On Thursday, February 8, the Boulder Valley School District hosted a “listening session” for community members who are interested in a classical education model for the children in their lives. It was a farce.
As a BVSD parent, having Ascent is important to my family, so I attended, as did about a dozen parents and other interested people.
The administrators in charge introduced themselves and proceeded to tell us what they wanted us to do. Robbyn Fernandez, Sam Messier and Margaret Crespo were the BVSD staff members who led the meeting, but things went south soon after the meeting began.
We were instructed to first rate these areas in rank order of importance: Environment, Curriculum, Climate/Culture and Outcomes. Then we were asked to stand next to the area that was most important to us.
The confused group did as instructed; it felt like being back in grade school. They asked us to take a few minutes to discuss and define the areas of priority we would want to see in a classical model school.
No explanation of what the plan was for this information left many of us wondering what was going on. But, we played along.
After a few minutes of adding bullet points to our respective areas, we came back together as a group to discuss each area. The staff asked us to rate the bullet points with a “thumbs up”, “thumbs down” or a neutral sideways thumb.
Immediately, several in the group began asking questions:
- What are you going to do with this information?
- Would you create a new school or take over an existing school for this new model?
- How would you split curriculum within schools? (that was offered by one of the staff members) How would kids who weren’t in the same curriculum interact?
- What does no-tech or low-tech really look like for this version of a classical education? (A huge priority for the group)
- How would the teachers be trained?
- How would you make sure the teachers and the school were using a true classical curriculum and not a watered-down version, meant to appease the public but hold the same “one-size fits all” curriculum currently offered at the vast majority of the district schools.
No one on staff could answer. It became quite clear very quickly that the staff was there to gather information only.
Frustrated Ascent supporters (all of us in the room but one, a person who has spoken out against Ascent in public several times; she remained quiet throughout the meeting) began to express what we all were thinking – “If you really wanted to create a classical model school, why didn’t you listen to us when we asked for Ascent?”
At this point, parents began to discuss the experiences they had had interacting with the school board, including noting that BVSD superintendent Dr. Rob Anderson worked on his computer throughout the January 22 Board of Education meeting, even when several parents directly addressed him. He never even looked up to make eye-contact with one parent who was giving public comment and tearfully pleading with him to approve this school.
We were then told by each staff member what their background was in classical education. One staff member noted she attended classical schools as a child but that she “doesn’t really like school” – she laughed while she admitted that, knowing the entire room was wondering why in the world an administrator in a public school district would admit that. Another told us she took three years of Latin.
When pressed again on what the plan was for this information, the staff had no answers. They could not tell us who would get this information, beyond Dr. Anderson. They did not have a timeline of what the next steps were for this information. And finally, they had no idea what would even happen to this information once it was passed along.
We all knew at this point that the entire exercise was a “check-the-box” time-waster for all of us. Dr. Anderson and the BVSD Board of Education needed to show how open to this option they were in advance of the State Board of Education meeting this Thursday, February 14. (Apparently the 650+ Letters of Intent to attend Ascent did not constitute proper interest for the superintendent?)
The staff heard quite a bit during the 90-minute meeting why Golden View Classical Academy has done it exactly the way we want it and that is why we asked for (and continue to ask for) Ascent Classical Academy Flatirons be approved. The bottom line: We want Ascent, not a BVSD version of whatever they might possibly offer sometime in the distant future.
Who knows if that’s what gets back to Dr. Anderson. We’ll probably never know.