Garfield County Latino Committee delves into Vital Race Idea considerations throughout schooling panel dialogue
Members of the education committee of a local school district raised questions during the Garfield County Latino community committee meeting in New Castle on September 8th. From left are Brianda Cervantes, school community organizer for Roaring Fork Schools, Garfield Re-2 school board member Katie Mackley, and Garfield District 16 superintendent Brad Ray.
John Stroud / Post Independent
When it comes to racial relations and other political issues in the classroom, a distinction must be made between teaching something and teaching something.
That observation came from Brianda Cervantes, the school community organizer for Roaring Fork Schools, who represented the district on an education panel hosted last week by the new Garfield County Latino Community Committee.
“We don’t teach Critical Racial Theory in our schools,” said Cervantes when the question arose during the monthly committee meeting at the New Castle Recreation Center.
But that’s not to say the conversation didn’t make it to the classrooms, she said.
“We teach about controversial current events and we teach about political situations that gain national attention or historical significance,” said Cervantes.
Examples besides the recent political turmoil over race and discrimination issues and the controversial debate over critical racial theory could be political and economic systems or religion, she said.
“We don’t teach communism, but we teach about communism. We don’t teach white supremacy, but we teach white supremacy when it matters, ”said Cervantes.
She assured forum attendees that Roaring Fork Schools will continue to focus on teaching the fundamentals as outlined in the Colorado state standards.
Latino Committee member Kelvin Martinez said there was some concern in the Latino community that public schools tend to focus more on controversial topics than the basics.
“You taught communism,” he said. “Well, that’s a political religion, but when it comes to Christianity, it’s not allowed in schools.”
Garfield District 16 Superintendent Brad Ray also spoke on the panel along with Garfield Re-2 Board of Education member Katie Mackley.
“It’s important to understand that schools are where the fellowship comes up, which means that every belief and ideal comes up every day,” said Ray. “Regardless of the subject, I think if you want to raise the whole child … you need to have a safe environment in your classroom in which you as a student can have that opinion.”
Creative thinking and problem solving can be just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic, Ray said.
“However, I tell you, if you don’t have basic reading, writing and math skills in your early years, the road ahead is bumpy.
“If we don’t have these skills, I don’t know if we’re really developing the critical thinking we need on any kind of subject,” he said.
Mackley said that teaching about race or current affairs in the world has unfortunately become political and divisive.
“We have an open door policy in our district,” she said. “We encourage solid and diverse discussions and we welcome this in our classrooms.”
If parents have concerns about the curriculum, they are invited to speak to board members, school principals, and administrators.
“If there are any gaps, we need to close them,” said Mackley.
Similar concerns were raised during public commentary before the Roaring Fork District School Committee on the same night as the September 8 Latino Committee meeting.
Carbondale parent Chris Moon said two of his high school age children had been exposed to what they considered to be a biased discussion of Critical Race Theory in class. When they confronted Teacher about this, he said they had been talked down.
“We send our children to public schools. That’s what we wanted, ”said Moon of public school experiences in several states.
“Until now,” he said. “You make us a homeschool family. The problem is the school district and the teachers don’t seem interested in teaching children to think, they want to teach children what to think. It’s not about education. It’s about indoctrination. And it’s immoral. “
Cervantes said during the Latino Committee forum that Roaring Fork Schools teachers are being asked to follow a formal civil discourse educator’s guide when it comes to the kind of conversations that can naturally occur in social studies class.
“It’s very detailed when it comes to nurturing the mindset and respect of students and avoiding indoctrination,” said Cervantes.
“What you believe depends on your culture and what you are carrying with you,” she said. “We are very aware of this and recognize that every student has a different background and opinion, and that they are highly respected in our school district.”
The panel also looked at issues related to public health protocols to control the spread of COVID-19, services for students with special needs, staff concerns and the hiring of bilingual staff, and guidelines on bilingual communication with Spanish-speaking families in general.
Joyce Rankin, 3rd District Representative on the Colorado Board of Education, also answered questions from the committee and participants.
Committee member Karina Ventura, a student at Coal Ridge High School, asked Rankin how the state is dealing with lost class time during the pandemic.
Rankin said it was not yet known what kind of catching up to do because the state assessments were not fully conducted last school year.
“I think there are a lot of questions we can’t answer right now, but I have great confidence in our students that when they get back together they will work to catch up,” said Rankin.
She also referred to one-time COVID response funds flowing from the federal government to school districts that can be used for additional tutoring and more academically-focused summer school programs.
“You should see where this money is being spent on the ground, and I would encourage it,” said Rankin.
The Post’s independent education reporter Rich Allen contributed to this report.
The Garfield County Latino Community Committee will meet at the New Castle Recreation Center on September 8, 2021.
John Stroud / Post Independent
Senior Reporter / Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.