Haukeness: We must work together to educate our students

Thursday, July 27, 2017 5:31 PM

How can local schools and communities work together for student success?

That is one of the questions Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 is asking community members this summer. The district has been holding focus-group meetings with parents, community and tribal members, and teachers to learn what they think RE-1 is doing well, where it could do better, and most of all, how those individuals can unite with the district to provide a better future for students.

During those meetings, participants discuss five questions:

What is it like to live in this community?What do you value about the school district?Where could we improve?What can we do together to empower our students?What advice do you have for the district?This is a small-town agricultural community where people value the pace of life and feel a responsibility to one another, one attendee said. That sense of responsibility may explain why many of the ideas proposed mentioned working together.

Educators and community members need to work together to instill a strong work ethic in students and teach them to value both education and their community. We have to paint a picture for our students about what is possible and what opportunities are available, participants said, and schools and the community must work together to create more career opportunities locally.

Community members appreciate that education is not just about curriculum and that educators truly care about their students. They are glad the district is offering more opportunities for students who do not plan to attend college. They are proud that many successful people both in local communities and beyond graduated from Montezuma-Cortez High School.

But, they said, the district needs to be more proactive in communicating with parents and the public in order to help people feel that they’re part of the action. Community members are concerned about the district’s challenges in recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers.

And they’re concerned about attendance. Students can’t learn if they’re not in school. Improving attendance is not just a school challenge, it’s a community challenge – another opportunity to work together.

I am impressed by and appreciative of the community members’ willingness to partner with us to provide our students with the best K-12 education possible and the greatest range of options for their future. It also reaffirms how proud I am to be part of this community, and how fortunate I am to have the privilege of being part of our school system and of focusing on educating our students.

There’s still time for you to contribute your own answers to the questions listed above. The district will convene additional focus groups this summer; watch the Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 Facebook page ( for dates and times.

The Facebook page also contains a link to an online survey where you can share your ideas without attending a meeting.

This input, which I will share with the school board, will help inform the district’s strategic plan and community engagement plan.

Lori Haukeness is superintendent of Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1. Reach her at Education Update appears in the Journal on the fourth Friday of every month.