Jo Ann Baxter, president of the Moffat County School Board, reflects on the past year in the Moffat County School District and looks toward goals in 2011.

Photo by Ben McCanna

Jo Ann Baxter, president of the Moffat County School Board, reflects on the past year in the Moffat County School District and looks toward goals in 2011.

Moffat County school board president reflects on 2010 accomplishments, looks toward 2011

Jo Ann Baxter is a retired schoolteacher.

She taught social studies at Moffat County High School for 29 years, from fall 1974 until retirement in spring 2003.

Her retirement, however, has been anything but leisurely or typical.

Two months after leaving MCHS, in August 2003, Baxter joined the Moffat County School Board.

In the ensuing years, she earned a doctorate in education, and now serves as the board’s president.

After 36 years of involvement in the school district, Baxter has seen a lot of changes.

“The curriculum we were offering when I started here was so basic. It is so sophisticated now,” Baxter said. “And, the demands are so much greater on students and on staff.”

Managing those demands, particularly on teachers, has been the focus of her work in 2010.

On a snowy day in late December, Baxter sipped coffee in the warmth of her Craig home, listened to bebop jazz, and reflected on 2010 — a year in which Baxter traveled to Denver more than 20 times as a participant in the State Council for Educator Effectiveness and

other organizations.

The State Council for Educator Effectiveness was formed by Gov. Bill Ritter to grapple with the finer points of Senate Bill 10-191, which Ritter signed into law May 20.

According to the governor’s website, the bill “sets the stage for basing the non-probationary status of teachers on consecutive years of demonstrated effectiveness in the classroom — not years of service.”

In other words, the bill eliminates what’s called teacher tenure.

Baxter, as a retired teacher and current member of the school board, said she sees the issue from both sides.

She understands that teachers find non-probationary status desirable because it protects them from arbitrary or capricious termination.

On the other hand, Baxter acknowledges the need to root out ineffective teachers in Colorado.

The crux of the council’s work is how to measure “effectiveness.”

Baxter said the problem with standardized tests such as the Colorado Student Assessment Program is they only measure the effectiveness of 31 percent of teachers — teachers who are involved in core curriculum.

“What about the other 69 percent?” Baxter asked.

“We have to have multiple measures,” she said. “And those multiple measures can be CSAP, ACT, PSAT, other standardized tests that we give. But also, it could be teacher-made tests.”

Baxter said teacher-made tests can be given to students twice for every new lesson — before and after the lesson is taught — to map the teachers’ effectiveness throughout the school year.

The council’s work is difficult, Baxter said. But, they’re making progress.

“There have been times that I felt positive we were burdened with an impossible task,” she said. “But, it’s the law. We have to do it.

“I have a little more hope that it can be done, based on our last few meetings.”

Baxter said 2010 was a good year for the school board.

“The first thing that I want to emphasize is the pride that the school board has in the students,” she said. “Our students have done so many things that we can be proud of.”

In particular, Baxter cited the MCHS Student Council’s push to raise the graduation rate.

“Our graduation rate is very good. It’s like 82 percent, but if they could get it into the high 90s, I’d be very pleased,” she said. “Of course, they want it to be 100 percent.”

Baxter said she is also proud of Moffat County teachers, particularly the work they’re doing during weekly collaboration time.

“Us telling them that they were going to have collaboration once a week — preschool through high school — was tough going for some of them,” she said. “It was a whole new concept. But, they’ve really taken to it. And, we’re really proud of them.”

Baxter also had praise for the community’s choices during November elections.

“We worked with the community, and the county voted against (Amendments) 60, 61 and (Proposition) 101,” Baxter said. “That was a community effort, as well as a school board effort. But, I think the community should be congratulated on seeing the hazards of those things.”

Baxter also cited increased participation in Parent Advisory Council meetings, state-of-the-art security throughout the district, an FFA state convention hosted in Craig, and much more as reasons to be proud.

Looking forward to the new year, Baxter acknowledges new challenges and goals.

Of top concern is the MCHS swimming pool, the school board president said.

“I’m hoping that we can continue to keep the swimming pool open, because we think it’s an important part of our curriculum,” she said. “We teach kids to swim in that pool, believe it or not.

“And, in addition to our swim team program, the community uses that pool.”

Regarding SB10-191, Baxter hopes her work moves from abstract discussion to concrete application.

“I would really like to see Moffat County become a pilot school district for whatever evaluation model (the State Council for Educator Effectiveness) comes up with,” Baxter said. “I’ve talked to (district superintendent) Joe Petrone about that possibility. He’s very interested in doing that.

“I’d like to see us be on the cutting edge of personnel evaluation. And that’s personnel evaluation from the superintendent on down. Everybody.”

Also of major concern this year, like most years, is the 2011 budget.

“We have to do another budget,” she said. “Any cuts we have to make in the budget, I hope we continue to keep those as far away from the students as possible.

