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Board of Education benefits from regular school visits

board members sitting through a lesson about magnetism in the challenge school library.Dave Willman listened attentively as a group of middle-school students talked at great lengths about magnetism.

The students had taken a break from an in-class science experiment at the Challenge School to show off their progress to Willman, a member of the Cherry Creek School District Board of Education. Their work for the day revolved around using magnetic forces to spur and slow the movement of a small piece of metal on a track.

Following their impromptu presentation, Willman had plenty of follow-up questions. How could these lessons in magnetism be applied in the real world? How could the group test their hypotheses on a larger scale? What would the implications be for using magnetism in mass transit?

Willman’s interest went beyond the single classroom activity. As a Cherry Creek Board of Education member, Willman’s work revolves around such firsthand input from students, teachers and staff members alike. Willman and his peers on the board make a point to regularly visit schools across the district on a regular basis; such trips invest the theoretical work of the boardroom with immediacy.

“When I come out for a school visit, my first mission is to see students in action, to see the work that they’re doing,” Willman said. “It’s really maneuvering through classrooms to see all their core subjects, all their elective subjects. It’s trying to get in to all aspects of their school.”

Such hands-on work is an essential part of guiding policy for new and old board members alike. Willman was elected to the board in 2011, and five years haven’t at all lessened the importance of regular school visits. As he casts his vote on important policy matters, the insights he’s gained from visiting buildings and interacting with members of the Cherry Creek community provide a critical guidepost.


“I get to see in action a lot of the decisions and policies that we put in place, whether they’re fiscal or student-based or teacher-based or health-and-wellness-based,” Willman said. “It’s the full picture.”

Every building in the district offers a different picture, and board members have a chance to rotate through different parts of the district every school year. Such range offers new insights for school board members who have long been a part of the Cherry Creek School District community.

On April 6, Janice McDonald traveled to Walnut Hills Elementary School, one of the oldest elementary buildings in the district. The visit offered new insights to McDonald, who’s been a volunteer, teacher and engaged community member in the Overland High School feeder area for many decades.

“They assigned us various schools that were not in our director district, so we could become familiar with the whole of Cherry Creek,” said McDonald, who was elected to the District B board position in 2015. “I’ve gone to a lot of different schools, and it’s acquainted me with the district. Even though I’ve been here a long time, there are a lot of schools I’ve never been to. It’s expanded my view and enriched me.”

“I get to see in action a lot of the decisions and policies that we put in place, whether they’re fiscal or student-based or teacher-based or health-and-wellness-based ... It’s the full picture.”

-- CCSD Board of Education Member Dave Willman


McDonald’s visit to Walnut Hills kicked off with a brief Q&A session with teachers in the school library. Before traveling to classrooms, McDonald wanted to get a sense of the school’s unique makeup and philosophy – that included getting input about the arts focus at Walnut Hills, its relatively small population and its stress on the theory of multiple intelligences and students’ opportunity to self-select classes.

That kind of feedback offered a new insight into the district’s emphasis on autonomy at the elementary school level.

“I basically get to appreciate the district more,” McDonald said. “To actually go and meet the different administrators and staff and students and to see how they operate and see the things that are important to them … It’s just nice.”


Posted 4/14/2016 2:17 PM
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