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The time is now for Carbondale schools

Locations: Columns Published

By Matthew Hamilton

The moment is upon us for profound
change in our local educational system.

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What do we really want kids to be
gaining from our schools? Of course, we want them to learn how to
calculate math problems, how to write coherently, to know some
history and understand scientific concepts, but what else?

What about having our kids learn how to
work well with others and be good listeners? Or could our schools
focus on developing kids’ persistence, integrity, confidence and
ambition? How important is it that we develop kids’ ability to
think “outside the box” and find innovative solutions to
problems? Or could our schools be helping kids feel unafraid of
taking risks and understand the importance of learning from their
mistakes and even failures?

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What skills do you think our children
really need in order to grow into happy, healthy adults who are
productive members of their communities?

The Roaring Fork School District is
embarking on a project to re-define the shape of education in our
schools. With new leadership at the top of our district — Dr. Diana
Sirko and Dr. Rob Stein — we are asking community members, parents,
teachers and students to participate in the re-visioning of the
education we provide for our children. In contrast to the top-down
reforms of the past, we want you to be an integral part of that

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Nationwide, there’s a growing
recognition that the traditional approach to schooling is not
sufficient for the challenges that our children will be facing as
they come of age in the 21st century. Let’s explore together what
we think our children truly need and how we can provide those kinds
of critical experiences in our local schools.

Our district has the teachers, staff,
leadership and community support we need to create schools that truly
inspire and captivate students and provide them with the tools they
need to succeed. Now it’s time to cooperatively develop a shared
vision of where we want to go.

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In my eight years living here I’ve
had countless conversations about our schools. It’s time to move
those discussions from the hallways, pool decks, sidewalks and cafés
to some focused community-wide conversations.


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Over the coming weeks the school
district is holding community discussions in each of our local
communities (see info box for dates and locations). We are asking
community members to attend these gatherings to share your hopes and
dreams for the education of our children. These meetings are just the
first step toward creating a new vision for our schools.

Some questions to consider as you
ponder the future of our schools include the following:

• How can we inspire kids so that
they’re motivated and eager to learn?

• How can we get kids thinking
deeply and critically about the world around them and about the
things that matter most to them?

• How can we leverage the
incredible talents of our teachers?

• How can we take advantage of the
tremendous community resources available?

• What should be the defining
characteristics of a successful graduate of Roaring Fork High School?

Answering these and other questions is
essential to developing clear goals that will guide the development
of our schools over the next 7-10 years.

In order to answer these questions I’d
encourage you to review some excellent videos, articles and websites.
These include:

• The district wide goals and
graduation requirements of the Danville, Kentucky, school district


• TED videos from Tony Wagner
( and Ken Robinson


• The Center for Student Work and
the entire bevy of resources at the Expeditionary Learning Schools
website (


• The work of the High Tech High
network (

• The educational approach utilized
at the Denver Schools of Science and Technology

• The website of the Big Picture
Schools network (

• “How Children Succeed” by Paul

These are just a few of the resources
I’ve been reading and watching over the past year. I have a full
list of resources that I am happy to share (e-mail me at As I’ve learned more I’ve been
inspired by the possibilities that exist for our communities.

Our school district has a
responsibility to respond to the community’s desires. It’s time
for our community to step up and provide the direction about its
hopes and dreams for our children. It’s time for the district and
school board to utilize the tremendous resources at our disposal to
deliver a great product for all children. Let’s not let this window
of opportunity pass us by.

Matthew Hamilton is president of the
Roaring Fork School District’s school board.


Visioning meetings kick off in Basalt
on Sept. 25-26, continue in Carbondale Oct. 2-3 and conclude in
Glenwood Springs on Oct. 9-10. The Basalt schedule includes:

• Sept. 25, 7-8:30 a.m.: community
and business leaders at town hall; 5:30-8 p.m., community meeting at
Basalt Elementary School (Spanish with English translation, free
child care/free dinner at 5:30 p.m.); 6-8 p.m., meeting organized by
Valley Settlement Project.

• Sept. 26, 5:30-8 p.m.: community
meeting at Basalt Elementary School (English with Spanish
translation, free child care/dinner); 6-8 p.m., meeting organized by
Valley Settlement Project.

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