Seven candidates are running for two open seats on the Dolores School Board. They are Eugene Reininger III, Lisa Holz, Jerry Whited, Sandra Corbitt, Casey McClellan, Rebecca Frasier and Kay Phelps. Terms are for four years.
The Nov. 7 election will be by mail-in ballot, and the top two vote-getters will earn board seats.
Each Friday, The Journal will publish candidates’ answers to a different question submitted to them.
This week the question is:
What suggestions do you have for retaining teachers and students in the Dolores School District?Casey McClellanReview teachers’ salaries periodically to ensure that they are competitive with other districts in the region.
Administration needs to provide a clear set of goals, direction and structure to the teachers that reflect a philosophy of educational excellence. Excellent schools retain excellent teachers. Administration should also provide a high level of transparency within the school system. Opaqueness generates a level of distrust that shouldn’t exist within a school district.
Provide educational and leadership development opportunities. No other profession is more passionate about learning and passing that knowledge on than the field of education. Teachers need additional opportunities to grow, as do students. Continuing to offer college and vocational learning opportunities to students in their junior and senior years is an attractive perk to many students and parents.
Provide an environment of respect, order and discipline within the classrooms, providing a healthy learning environment for the students while allowing teachers to teach without constant disruptions and distractions.
Elementary and secondary school sports are an important part of every school district. They provide opportunities for students to learn important life lessons such as hard work, dedication, self-discipline, sportsmanship, honesty, respect and teamwork. At the same time, the district must ensure that the coaches are setting the best example of this for the students. Students are often lost to better athletic programs elsewhere.
Eugene Reininger III It seems that salary is a large factor with respect to retaining teachers in long-term positions. I realize that the budget is tight, but we may need to work harder in order to “massage” the numbers a bit. Keeping teachers employed for longer periods of time builds trust within the school system, community and the student body. It is paramount that efforts are made to reach this goal. I think an easy place to start would be the budget, which would include salaries and benefits. From there we may need to look deeper to see if there are any other reasons in particular why they might be leaving after short periods of time.
To retain students, I think a good starting place is to retain teachers. I think this will help. I think as a school system and a community we first need to understand the issues that are driving students to relocate, whether that be an exit survey/interview of students that are leaving, or an overall survey within the student body, there must be information and data to be gained in this area. From there, decisions can be made and policies introduced to remedy these inconsistencies.
Jerry WhitedFirst of all, we need to find out why the teachers are leaving. Is it they feel that they aren’t being heard or is it money? Teachers need to be able to voice concerns without feeling they won’t be heard or that they will be punished. Teachers are our first line to the students.
Our students need to be excited about going to school again and need to feel supported. Retaining teachers and students work hand in hand with each other. If students feel supported and safe, they will want to be at school and take pride in what they do, and I feel this goes the same for our teaching staff. It all starts with leadership.
Lisa HolzFirst and foremost, we need to start considering the “whole” person when we talk about students, teachers and staff. Academic achievement does not exist in a vacuum — our physical bodies and brains need nourishing food, ample activity and quiet/down time. We also need to support and encourage our school community to develop better social/emotional intelligence. The addition of a school-based health clinic that includes mental health-care services is promising; we also need to improve the quality of food we offer in our schools, provide plentiful opportunities for physical activity and fresh air, as well as quiet space for reflection and integration.
If we are able to create a school culture that values and models the choices that support good health, we will undoubtedly see a decrease in behavior disturbances (and bullying), more focused and better quality time in the classroom and an increase in academic achievement.
Kay PhelpsInequitable funding across Colorado that negatively affects per pupil expenditures and teachers’ salaries needs to be fixed. However, school climate can be improved without legislation. Colorado teachers frequently cite job dissatisfaction as the leading reason for leaving teaching positions, including low salaries, lack of support from school administration, lack of student motivation, student discipline problems, and lack of teacher influence over decision making.
To attract and retain teachers, Dolores RE-4A can empower teachers as leaders in a variety of roles and demonstrate genuine care in teachers’ well-being by listening and responding to needs (such as the new infant and toddler program for young moms), investing in teachers through professional development and by providing perks such as after-school exercise and stress management sessions, social hours, non-academic retreats, and by celebrating individual strengths of teachers regularly on the school website. When teachers leave, ask why.
Regarding students, the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, a collaboration between the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, offers a list of evidence-based strategies for interventions and supports, many of which Re-4A has adopted. Recommended strategies include restorative justice that features peer mediation, social-emotional learning and character education, differentiation of instruction to allow for individual strengths, and interventions for at-risk students (RE-4A’s School Health Grant and Response to Intervention are good examples).
Sandra CorbittThe specific suggestions I have for retaining teachers and students would be for the teachers offering more pay, and maybe even daycare. Making every teacher know that they are important to our school district and maybe holding a teacher of a month award or something of that sort. In order to retain students we need to know why they are leaving in the first place and then maybe we can fix the problem. I also think it’s time we bring the Bear Pride Spirit back to our community and our schools again!
Rebecca FrasierI think it’s best to first address the retention of students. Currently there is a question on the back of the student check-out form that asks parents why they are taking their students elsewhere, and I am told this is often not filled out. I have suggested that the board conduct an exit interview to find out why students are leaving. If we can answer why students are leaving then we can take steps to retain them, and with any hope, get some of them back. With our student count up, this will bring in more funding to our schools.
The retention of teachers may be a little more tricky since statewide we are in a teacher shortage with teacher salaries falling. Legislation is in the works in House Bill 1003 that is studying the teacher shortages and data will be out in December. House Bill 1187, which passed in June, allows teachers to come out of retirement. Additionally, I believe the school board should provide teachers with a happy, healthy work environment under competent administration and allow them the opportunity to voice their concerns without fear of retaliation. I don’t believe there is an easy answer to this question, however, since it is a statewide problem I am hopeful that it can be addressed.