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In total dismay I read of the consideration of Rangely schools switching to a four-day week. It appears from the article on the front page of the Herald Times that Barry Williams, said to be Rangely school superintendent, is leading the consideration.
The Meeker school system tried this experiment a few years ago and, with community outrage, threw it out. At the time, I tried to suggest that Meeker adopt a six-day week and take at least four weeks off of the summer vacation. This suggestion got essentially nowhere, but, over the objections of a few teachers, we got over the practice of a four-day school week. (One of the reasons, it was said at the time, was the number of school teachers who decamped each Thursday for Grand Junction.) Honestly, the adjustments to athletic competitions — football, basketball and wrestling — were complicated by the four-day week. Another benefit for the six-day week, by the way.
The obvious needs of our children in 2010 are a national issue. The country is becoming aware that we do not have the world’s finest educational system. We are debating how to overcome the horrible shortcomings of American students on test scores in comparison to those of other developed nations. We have, as a nation, been terribly let down by our school and educational systems.
The control of teachers’ unions over many state legislatures and teacher tenure protection for incompetent teachers have been nearly insurmountable problems.
The president, the Congress and our state Legislature are addressing and attempting to solve our shortcomings and improve the scores of students and schools. The Sunday Denver Post articles describe the efforts to raise Colorado’s scores and quality of schools. This is not the best time to saw off one leg of each Rangely student’s desk.
Since Meeker got rid of the four-day week (and partly because we were fortunate in the extreme) it has three or more outstanding teachers with the result that our small town has two graduates in Ivy League colleges and has had three Boettcher scholars. No one believes for a minute that the children of Rangely, with its highly trained and educated populations, aren’t as smart as or smarter than those up the river. We are all aware of the Rangely student, the son of a driller, who was first in his class, cane bearer at the University of Colorado, and was first in his class at the Harvard Law School and gave the commencement address in the Harvard Yard.
Money. The school systems require a lot of money. Not only have the communities in Rio Blanco County had to build school plants; for a number of reasons, including the soil conditions in the valley, we have had to rebuild several of the school buildings. Our costs have not been steady. However, the great mineral resources of the county — oil, gas, coal — have helped us over the bumps. The test isn’t whether the Weber Unit will pay for everything, but how much easier our load is than most Americans. Use our wealth to employ the finest administrators and teachers in Colorado and to afford our children an opportunity to have a fulfilling, challenging and superior education!
Frank G. Cooley