As I wrap up my 31st year in public education, I’m reflecting on where we have come as an institution.
Growing up, it was clear that education was key to one’s future success. Getting good grades, working hard and being responsible were expectations placed upon me by all adults in my life. The family was a large part of the puzzle, setting values and expectations when I was growing up. For many reasons that has changed, but what hasn’t changed is parents’ love for their children.
Today, we find ourselves in interesting times. As a public education institution, there are tremendous pressures to shoulder roles that certainly stretch beyond student learning. Many will argue why that is the case. Some will blame parents, some will blame the institution itself and others will blame a culture that is polarized and often seems unwilling to discuss what is best for our children to prepare them for the future.
Politics clearly have entered the arena of public education, where we can be a pawn for political factions whether it’s debating what standards we teach, who should be responsible for developing those standards or simply whether public schools are better than private or charter schools. Regardless of the issue, it can be difficult to bring conflicting perspectives to the table to seek common ground. Does this behavior sound familiar in light of the national political scene?
Even in our own community, I hear everything from “the superintendent is cooking the books” to “the only district concern is assessment.” If we talk about the budget – there is some sinister plot. If we talk about identifying where kids are academically during the year – we have a “lovefest” for testing.
What I know is that each and every member of the 9-R staff wake up with the best intentions to make a difference in the lives of students. We internally may disagree on what that may look like, but let me assure you – the commitment is genuine on all sides. My challenge as an educational leader is creating that civil dialogue to truly hear from stakeholders and share points of view in a manner that will allow us to grow as an organization from ideas from all sides. I need the help of all stakeholders to accomplish that.
Durango can be unique. We can continue to have discussions around how to best support our children and prepare them for a very different future than the lives we are leading today. If you disagree with something I’ve said or done, please reach out to me. We are talking about our children!
Please participate in the conversations we are having. Take our surveys, attend our information meetings. The missed opportunity would be sad for our kids if your voice isn’t at the table!
Watch for the survey online at www.durangoschools.org, at all school sites and in your mailbox.
Email Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger at DSnowberger@durango.k12.co.us.