“In connection with that budget process — this is a personal goal — I would like for us to investigate the possibility of asking taxpayers for an increase in the mill levy for full-day kindergarten, for transportation, for operating expenses.

“I’m just saying ‘investigate it.’ We need to look at all those options as we plan our budget. Because a mill levy is long-term money.”

Baxter’s work for the district is coming to an end in the new year due to term limits.

“I’ll be off the board in November 2011,” she said. “In the state of Colorado, you can only serve on the board of education for two terms.”

Baxter said she’s unsure about what lies ahead after her term expires, but she offered a coy smile.

“Maybe I’ll just be a truly retired person,” she said.

Comments

TSnyder 3 years, 3 months ago

Fact: November 2011 - 3 school board seats become open due to term limits. Please feel free to step up and get your name in the running!

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wellwell 3 years, 3 months ago

Well, justthefacts do you think you could do this? You have all the facts. Get on the school board and get the schools back where they need to be. I see the facts stated, I'm sure you have the solutions. Well, I'm waiting......

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justthefacts 3 years, 3 months ago

Fact: Some people are leaders, some are cheerleaders.

Fact: While the Schools are Failing, the majority of the School Board Members act as Cheerleaders. ( Some even look the part sometimes)

Question:T Snyder and Dr. B. act as??? ( Your answer here.)

Comment: Go team!!!!

Fact: The facts are the facts. The Moffat County School system is failing the community and nothing is being done by the Board to correct the fact, as a matter of fact!!!!!

Just The lets all be cheery and go down the tubes togeather Facts

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David Moore 3 years, 3 months ago

"Fact; Every school in Moffat County is on a state performance plan, except East!!!!"

Please elaborate on this without the usual post structure, I am not sure what you are getting at. Thank You.

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wellwell 3 years, 3 months ago

Well justthefacts, cheerleader too? Still, do you have any solutions? Well, I'm waiting.....

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justthefacts 3 years, 3 months ago

David Moore,

Look at the web site quoted. Check the schools that your children attend. The site gives the grade for the particular school, and how the state has that school graded. Poor performing schools are put on performance plans by the state, prior to the state taking control of the school.

well well; A school board that is proactive,sets expectations, and requires accountability from the administration. Some of the current members are only interested in protecting their former school union buddies. The union that was headed up by Dr.B. at one time, protects bad teachers and does not reward the good performers. It's a union thing. "Medocrity for all".

Fact: The School Board and School administration, have so far, been able to cover up the failure of the Moffat County School system.

Fact: Some Moffat County Schools only score a 25 out of 100. ( Is that something to be proud of ? or. to just hide from the Community??)

Fact: This School board has chosen to hide the facts from it's citizens hoping that no one would find out.

Fact: The cat is out of the bag. www.schoolview.com>

Just The formerly hidden Facts

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wellwell 3 years, 3 months ago

justthefacts, I appreciate your return post, especially minus your usual post structure. The new structure shows thoughtful communication and intelligence, please continue in that manner.

About a year ago I found the site and now it is in a new form with good comparitive graphing for the state schools, Northwest Colo, or district schools. I found the growth/acheivement graph gave poor results for all three comparative areas of state, NW Colo, and our district. This was measured in three critical areas, (math, reading, writing) and reading was the only area of near acheivement.

You have brought forth the problems quite well. What would be your solutions for: Getting the facts out to the public besides the blog? Getting a board that is proactive, sets expectations, and requires accountiblity from administration? Getting better actions by the Union? Oust union? __? Rewarding good teachers? Dropping protection of poor teachers? Getting the board to release the numbers and
comparisions?

I sure would appreciate your thoughtful solutions.

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justthefacts 3 years, 3 months ago

Fact #1: The Craig Daily Press should have run a story about this a long time ago. ( Instead, the CDP just accepts sound bites from the School Administration that gloss over the issue.)

Fact #2: Parents need see how the school that their kids attend score, and how that school is ranked by the state.

Fact # 3: Parents need to contact elected School Board members, and let them know that what is happening is not acceptable.

Fact #4 : School Board members need to bring ideas for solutions and implement those, rather than just doing as they do now, by rubber stamping the administration's failing policys.

Fact # 5 : School Board Members need to be held accountable or replaced.

Fact #6 : The majority of Moffat County graduates that are college bound, have to take remedial courses to be on the same level as their peers from other communities.

Fact # 7 : PARENTS AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS NEED TO GET INVOLVED!!!! GO TO THE NEXT SCHOOL BOARD MEETING And LET THE SCHOOL BOARD KNOW THAT THEY WERE ELECTED TO LEAD, NOT TO FOLLOW!!!!!

Fact # 8 : Our kids can compete with anybody, if they are given the same opportunities as the kids from other, more involved school communities!!!!!

Just The involving, ever evolving Facts

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