Good Teachers Make For Good Programs

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When money is short, what’s a school district to do?

After at least two years of declining enrollment in vocational programs, numbers jumped this year.

It could be because of new and different programs. But we’re willing to bet it has something to do with the teachers.

When teachers leave, so do students. School officials say kids sometimes show more loyalty to the person running the program than the actual program.

The facilities need upgrades, there’s no denying that. The immensely popular automotive program could use a new building so its students can receive certification in the field. The much talked about agriculture program will face challenges recruiting students after the heralded Wendell Stevens retires.

We can talk about how much we need new buildings, but the truth is, there isn’t any money.

Yes, Payson may get money from the county’s $2.1-million windfall for rural schools. But remember, the public just refused to renew the budget override. The new board will face academic cuts, so the rural schools money will probably be used to protect the at-risk programs.

New buildings would be nice, but only if the money exists to construct them.

Money doesn’t educate kids, teachers do. An article in The New Yorker discussed calculations by Stanford economist Eric Hanushek, who found class size matters half as much as the quality of student and teacher interaction.

Good teachers respond to a kid’s comments and use erroneous statements as a chance to further the discussion, not just tell the student they’re wrong.

Good elementary school teachers allow their students to wriggle and writhe, while maintaining control of the classroom, because the movement is an indication of interest and not of boredom.

So while financial choices are constrained, let’s use the opportunity to re-invent ourselves. Let’s embrace creativity and use it a little. Let’s break the box because it turns out the box won’t support us or our children in the next few years.

Let’s support our teachers with everything they need because, chances are, no new buildings will be coming any time soon.

Design board saved at the bell

Whew. Saved at the buzzer.

So, Payson’s Design Review Board will remain in business after all, nudging developers to build on Payson’s cool mountain townness (with a western heritage, let us remember).

That’s great. Probably.

To be specific, the Town Council after two months of pondering has decided to not only adopt the design review board’s recommendations virtually intact — it also backed off suggestions to shift the task of applying those stands from the board to the planning staff.

Good call. Probably.

We never liked the idea of turning over to town staff the job of applying the design review standards. We’re glad the council backed off that plan. The design review board has pursued its mission with moderation, expertise and energy. It provides a good example of the value of citizen involvement in government and planning.

Of course, while we agree enthusiastically with the intent, we’re still a little put off by the detail in the new standards. Do we really need to specify exactly how much of a building’s frontage must be devoted to windows? Is stucco really evil? Would a town menaced by sparks from wildfires be better off with a few more virtually fireproof tile roofs (maybe colored a nice forest green)?

Fundamentally, we still agree with Town Councilor Mike Vogel’s initial concern about anything that will impose delays and confusion — once building actually resumes. We’ve now seen the world with too much building and then, with breathtaking speed, too little. It’s not hard to pick our preferred alternative.

But also like Councilor Vogel, we are much reassured by the quick, expert and reasonable way in which the design review board has operated in the past year. The board has caused few delays — but has improved the look of every project it has considered.

So the board is back — all tuned up for its run at the coolness championship. They have the talent, the heart, the smarts — and they’re playing for a championship town.

Very cool, Very mountain. (And, let us not forget, western).

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