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Teacher-student relationships highlighted in feedback meetings

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School board members gather with constituents

By Daniel Laverty

A small group of Jeffco residents decided Saturday morning that quality educators and strong teacher-student relationships are critical when it comes to student achievement and success.

Paula Noonan, the school board’s District 5 representative, led a discussion on student achievement in Chatfield Senior High’s library.

“I think it’s great having access to board members like this,” said Rachel Swalley, a parent of three Jeffco students. “I hope (the district does) a lot more of these kinds of meetings.” 

The discussions are part of the district’s community engagement meeting series, held throughout the school year. The meetings create a two-way street, allowing board members to inform and also hear feedback from constituents in a casual setting. 

Swalley was joined by Jeffco parent Terri Straut, Normandy Elementary principal Rebecca Chao and Chatfield Senior High principal Wendy Rubin. Alonzo Rodriguez, who announced his candidacy for the Jeffco Board of Education earlier this month, also attended and was joined by his wife, Virginia. Rodriguez is running in District 5.

Last week Noonan announced she would not be running for re-election0.

“The biggest impact when it comes to improving student learning is our staff,” Chao said. “Whether it’s a kitchen manager, a teacher or a principal, everyone has an impact on our kids.”

Straut agreed.

“It all comes down to having trusted adults for kids,” she said. “We need to be thoughtful about bringing that human element.”

The entire group agreed that, besides students, teachers are most important.

When Rodriguez’s son started attending Columbine High two years ago, he told him two things.

“First, do your best in everything,” Rodriguez said. “Secondly, have fun.”

Straut said she’d like the school board to be more transparent, especially when it comes to funding.

Rubin said character counts with students.

“I’m trying to add resiliency to students,” Rubin said. “We need to find ways to encourage students and let them know it’s OK to take risks. Teachers should give up a little bit of control in the classroom. Let your class struggle a bit. That leads to resilience.”

Because of the low turnout, each attendee was able to express concerns and opinions.

“I like this format,” Chao said. “We know what Jeffco’s vision is, and we get to problem-solve together.”

“It’s fascinating,” Noonan said at the end of the meeting. “I thought we’d come in here and talk about technology and other things important to student achievement — but it all comes down to human involvement. That’s how it’s always been.”

Jeffco’s other four board members each hosted a meeting on Saturday in their respective districts.