Archive for October, 2007

Thanks for the Support

October 30, 2007

Election Day is one week away.  Many people in Boulder, County have mailed in their ballots.  The plan is for newly elected school board members to take their seats on Wednesday, November 14 – just two weeks from tomorrow.  Given that I am running without opposition, the outcome of my election is fairly certain.

I am excited to have the opportunity to serve the St. Vrain Valley on the school board.  I have had several people remind me that it is about service to our communities and I take that to heart.

I have spent the past three months making a concerted effort to learn from a wide range of people in our communities.  I was excited by the possibilities of public education and public schools before I announced my candidacy.  I am more excited now.  There are many, many people in our communities who are passionate about creating opportunities for our children, our schools and our communities.  I have been inspired and humbled by the efforts people are making in all parts of our school district.

I am learning that there is good work already in motion.  I also am learning that we must embrace efforts to create change with a much greater sense of urgency.

We are learning how to create learning environments in which all children can thrive.  These lessons are being learned around the country and right here in St. Vrain.  But, in order to capitalize on these lessons and provide all children with a superior educational experience, we must embrace the fact that public schools will change.  They must change.

Before I delve too deeply into education issues (I will continue to do so in future posts), I want to pause and express thanks to those who supported my efforts for school board.

John Caldwell has been a role model for me when it comes to community service.  I appreciate his service on the board and to our communities.  He is someone who I will continue to tap as a sounding board.

Heather and Matt Brandt have provided considerable encouragement and were gracious enough to host a kick-off party on my behalf.  Their daughter Isabelle spent a Sunday afternoon going door-to-door with my children and me.

Dave and Lenise Eiffert also have provided encouragement and Dave has made sure that our campaign complies with paper work required by the Secretary of State.

Debbie Lammers has helped me learn a great deal about the district.  She is another role model of service.  I appreciate how she is always upbeat even in the face severe adversity.

Annette Higgins took time to go door-to-door on my behalf and she is helping me better understand the challenges that face special needs students.

Brian and Sandy Herman have helped me to meet people I might not otherwise and give our family a boost with logistics, hauling our son Joe to many different activities.

Veronica Sommers inspires me to work hard, think hard and helped organize a parent discussion in east Longmont.

Karen Sekich opened up her home on my behalf so I could meet people from Mead.  I know Karen through Rotary.  Rotary’s motto is Service above Self.  That’s Karen!

Nanci Kalamaya offered early encouragement, contributions and shared her experience as a former school board member.

Colette Lotter and Rick Jacobi also opened up their home.  They recruited a great group of parents for a conversation in east Longmont.

Gene Kath, a friend and teacher at Sunset Middle School, allowed me to observe two of his math classes so I could gain some insight to what is happening in the classrooms.

Several people supported my campaign with contributions:  Veronica Sommers; Dave & Lenise Eiffert; Beverly Springer; Karl & Lisa Spiecker; Kristin & Eric Colon; Nanci Kalamaya; Jody & Matt McCain; Debbie Lammers; John Caldwell; Bill Sharp; Teri Pinney; Gretchen Hammer, and Laurie Zeller.  I appreciate your generosity.

Jamie Neufeld and Mike Newell, teachers at Silver Creek and Mead Middle School, respectively, arranged for me to have lunch with their colleagues.  It was great to listen to and learn from teachers.

Shari Malloy arranged for a tour of the Transition Program for Students with Disabilities.  This is one of many services provided by the district about which I am still learning.

Suzzanne Painter is making efforts to help me meet a wide range of people in the district.

Many principals, mayors and district administrators have made time to help me learn.

There are many other friends who have made extra efforts to help and who regularly offer encouragement.

Joni and I appreciate all that everyone has done for the campaign and for our family.  The friendships we have formed are part of what motivates me and gives me the energy to take on this role.  I will do my best over the next four years to earn the support we’ve been given by others.

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Head First Colorado

October 30, 2007

I would encourage anyone who is interested in education in Colorado to subscribe to Head First Colorado’s enewsletter.  It provides an interesting dialogue on education issues facing our state – albeit with an emphasis on Denver.  As Alan Gottleib, the editor, suggests it includes ideas that will reinforce and challenge what everyone thinks.  Here’s a link where you can subscribe:

http://app.icontact.com/icp/sub/forward?m=78687&s=3075379&c=D6R0&cid=145218

More on School Choice

October 24, 2007

When we believe in something, it is human nature to say that our beliefs are the source of a wide range of virtues.  And, it is human nature to ignore evidence to the contrary.

