Dear Editor:

This is the first letter to the editor I have ever written. Yet now, as a community, nothing is more vital than our children’s education and I am impassioned to write.

Collaboration is the key to our schools, community, state, nation and world. Collaboration is what we in education focus on in the classroom, region and all points elsewhere. By teaching our children collaboration, we all will go further. And we, as adults, must model this collaboration.

Our current school board was awarded the Colorado Board of Distinction for their vision, action and collaboration. The upcoming school board election provides us with an opportunity to select a candidate who can add to the collaboration and vision of our current board. Dr. Dwight Hooton is on the ballot for the school board and he is a collaborator. Having known Dr. Hooton for many years, he has consistently exhibited strong leadership with heart, vision and collaborative skills combined with an ability to shoot straight.

This ability to combine sharp intellect with direct communication in a collaborative style will add immensely to our school board’s mission. Dr. Hooton has experienced working his way up from a community college to veterinary school to serving as the Head Veterinarian at a prestigious stable in Dubai and back to his home here in Pagosa. This “down-home” background, combined with his rich international experience will be valuable in continuing the course of guiding our district to a 21st Century education.

The candidate running against Dr. Hooton has not demonstrated this ability to collaborate, though there have been many opportunities. Our district is in strong financial shape, despite state cuts and declining enrollment. This shows fine fiscal management. Declining enrollment has been affected by our depressed local economy (families moving away to find work). Declining numbers are also due to alternative choices for educational opportunities … online schooling/home schooling for those who choose this route. Our community has had a strong homeschooling contingent for many years. This is wonderful! Yet, home schooling may not meet all of the child’s needs so the school district has offered “shared schooling” and other collaborative efforts to meet the individual’s needs. The high school PAC collaborates with students and families to meet the needs of “non-traditional” students on the path to graduation, while providing them with social-emotional services, experiential and academic education. The middle school has a “Jr PAC” which collaborates with community resources, providing enhanced services for those youngsters most in need. Current ACT scores reflect the health of our academic programming. The collaborative efforts with outside entities (and each other!) enables our teachers to learn new methods yielding these significant results. As fiscal resources have declined, collaborative efforts increased.

Entities who collaborate succeed. We need a candidate who listens and has direction, but does not have a personal agenda. A personal agenda is not a collaborative effort.

Please give Dwight Hooton your vote for the best future for our children. Thank you for reading.

Erica DeVoti

This story was posted on October 17, 2013.