Growing through change

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Kate Cocchiarella Portrait

By Kate Cocchiarella

In recent weeks, we have all had our lives turned upside down. So many things that we take for granted — monumental, important things, and small, everyday things — have been snatched away. The course of the future is uncertain. The measures we have been obligated to take for the common good have slowed the spread of the virus and preserved the health of many, but at a cost of many things we hold dear.

I am in awe of our teachers and students. A switch of this magnitude, from in-person classroom instruction to mostly online instruction, is an extraordinary feat. The hard work and fortitude being expended in pursuit of learning inspire me. Of course, there are struggles, and I imagine there will be failures as well as successes. These lessons will be valuable as we take education further into the 21st century. 

It is a deep blow to the Class of 2020 that traditional graduation ceremonies will not be held as previously scheduled. Each high school is working with its community to create an alternative ceremony that will acknowledge every graduating senior in a non-traditional format. I am confident that the Class of 2020 and their families will create unique and memorable experiences to mark their milestone achievement.

Canceling spring break and moving up the end of the year to the end of May thrilled some families and dismayed others. The decision was based on community feedback and with the intention of keeping students engaged in their newly established study routines while they were asked to stay at home. The engagement data showed a steady upward growth of participation each week. Momentum was building, and we wanted students to stay connected.

Other difficult decisions are looming. Budget cuts are once again before us. Eagle County Schools has been advised to prepare for at least a 10% cut in funding. The decline in state revenues combined with our county’s dropping enrollment means we may be tightening our belt for several years to come. We are discussing school consolidation as just one part of an overall savings plan.

There are multiple benefits to the efficiencies we could realize with consolidation. Still, there is also the adjustment that would have to be made by the June Creek community. Our respect and love for the JCES family make contemplating consolidation very difficult. However, tough times are coming, and we are preparing ourselves for more cuts and more hard choices as we move forward.

The board is grateful for the confidence this community places in us. We are responsible for the education of your children and the spending of your money. This duty is not taken lightly. Change is never easy, but it can bring progress and growth. I am confident that together we will meet whatever challenge next arises. On behalf of the board of education and the administration of Eagle County Schools, I want to thank you all once again for your effort and your support.

Kate Cocchiarella is the board president for Eagle County Schools. She can be reached at kate.cocchiarella@eagleschools.net.