For example, I like the idea of smaller high schools.  My preference is based on personal experience.  I went to a small high school and had a great experience and I have succeeded academically.  I would like to join the small school bandwagon – which is receiving millions of dollars of support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – and claim that small schools will lead to higher student achievement.  It is just that the evidence doesn’t necessarily support that claim.  I still believe in that small schools have merit and are an idea we should look at seriously in this district.  However, I can’t claim that small schools will guarantee higher student achievement.

I wrote yesterday that there is not clear evidence that school choice will lead to higher student achievement.

Advocates of choice will point to studies that “prove” that choice does lead to higher achievement.  Brad Jolly posted this link in the comment section yesterday.  Please see http://www.friedmanfoundation.org/friedman/research/ShowResearchItem.do?id=10082 for data to the contrary.”

Opponents of choice can find evidence that “proves” choice does not lead to higher achievement, too.  For instance, see Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, page 158.

Paul T. Hill is an education researcher/expert who I respect.  He is an unabashed supporter of choice.  I find him authentic because he realizes that ideas such as choice can’t be pursued simplistically.  Choice does not guarantee good outcomes.  He wrote in Education Week:

The old arguments in support of school choice are still right:  Choice can make parents full partners in education and drive innovation.  Without it, public education is frozen in place by laws, contracts and adult entitlements.

But arguing for public school choice in the form of charter schools or voucher programs is not the same thing as claiming that any program offering choice will deliver all of the concept’s potential benefits.

[C]harter schools are getting mixed results, as are the few public voucher programs now in existence…

We could go back and forth on the debate of whether choice leads to increases in student achievement forever.  My point is that providing families with options of schools has merits irrespective of impact on student achievement.  And, boosting student achievement will not be solved simply by creating more choices.  That’s why I believe it is important to decouple these two issues.

I would like to make one more point on school choice.  I diverge from many choice advocates because of my interest in the civic health of our communities and nation.  Over the past couple of decades, the role that public schools play in nurturing and sustaining democratic life has been lost from the conversation.

We need some areas of our lives in which we are more than mere consumers.  We need institutions in our lives in which we are required to be democratic citizens – or our democracy will suffer greatly.

I believe we must strive to preserve public schools as an essential democratic institution.  That is why I support options and choices in the context of public schools but not vouchers.

Set Standards not Class Schedules

October 24, 2007

Colorado Republican legislators are proposing legislation that mandates a specific number of math, science and English classes that all students must take in order to graduate from high school.  They also are proposing that all students must take an exit exam before they receive a diploma.

The idea of an exit exam has merit and deserves consideration.  The idea to mandate a specific number of classes does not make sense.  In fact, it’s a move backward and will impede school district’s efforts to bring education into the 21st Century.  Here’s why.

We should be moving toward making learning the constant and time the variable, not the other way ‘round.  We should be trying to figure out ways for students to take the time they need to master material and then move on.  If some students can master material is half a semester, great.  If other students need one and a half semesters, fine.  Why should we hold students back who are ready to move?  Why should we force students to move on who aren’t ready?  We shouldn’t.

Designing instruction to move at the student’s pace rather the school’s pace is no easy task.  We must make systemic, logistic and cultural changes to succeed.  Making such changes requires concerted effort.

The Republican’s plan to mandate a specific number of courses only impedes this process.  It locks us into the very model for education from which we should be seeking to break free.

So, please Republicans, keep your focus on standards and resist the urge to set class schedules.

Choice and Achievement – They’re not the same

October 23, 2007

I believe we must provide families with more public school options to remain relevant as a school district.  Students leave our school district every day in search of options – estimates of lost revenue to the district range from $4 to $5 million dollars.

Some families want dual-language schools.  Other families prefer the Montessori approach.  Still others may prefer a science or arts focus.  And, some families prefer traditional schools.  As online learning becomes more imbedded in our daily lives the demand for options (and differentiated learning) is only going to increase.

The reason we need to provide families options is so that we can keep public schools aligned with public sensibilities.  We live in a world in which people can create their own music “albums,” choose their own news, set their own television schedules, design their own postage stamps and choose from 19,000 varieties of Starbucks coffee.

