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Boulder Valley School District students have enough trouble navigating through their adolescent years that Superintendent Chris King decided all district parents need a big dose of education.

In a Sept. 9 Camera story, King announced, “We are going to step into the arena of parent education.”

I was shocked to hear that declaration. Aren’t parents and taxpayers his boss?

The district now educates more than 28,550 students. This fall, parents in approximately 21,000 homes will receive by mail “Thrive: A Parent Guide for Boulder Valley Kids.”

I reviewed the 116-page manual online and gained some insights from discussing it with Briggs Gamblin, the district’s spokesman, and Ed Gazvoda, a parent in Lafayette who ran for school board in 2007.

The district deserves praise for providing parents with help and information on an array of issues their children may face. Substance abuse, violence, mental and emotional wellness and gender and sexuality valuable issues are worthy topics.

Gamblin said King had two main goals. One was to raise parent awareness of these problems. The other was to remove the isolation parents can feel and to enable them to seek help if needed.

King selected worthy goals to match worthy topics. Without help, some parents may not know how to handle these issues should their children need help facing them.

Nevertheless, Gazvoda brought up the flip side of the book’s information. Much of it wasn’t Earth-shaking or detailed. I agree. It’s common knowledge, for example, that eating healthy snacks is a good idea. It should have followed up with some examples but didn’t.

Gamblin said the book isn’t meant to be the “be-all, end-all of parent education.” It would be regularly updated on the district’s Web site and would be updated before printing every other year. Also, it would be revised every four years.

That likely won’t be enough. Vast amounts of information are available online, in libraries and in stores. For example, Amazon.com has 96,364 books on parenting. In addition, the return doesn’t measure well against the costs of printing, which will be at least $100,000 this year. Mailing costs and staff time likely need to be added.

For a district that often goes to voters for bond elections, I was surprised to see how smoothly a new yearly budget item could slip into the district’s budget.

Money is a factor at the school level. Gazvoda said he went to a PTA meeting where they discussed the need for a school refrigerator to keep milk cool. Without one, kids could get sick. Unfortunately, they lacked the necessary $600.

Gamblin described the district’s “bold move” as a “good investment,” and I agreed it was bold. Then, Gazvoda and I discovered words we agreed upon. Though the book contained some helpful information, the very nature of it showed the district as “arrogant,” “condescending” and “pedantic.”

The district works for parents and taxpayers and had the gall with a handful of parents, district employees and professionals to tell parents what they already know. Children need love, limits, guidance and attention. Helpful resources are out there so they can ask.

Gazvoda said, the Youth Risk Behavioral Survey is “a lot more valuable to parents” than the resources the district gave in the book. Armed with that knowledge, parents could go to the Center for Disease Control’s Web site.

I appreciated his suggestion and found the survey online. The raw data and report, not merely the district’s book in response to it, should give parents a better picture of what students said and the size of the problems.

Expensive books in front of uncaring parents will not change them. Instead, closed campuses and school-site intervention programs are the most likely to help.


Source: Daily Camera Sept. 21, 2008, under “One, very expensive school book”


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