RBC I Anyone who attended the July 20 public school finance forum in Meeker, led by state representative Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, knows Joyce Rankin has been an able aide to her husband, on education matters especially. Now Mrs. Rankin has been appointed to fill a vacancy on the State Board of Education (State Board).
Mrs. Rankin was appointed by a 13-member Republican Party vacancy committee in early August from among eight finalists to fill the seat vacated by long-term education advocate and chair of the state board, Marcia Neal, 81, of Grand Junction. Neal resigned in early June citing personal health and family matters as well as stating that the board is “dysfunctional.” The seat represents the Third Congressional District which is composed of 29 Colorado counties.
Rankin has experience as a classroom teacher and a principal.
The board has had some divisive discussions over the last several months on topics like how much testing to subject students to, when and if parents can opt out their student(s) from assessment tests, a state student health survey and privacy of student data.
Under Colorado statutes, the board has a duty to promulgate and adopt policies, rules and regulations concerning the general supervision of the state’s public schools, the Department of Education, and all educational programs operated by the state for persons who have not completed a high school education.
A critical responsibility the current board faces is the selection of a new Colorado commissioner of education to replace the well-regarded Robert Hammond, who retired last winter. The board has hired Gary Ray of Ray and Associates Inc., an executive search firm out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to find a new commissioner. In the meantime, Elliott Asp is the interim commissioner. The commissioner acts as secretary of the board and is a non-voting ex-officio member of the board.
Today’s board is composed of seven elected members, each representing one of the seven Congressional Districts. Members serve without pay for six-year terms. The board elects a chair and vice-chair from its own membership every other year.
Appointed to a yet unexpired term, Rankin will have to run for the seat in the November 2016 general election. According to Frieda Wallison, chair of the vacancy committee and chair of the Pitkin County Republican Party, Rankin intends to do so.
Two other board members have close ties to the State Legislature. Both Republicans, they are Deborah Scheffel of Parker (Congressional District 6), the sister of Colorado State Senate Majority Leader Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, and Steve Durham (Congressional District 5), formerly a member of both the State House and Senate from Colorado Springs, who is now considered one of the most influential lobbyists at the Capitol.
The other Board members currently are Valentina Flores, D- Denver (District 1), Angelika Schroeder, D-Boulder (District 2), Pam Mazanec, R-Larkspur (District 4), and Jane Goff, D-Arvada (District 7).
The mission of the state BOE is “to provide all of Colorado’s children equal access to quality, thorough, uniform, well-rounded educational opportunities in a safe and civil learning environment.” Their vision “is that all children in Colorado will become educated and productive citizens.”
Chris Selle, Meeker Superintendent of Schools, feels having Rankin on the state board will be good in that she has visited our district. In his experience, other State BOE members have not visited the rural districts where Selle has been. Selle says that the board needs good thinkers who can work well with others to put in place regulations and guidelines which will benefit student learning in Colorado.
Selle reports that he was honored, as part of a task force initiated by the board to review the state’s graduation guidelines, to be invited to provide testimony to the board in Denver last week. The board approved a revised “menu” of options through which students should prove their proficiency in English and math in order to graduate.
Much opposition exists on the board, Selle says, for various philosophical reasons, regarding state graduation requirements. These requirements, however, have been established by the State Legislature, and cannot be changed by the board. The board does provide guidelines on how the requirements can be met through various assessment tools. These guidelines are the “menu” approved by the board.
Ultimately, Selle says, the “menu” adopted last week is much better than the 2013 version. These 2015 guidelines require demonstrated proficiency only in English and math. Science and social studies proficiencies have been dropped. Selle states that, “While I still philosophically disagree with graduation requirements from the state, because they are an infringement on local control and are an unfunded mandates, the new guidelines ‘menu’ is much better than the old.”
Selle adds that, “Our community and school board will need to review the current graduation requirements and then revise them to reflect the state requirements. This will be work we will engage in over the coming weeks and months.”
Selle and Barone Middle School Principal Jim Hanks traveled to Glenwood Springs last Thursday to provide comment to the search committee for the new commissioner of education, to ensure the input of rural school district voices. In an email, Selle wrote that “the CDE has improved its service to, and understanding of, rural school districts in the past few years. We want that to continue with the new commissioner.”