Clearly schools are not the same as Starbucks, but a certain bottom line sensibility has take root in our society.  People expect to have options.  One size fits all is a relic of the past.

Public schools cannot survive if they fall too far out of sync with this public sensibility.

Now, many proponents of choice argue that choice will lead to higher student achievement.  In those places where education choice exists, even robust choice, there is not clear evidence that choice does anything to elevate student achievement.  Paul Hill, a nationally recognized proponent for choice admits this to be true.

So, as we talk about the critical importance of providing families with a variety of educational options we must be careful not to conflate choice and student achievement.  Student achievement is a critical issue, of course, but it is a different issue.  If we separate choice and achievement as the separate issues that they are perhaps we can make more accelerated progress on both.

Campaign Spending

October 17, 2007

Today’s Times-Call reports that I lead all SVVSD candidates in funds raised and spent (see October 6 post on this blog for details of what I’ve raised and spent).  Victoria Cameron told me she found it ironic that, as an unopposed candidate, this would be the case.  Why have I raised and spent over $500?

I want to run a serious campaign.  Over the summer, I developed two budgets – $500 if I was unopposed and $3,000 if I had opposition.  I built the infrastructure for a campaign in July and August.  I created a website, started this weblog an printed flyers for door-to-door campaigning.  I had materials translated into Spanish.  And, I spent $60 for a voter history and precinct maps so that I could target high turnout precincts when I went door-to-door.

As it turned out, I am unopposed.  I have turned down several contribution offers because I already had met my $500 goal.  I continue to go door-to-door but I must confess I’ve been less diligent about targetting high turnout precincts.  Instead, I am focusing on neighborhoods where I don’t know as many people.  I thought it would be good to go places and meet people with whom I am less familiar.

I plan to keep the blog going after election day.

Constituent Question

October 16, 2007

Jon Kanas sent this email query.

I have a question for each candidate for which I have not heard a response to date.  I would appreciate your assessment of my concerns and  response to my question at your convenience:

  • I believe that the recent confrontations between the school district and the newly "empowered" communities in Weld County represent a significant drain of scarce school district time and resources.  The two most recent squabbles concern development fees and establishing a charter school.  The demographics and interests of these communities in Weld County differ significantly enough from the rest of the district that these types of "local control" squabbles will persist for the indefinite future.  I would prefer that the resources currently addressing these squabbles be redirected to address the complexities (distribution of debt, allocation of assets) and propose the process for the establishment of a new school district for the Weld County communities.
  • As a parent of two public school students, and a resident of Longmont,  what is your position on splitting the St. Vrain Valley School district into two distinct and autonomous districts.

Here was my response to Mr. Kanas.

As I am learning more about the issue of splitting up school districts, there seems to be both a philosophical and a practical answer to your questions.  Let me start with the philosophical:
I believe that the communities that make up the St. Vrain Valley School district would be better served by smaller school districts.  For me, this is not a reflection of poor relations between communities.  Even under the best of circumstances, it is very difficult for 7 school board members and a handful of administrators to understand the needs and interests of 45+ schools and eight municipalities.  This will become more of a challenge as the area grows.  The economic efficiencies we gain by being one district may be offset by what we lose in terms of civic representation and how responsive we can be to the specific needs of various schools and communities.
From a practical standpoint, what I am learning is that it is extremely difficult to break up a school district.  When Broomfield community leaders chose to form their own county, they did not attempt the same with a school district.  I need to learn more to understand all that is involved.  Meantime, I believe we need to take a good hard look at what is the best management structure for a district this size.  I think we can develop a better approach than we have now.

My Schedule

October 16, 2007

I am in the process of transferring information from my website www.creighton4stvrain.com to this blog.  I plan to shut down the campaign website but I will keep the blog going.  My hope is to keep it going for the next 4 years.  Here’s what’s been on my website – revised to reflect recent changes.  My plan is to update my schedule here from time to time.

This schedule does not include the many one-on-one meetings that I have had with a wide variety of people from Longmont, Erie, Frederick, Firestone, Lyons, Dacono, Mead and Niwot.

