Letter: School leaders urged to listen to teachers, staff | SteamboatToday.com

Letter: School leaders urged to listen to teachers, staff

Editor’s note: This is a letter sent to area school leaders in the Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Soroco school districts as well Mountain Village Montessori School and North Routt Charter School. The letter writer asked that it be reprinted as a letter to the editor.

Dear Dr. Sinner, Dr. Meeks, Mr. Watson, Mr. LaChance and Mr. Girodo:

These are trying times for us all and none more than you, leaders of our education system. Sincere thanks for your public service.

Daily, I see and hear gossip, science, facts and fear regarding reopening schools. There is much being said about what is best for students, big and small, about needs of working parents, freedom of choice, our economy and pros and cons in every direction. As a parent of a Steamboat Springs High School student, I’ve been queried and surveyed and invited to town hall meetings one after the other.

I urge you to cut through noise, fear and all the rest to tune in to staff and teachers, to insist on their input, to listen to their voices, to give them space and tools to grieve, problem solve, trial and error, collaborate, tweak and adapt. Not a select few. Every one of them should feel safe and valued to engage in making education the best it can be for Routt County. Draw out quiet voices. Encourage them to explore “out of the box,” “off the wall ideas” every day in every way that you can.

I am fortunate to have a successful business career for 30-plus years. Employees are key — the secret weapon — of every thriving government agency, nonprofit organization, corporation and business endeavor. Employee morale. Employee satisfaction. Career development. Employee retention. Employee engagement. You’ve heard it. You’ve studied it. You’ve seen it. There was never a more important time than now for you, our leaders, to live It.

Teachers and staff are not expendable, replaceable resources. They are talented, creative, genuine, big hearted, smart, experienced professionals faced with an unprecedented situation. Some are parents, and some are not. Regardless, no one other than teachers and staff is better suited to get our education system through this challenge.

My point is not to tell you what you already know. It is to show my support to you as leaders. Don’t be popular. Be smart. There are hard choices to be made. Do not succumb to outside pressure. Empower teachers and staff to make those choices.

I encourage you to stand tough — to tell people demanding your attention from all sides, yes, I mean parents, press, politicians, business owners, voters, even students, “Hold on. My resources are limited, and I must give priority to cultivating solutions from our teachers and staff.” Because, then and only then, we will get the best possible outcome for us all.

With respect and gratitude,

Catherine Swan
Steamboat Springs

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