Officials urge strong bond between schools, business

Education key topic at Chamber’s State of Westminster luncheon

Posted 9/6/18

Officials from three Metro North school districts all made the same point to Westminster businesses Aug. 29 — we’re trying to craft your future employees, but we need your help. “What our …

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Officials urge strong bond between schools, business

Education key topic at Chamber’s State of Westminster luncheon

Posted

Officials from three Metro North school districts all made the same point to Westminster businesses Aug. 29 — we’re trying to craft your future employees, but we need your help.

“What our business leaders told us is that people entering the workforce were missing some skills — critical thinking, problem-solving, perseverance, cooperation and adapting through changing conditions,” Jefferson County School Superintendent Jason Glass told Westminster business leaders. “Those are the things we need to focus on in our schools.”

School superintendents from Jefferson County, Adams 12 and Westminster Public Schools were the featured panelists at the Westminster Chamber of Commerce’s third annual State of the City luncheon Aug. 29 at the Church Ranch Event Center. It’s one several regular events the chamber offers to its members, more than 300 local professionals and current and former elected officials.

All three school districts serve different parts of Westminster. Mayor Herb Atchison, in his keynote address, said the city is working hard with the schools.

“We can’t ignore the need to fund public education,” Atchison said, pointing that all three districts have funding proposals on November’s ballot — along with many other tax-related issues.

“The big concern I have is we’ll have people move through the first three or four items on their ballot, say they’ve had enough and start moving to the other column,” Atchison said.

He urged Westminster businesses to think seriously about funding schools.

“It’s important to you as a business leader, as a communicator or as an elected representative that we make sure education does not get left out,” he said. “So when you think about talking to your colleagues and your employees, have them think really hard about what they are doing.”

The school official echoed that sentiment.

Westminster Public Schools Superintendent Pamela Swanson noted that her district’s switch to a competency-based curriculum — focused on teaching concrete skills rather than abstract learning — was done to benefit businesses.

“The output of a competency-based education should be a competency-based workforce,” Swanson said.

The schools are part of the community and depend on the community, she said.

“The real essence of preparing the students for business is this: Public Schools cannot do it alone,” she said.

Adams 12 Superintendent Chris Gdowski said it starts with basic skills.

“We’ve made a significant effort in the last nine years to improve in that space — in our curriculum and resources — to make sure we are elevating our outcomes,” he said.

The result is that Adams 12 has moved from having 23 of 24 state rating categories below the state’s threshold to being at or above three-quarters of the state average.

Adams 12 graduation rate has also improved to exceed the state average — and so has the district’s Hispanic student rate.

Part of that is focusing on career and technical schools, and Gdowski said the district plans to build a second career/technical center north of the current Bollman Tech.

“We know that not all students are going to be interested in going to college, and those that do may have an interest in expanding their skills so they can work while they are going to school,” he said.

The district wants to graduate ready workers.

And Jefferson County Superintendent Jason Glass said schools depend on businesses.

“The idea of having a system of public education is a uniquely American idea,” he said.

But it took industry realizing that educated workers mattered for American schools to really come into their own.

“As we look at stories where public education has grown expanded and grown, all of them are stories where business and industry got engaged in education and provided both pressure and support,” Glass said.

He said that local business pressure on the schools was important.

City progress

Mayor Atchison’s address ranged beyond the schools, however, and he briefed the room on work at Westminster Downtown, at Westminster Station, the city’s light rail station and park at 70th and Grove and new businesses coming to the area.

He also addressed the moratorium on new construction along the Big Dry Creek sewer line. That moratorium covers much of the city, from 92nd Avenue north to 136th.

The city has known the sewer line would need replacing since 2011, and set aside money to do the work beginning 2022. But that was before the city began growing rapidly and realize the work needed to start much sooner. Currently, the city has halted all but 40 development projects in that area while engineers plot out the work that needs to be done, beginning in 2019.

In the meantime, Atchison said the city is open to any suggestions how to fix the problem.

“Everything you can possibly think of has got to be put on the table,” he said. “This is our livelihood and our future depends on solving this problem.”

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