“There is no ‘big I’ or ‘little U’ in ‘T-E-A-M’”, stated the Adams-14 Board Member Elect, Larry Quintana, adorned in a veteran’s cap and a Denver Bronco’s jacket and over a McDonalds breakfast. We took a casual moment with Adams-14's most outspoken board member for a recap on the past and a preview of where one of the most tumultuous school districts in Adams County is headed.
Larry Quintana is stepping back onto a new board this November and with a renewed crusade to unify not only the district with its purpose, but to also bridge the gap between the community and its necessary supportive role in Adams-14 education.
And while Larry is clearly capable of channeling a purpose for the board (Larry’s dominant role in initiating a censure of former Board Chairwoman Jeannette Lewis on an ‘enough is enough’ platform was well-noted), his chances of accomplishing the two levels of unification will be all-the-more bolstered by the board elections of both Dave Rolla (a well-respected and dedicated district instructor) and Mary Morton (a protégé of Larry Quintana with similar ‘kids first’ ethics).
“The others weren’t any less qualified, but I think the community spoke regarding [who and] what they wanted... boardmembers who would go talk to the people...we will have a much more cohesive board and this translates into getting things done.” Larry’s words echo his emphatic commitment to uniting the community over education by first uniting the Adams-14 board in its purpose.
So now that the board is united, how do you actually unite a community heretofore split over the effectiveness of the previous board under its former director? Here is where Larry Quintana may have yet another chip in his corner given his directorship of yet another community program, “One Community,” a nonprofit organization charged with the task of sponsoring education and programming to break down the geographic, ethnic, and cultural barriers to community growth and interaction. In recent years, “One Community” has sponsored numerous programs including summits for community leaders to explore the issues we collectively face as a community and how we –as a team– can best address them.
“Community Unification” to Larry Quintana and the new Adams-14 Board is best-defined as a goal that must rest squarely upon the shoulders of the Adams-14 Board and its district staff. “We need to best encompass the needs of the parents and students by reaching out to them and being much less focused on simply enforcing rules and policies... these are people and should be treated as players in the role of education of our children...” When asked about the success of present and past parent liaison programs in the schools (one brought quickly to mind was the ‘senior mentor program’ wherein community seniors formally discussed their real world experiences with children in the classrooms), Larry was equally critical: “They’re not generating [enough] parent participation. What needs to happen is that administration needs to see parents as being part of the community and treat every student as being the most important.”
On Bilingual vs Immersion Policies. The context of ‘unification’ is hardly addressed without considering what it means for Adams-14's predominantly hispanic communities being integrated not only into the system, but into what is decidedly now, an immersion program in Adams-14 (English as the predominant instructional language). “We learned,” says Larry, “that through the 5th grade, students who spoke only Spanish did no better or worse than those students who spoke English.” The message here, according to Larry, is that forcing instruction in English –rather than permitting a bilingual approach–doesn’t necessarily enhance academic success and this factor is a concern to this returning board member. “We might consider using one or two schools in the district to adopt bilingual education just to test whether it might be a good approach for the entire district...”
And what about other Adams-14 solutions? They’re coming. But perhaps equally exciting is ‘how’. The new Adams-14 Board is results-driven and equally bent on using a results-driven protocol. Take for example, the board’s concern in uniting the students and families of Adams-14 across racial and cultural lines... “We met with someone,” says Larry, “who has had strong results in bringing together the Caucasian, Latino, and African American student interests. Robert Vashaw and myself visited a school in Aurora in which its Administrator, Dr. Cassidy, took a gang-dominated school and was able to bring everybody together by forming three separate PTO groups –one for each ethnicity. After holding separate meetings, their leaders then met with each other. We need to look at programs like this.
“Common Academia” is yet another program being considered, in which students can freely transfer from one school to another within the district, without concern about falling out of line with their course studies. It’s yet another level of synchronization which the new Adams-14 School Board seems well-equipped to achieve in its renewed quest to stay in step with parents, students, and the community at-large.