Seeking answers | SteamboatToday.com

Seeking answers

School Board directs Smyser to gather all-day kindergarten input

Mike McCollum

— The Steamboat Spring School Board directed interim Superintendent Sandra Smyser on Monday night to gather the pros and cons of implementing all-day kindergarten.

Among the questions Smyser was asked to answer included cost implications, academic benefits and community views toward implementing the program.

Board members – along with members of the community who attended the meeting – expressed their displeasure with the lack of progress made by the district’s all-day kindergarten committee on gathering reports on the existing half-day kindergarten program and what is needed for an all-day program.

“The committee came to a halt with no direction as to what program they are supposed to put together,” Smyser said of the committee composed of district stakeholders such as administrators, teachers, support staff, parents and other members of the community.

“Is this supposed to be a program geared toward at-risk children, or is it an academic program focused on everyone?” she asked. “These are the kinds of questions that can really make a difference in what type of program we have.”

The committee was formed by the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, JoAnne Hilton Gabeler, in November shortly before the three new board members began their terms on the School Board.

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Board member John DeVincentis said he hopes Smyser brings back enough information to kick-start getting all-day kindergarten implemented for the 2008-09 school year.

“The board asked for all-day kindergarten in August,” he said. “I find it frustrating that we are at this point in the year without having these questions answered.”

Monday’s School Board meeting continued a years-long discussion about implementing all-day kindergarten. Board member Denise Connelly said it’s a topic that has been debated for about 16 years, and it’s time for board members to provide the leadership to get the program started.

“We are in a stage of transition where we are implementing a new process of monitoring results,” Connelly said of the School Board’s movement toward policy governance, which emphasizes governing entities to empower administrators and staff to make decisions.

“I would hope not to short our students for the sake of a process,” she said.

School Board President Robin Crossan told community members – many of whom were upset that the Hayden and South Routt school districts have figured out ways to implement all-day kindergarten – to be patient with board members.

“As you can see, we are new at this, and we hope that as we move through this process in a thoughtful manner, we will gain experience so we can move forward with (policies) at a much quicker pace in the future,” she said.