October

1 – Interview with St. Vrain Valley Education Association

2 – Sunset Middle School Visit

3 – Times-Call Editorial Board

     School Board work session

4 – Alpine Elementary School Visit

7 – Door-to-door in northeast Longmont

10 – Lunch with Silver Creek High School Teachers

11 – Times-Call Candidates Forum

16 – Door-to-door in north Longmont

18 – Carbon Valley Chamber Candidate Forum

23 – East Longmont community discussion hosted by Colette Lotter and Veronica Sommers

24 – Lunch with Mead Middle School Teachers

September

8 –   Literacy Day, Longmont Public Library

       Campaign Open House, Hosted by Heather & Matt Brandt

10 – Eagle Crest PTO

12 – Transition Program for Students with Disabilities Visit

       Coal Ridge Middle School Visit

       School Board work session and meeting

13 – Sunset Middle School Observe Math Classes

15 – Mexican Independence Day Celebration, Kensington Park

18 – Mead area discussion group hosted by Karen Sekich

19 – Northridge Elementary School Visit

      Longmont High School Visit

      School board work session

20 – Silver Creek High School Visit

21 – Niwot area community discussion hosted by Debbie Lammers

      Niwot High School Visit

August

23 – Columbine Elementary School Visit

19 – Heritage Middle School Visit

31 – Altona Middle School Visit

      Eagle Crest Elementary School Visit

3 Minutes at the Times-Call Candidates Forum

October 11, 2007

For those of you who would like a jump start on tonight’s candidates forum, I have posted my talking points below.  They will be familiar themes for those of you who have read my blog.

Each candidate is allowed three minutes for a statement.  There will be 20 minutes of Q&A after.  I will do my best to keep track of questions and my answers to post here later.

Talking Points

Good evening.  My name is John Creighton.  Thanks to all of you who chose to hear us rather than watch the Rockies.  We appreciate it.

I’m running for school board because I’m bullish on public schools.  We can provide our children with opportunities our parents and grandparents could not have imagined.  To deliver on these opportunities, we must understand public schools will change.  They must change.

In a few years time, if not already, families will seek out schools that…

          Tailor curriculum to EACH students’ unique needs, interests and passions so that students are eager to learn.  A love of learning is an essential attitude and an essential skill in our era.

Families will seek out schools that…

          Cultivate creative skills, risk taking, as well as working collaboratively with diverse groups.  Narrowing the curriculum to focus on a small set of core subjects is not sufficient.

Families will seek out schools that…

          Enable teachers to focus their energies on high-value instruction; that integrate technology into all areas of learning; and that provide learning experiences in and outside the classroom.

Future generations will not know what we mean by field trips because the walls between school and community will begin to disappear.

Families will seek out schools that…

          Base student promotion more on knowledge and less on classroom time.  We all know that every student learns at their own pace.  We need our schools to better reflect that reality.

Families will seek out schools that…

          Enable their students to take more responsibility for their own learning.   Today, accountability rests disproportionately on the shoulders of schools and teachers.  That doesn’t make sense.  We must develop systems that support every student’s RIGHT to be responsible for themselves.

Families will seek out schools that…

          Allow ample time for personal relationships between adults and students – as well as between peers.  We know healthy relationships are essential to a quality learning environment.  We must be intentional about creating time and space for relationships.

          And, we must make it a priority to reclaim public school’s role to build community.  History teaches us we are at our best when we find ways to bridge our differences.  Public Schools are one of the places in which we can cross divides and learn from, with and about one another.

If we focus on creating schools with these qualities, I am confident we can deliver on the unprecedented goals we have set for our public schools – to prepare every student for schooling beyond high school and to enable every child to pursue their own potential.

But our schools and teachers can only accomplish so much on their own.  We must choose to support our schools.  Yes, with our wallets.  But, just as important, with our energy, our minds and our hearts.

This is what has made our communities and nation so great:  Our vigilance, indeed, our passion for investing in the next generation.

I am running for school board in honor of those who invested in my generation and because I want to be part of the effort to accelerate our progress toward schools…

          That families want

          Where students can thrive

          And, where teachers are appreciated

Door to Door – Thanks Izzy, Emma, Joe & Grace

October 8, 2007

Thanks to Izzy, Emma, Joe and Grace we were able to touch a lot of houses yesterday going door-to-door.  We walked in northeast Longmont neighborhoods.  This is a part of Longmont in which I have spent little time so it was great to learn more about another area in the district.  I also ran into a few friends from volunteer work in the community, which was fun.  Our favorite house of the day was the one that had a skeleton head sing Soul Man when we rang the door bell.  The door to door team wanted to visit there again.  We wrapped up the day with hot chocalate and Moon Pies.  It was a fun afternoon.