Rural school districts in Colorado now have a mechanism to make their voices heard with the formation of the Rural Education Council. Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 will have representation on the council in the form of Randy Boyer, executive director of the San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
The creation of the council, announced earlier this month, is an effort to support the work outlined in A Rural Needs Study: Improving CDE Services to Rural School Districts. The study, commissioned by the Legislature, identified opportunities for improved services to rural districts and pointed to areas of needed services and resources, according to a written statement from the Colorado Department of Education.
The Rural Education Council will provide ongoing feedback to me and the Department on the unique needs of rural communities and school districts throughout the state and how those needs can be supported by the Department, said Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond in the statement. We are making good on our pledge to better meet the needs of rural districts.
Re-1 Superintendent Stacy Houser said the formation of the council is an excellent opportunity for smaller districts to highlight their needs and find answers to questions that have long plagued rural education.
I think there will be a benefit to our district, in that the more our needs are expressed, the more likelihood there is to find some solutions, Houser said. Dialogue is always good, and this is an opportunity for our voices to be heard on a state level.
Houser also expressed pleasure with the selection of Boyer as a representative for Southwest Colorado, noting his position at the local BOCES offers a unique perspective on regional issues.
I think Randy is a great representative, Houser said. I think he is connected to all the districts in our area and really knows the issues we face and he does a very good job of articulating them.
Boyer heads the recently consolidated BOCES which serves the Archuleta, Bayfield, Dolores, Dolores County, Durango, Ignacio, Mancos, Montezuma-Cortez and Silverton school districts. In a phone interview, he noted the benefits that could come from the council would extend to all districts.
I think it is good for rural districts to stand up and take initiative in the face of some of these pieces of legislation that are coming down around school accountability and curriculum alignment, Boyer said. The council will allow these districts to be part of those discussions and the formations of some of these frameworks.
The 18-member council includes one rural superintendent from each of the eight regions in the state and representatives from local school boards, teachers, principals and business and community members. In addition to Boyer, Southwest Colorado will be represented by Janae Ash, a fifth-grade teacher from Pagosa Springs Middle School, and Troy Zabel, superintendent of Bayfield School District.
Boyer said the council will need to address a number of issues, including capacity for resources and curriculum development and infrastructure.
If you look at the issues, 80 percent of the districts in Colorado are rural districts, Boyer said. From my angle, we are looking at trying to support the districts, and we have come a long ways, but we need to look at how we can continue to support these rural districts and pull off some of these things, such as data structures around student achievement and accountability structures. It is about working together for the best results for all the districts.
Reach Kimberly Benedict at [email protected]