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Schools that prosper: Gardner

by Jaye Sudar
GARDNER- Last year cuts to education totaled over $200 million. The austere budgets which resulted have left some districts able to provide little more than basic services.
Proposition 103, which is on the ballot, is supposed to provide nearly $3 billion in funds for education. Unfortunately this is not a well-supported ballot issue.
In “Why Some Rural Communities Prosper While Others Do Not,” Andrew M. Isserman discusses how the support of the community on all fronts keeps those communities alive. It is the same with schools. CNN reported that if a school does not have community support, it is more likely to fail.
As a small rural school district, Huerfano RE-1 has suffered. The district has dealt with declining enrollment, falling test scores and rising drop-out rates along with a stringent budget.
Our district has three individual schools: John Mall, Peakview and Gardner. Each has its own style and niche in the county. Gardner is nearly 28 miles away from the other two schools, but Gardner’s reputation makes people willing to drive the distance so that their children can attend the school.
What is it that makes that difference? Are the teachers superior? The curriculum more diverse? The location ideal? Are the students all gifted and talented? While the answers may vary from person to person, the real reason this school succeeds is due to the community involvement.
On average, 90% of the parents volunteer in the school alongside former staff members. They come in as reading buddies, Grannies for pre-school and kindergarten, artists in the school, volunteer coaches, or room parents.
The school is a focal point for the community. Farmer’s markets, memorial services, music festivals and other events have graced its grounds. During holiday programs it is normal for the gym to be packed to the rafters as students’ families, former students and community members fill the gym.
It is also about the staff. Gardner School has had significant changes in enrollment over the last ten years. This year, they have over 100 students. The flux in students has made the teaching staff flexible and adaptive. Teachers routinely teach combined-year classes and stretch themselves by providing staff support for sports, music, drama or art.
This year the cuts have hit deep. Teachers and students have helped with janitorial duties. The janitor and his family often come to work on weekends to see that the building is ready for the students. Parents have joined together to provide a bus for students, making payments to the district to fund the bus. Years ago, a Mr. Tierny bequeathed funds to the school which became the Gardner School Foundation. This provides funds for the school to succeed.
Gardner is a special school, because it works with the community. It makes the extra effort to provide the best experience possible for students. Students achieve and the school prospers because the community cares about the school and the people who are a part of it.

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