year, depending on experience. District Finance Director Dale Mellor said the salary will be paid for with unanticipated revenues from the district’s larger-than-expected student enrollment this fall. The district expects to collect $300,000 in new revenue because of the additional students. 

Meeks is concerned that although the district scores well on state assessment tests, groups of students continue to fall through cracks in the system. He said it’s part of a larger systemic issue in which the district lacks a common thread to what individual schools are doing.

We applaud Meeks’ goals, and we believe the outcomes he seeks are valid. But we’re skeptical of the impact a curriculum director can make. Specifically, the obstacles encountered by the district’s directors of curriculum throughout the past decade serve as a precautionary tale for what can be accomplished. 

The district has been working toward an articulated K-12 curriculum for years, and we’re not sure there’s much to show for it. And until there exists a culture within the school district that is open and embracing of curriculum and instructional change, we can’t help but be wary of the latest bid to accomplish it. 

By advocating for the reinstatement of a high-paid administrative position that was cut from the district two years ago because of budget concerns, Meeks has made his first bold move as superintendent. Unless he can influence some significant change throughout the district, he runs the risk of wasting precious financial resources on this position.

Comments

howard_roark 3 years, 1 month ago

And what happens when the $300,000 surplus goes away? What happens when it is time to make cuts again? Are they going to cut this position or 3 classroom teachers? I cannot understand how Meeks sees this as a wise decision. The editorial board is right; he is rolling the dice with the financial stability of our schools.

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howard_roark 3 years, 1 month ago

And somebody please explain to me how vertical curriculum integration addresses the academic needs of "groups of students (that) continue to fall through cracks in the system". Malarkey.

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Jodi Dorris 3 years, 1 month ago

Good questions, Howard. I don't believe this is a wise decision for our school district at this point. We are continuing to have less money to spend per pupil due to decreased funding weather it be from the Education Fund Board, the state or the federal government. Over the past two years alone the EFB's funding has decreased nearly 30%. We need teachers in the classrooms spending "face time" with our children, not more administrative positions. From what I've heard in speaking with teachers and some administrative staff, they don't feel this position is critical to our district. Why are we funding such an expensive position at this particular point and time?

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1999 3 years, 1 month ago

no no no. we need real teachers in the classrooms not another admin position. we need to keep art and spanis/french and gym and band and counselors.

that money can hire two REAL teachers who actually teach not sit in an office.

we do not need to hire someone who appears to be there only to make Meeks job easier.

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Scott Ford 3 years, 1 month ago

There is some data that may add to this discussion of why hiring for this position is likely not prudent. The State of Colorado conducts a Fiscal Health Analysis of all 178 school districts in the state yearly. The purpose of this audit is to identify "warning signs" of school districts that may be headed into troubled water.

Six fiscal health areas are analyzed. Some areas are more troubling than others. Considering the challenges school districts across the state are facing only 26 of the of the 178 have one or more warring fiscal health indicators. Steamboat Springs RE-2 is one of this select group of 26. The Steamboat Springs School district has been flagged for three years in a row for having a debt burden ratio of less than 1. This is not a panic but not a good thing. It is something that needs to be addressed and managed.

This is a matter of spending priorities. One would think getting off the Office of the State's Auditor "watch list" would be a priority.
http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdefinance/FiscalHealthReports.htm

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