On Thursday, students and parents raised emotional and strongly worded objections to Durango School District 9-R’s proposal to move Big Picture High School from the building adjacent to the district’s Administration Building to the Durango High School campus in a meeting with Superintendent Daniel Snowberger.
Technically, Big Picture is already part of DHS, its fourth Small Learning Community. With just 72 students, Big Picture caters to students with nontraditional learning styles.
About 60 parents, students and educators attended.
District spokeswoman Julie Popp said the district considered consolidating at DHS because of the savings it would generate.
Thrift seemed the least of Big Picture parents’ concerns.
One mother said she thought her children would drop out if Big Picture moved because they would “get lost” on a bigger campus.
Another mother said if Big Picture moved to DHS, the increased student population would necessitate an element of “crowd control. And, let’s face it, our kids are very independent-minded. If there’s a situation where people are laying the hammer down on kids who are used to having their opinions respected, they’re going to flip out and flip them the bird,” she said.
One student said she was illiterate before coming to Big Picture, because, though gifted, she was also dyslexic, and she needed Big Picture’s small, nurturing community to thrive.
Another Big Picture student spoke of his teacher’s dogged efforts to help him excel at reading and writing – a level of teacher-engagement he hadn’t previously enjoyed in district schools and to which he attributed the near disappearance of his behavioral problems.
His sentiment was echoed by another girl, who said she knew Big Picture teachers were committed to ensuring every student graduated, whereas at other schools, “they would already have given up on half of us.”
One mother said that to the extent she and other parents were able, they would “put our foot down.”
Snowberger quickly said, “You don’t need to put your foot down!”
Snowberger listened patiently to every comment and after an hour, told the room, “I didn’t know it was a stupid question when I asked it,” disarming the audience, which finally permitted itself to chuckle.
Assistant Superintendent Victor Figueroa said Snowberger was listening to parents and noted not a single person in attendance supported the proposed move. Figuroa said the district had yet to read the results of a parent survey, and he expected the district to reach a decision about the move by March 15.
Standing in the hallway after the meeting, many parents said they would do whatever it took to deter the move, including attending next Tuesday’s school board meeting.
“But if that doesn’t work, then I’ll just tie myself to the train tracks,” said one father, grinning.