district 20 board meeting jan. 16

Academy School District 20 board President Thomas LaValley responds to parent concerns over the proposed changes in school start times for the 2023-2024 academic year at the Jan. 19 school board meeting. He said he received about 40 emails earlier in the afternoon on the topic.

If it ain’t broke, the slang adage implores, don’t fix it. Academy School District 20 needs serious fixing, lest it renders the children illiterate and unable to balance checkbooks.

State test scores during the 2021 election cycle revealed abysmal public school proficiency rates in math and reading — subjects essential to the quality of any child’s future. In Colorado Springs School District 11, only 38% of students were proficient in English-Language Arts (ELA) and 31% in math.

District 20 had better scores, relative to D-11. Yet, with proficiency levels of 60% in ELA and 50% in math, the operative word is “relative.”

Widespread educational dysfunction led our community to demand something more. Rejecting business as usual, voters elected new Board of Education members in D-11, D-20 and other area districts.

New board members shared a campaign commitment to laser-focus on student achievement. With this promise, they defeated union-backed candidates who placed the interests of district employees above the need for students to learn.

A few of those new boards are revolutionizing public school culture by aggressively replacing failure with success. School District 11 is the shining example.

The D-11 board parted with Superintendent Michael Thomas, who focused on the woke new agenda of “diversity, equity and inclusion” — not on reading, writing and arithmetic for all. Board members voted unanimously to hire Mike Gaal, who does not tolerate low-performing schools. He won his new job by showing his record of positive results.

Gaal prioritizes genuine equity — the concept that all children can and should learn without regard for their personal circumstances or genetic traits. He quickly built a game plan to improve student learning, taking bold actions that will improve academic outcomes. D-11 residents are getting what they voted for in 2021.

With the upcoming retirement of Superintendent Tom Gregory, the D-20 board is searching for his replacement. With this golden opportunity, the board will choose sustained failure or newfound success. There is reason for concern. In contrast to the energetic fervor D-11’s board displayed in finding Gaal, the D-20 board appears complaisant and smug.

Regarding the superintendent search, Board President Tom LaValley said, “We are not a failing district. We are a high-performing district. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel in District 20.”

We beg to differ. With 40% of students unable to read at grade level and 50% falling short in math, D-20 needs an overhaul. It is disappointing that LaValley doesn’t get it.

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D-20 announced its four superintendent finalists last week. Two internal contenders are entrenched in the administrative bureaucracy that needs reformation. All four are longstanding figures in public education.

There are questions as to whether any of these candidates recognizes that “good enough” is not good enough. We cannot fail to educate one student in primary disciplines, let alone 50% of students. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Hopefully, all finalists see the need for change. It is the board’s job to conduct due diligence and ensure the final pick can reform D-20 with the same passion and skills that Gaal reforms D-11.

If they cannot find the right candidate among the four — a professional with the proven ability to deliver “high-performing” classrooms — they should continue their search. Getting this wrong cannot be an option.

D-11’s success has earned the ire of those who would like to maintain the system of perennial failure that, until recently, has held an iron grip on public education. That has not stopped board members from pursuing their goals.

They have proven no district board needs to fear making waves. School boards are in charge, children are the future and voters entrust the D-20 board with improving the future of students. The board must serve children, not an educrats’ establishment that accepts 50% proficiency as high performance.

The community needs D-20’s new superintendent to have the leadership skills, vision and road map to take the district to new levels of success. The Gazette’s editorial board members believed the D-20 candidates they endorsed in 2021 would race toward that goal. No endorsees campaigned on perpetuating poor performance and accepting existing standards.

The time is now for D-20 board members to deliver what they promised, by finding and hiring an above-average achiever as the next superintendent.

They lead a district that falls considerably short of the board president’s claim of “high” achievement — the minimal standard our children deserve. Our community cannot afford, and should not tolerate, more of the same.

The gazette Editorial Board

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