Erica H. Max

Durango School District 9-R District F candidate

Age: 56

Work: Self-employed – Fire Hjorner Farm – breeds, trains and sells Danish warmblood sport horses

Experience: I have demonstrated a strong interest and involvement in schools for the past 30 years. Prior to moving to Durango, I was an active member of my high school’s alumni board. In that capacity, I was instrumental in creating a scholarship fund, which increased the population of students on financial aid to 30 percent of the entire school population. When we moved to Durango, our children attended Fort Lewis Child Development Center, and I helped create the fundraising efforts for the new center that became the Nighthorse Center. I have been very active in 9-R for 15 years, and now with my youngest child graduating, I felt it was important to continue to be involved and make a difference.

How long have you lived in Durango?

I have lived in Durango since 1997.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

In my spare time, I enjoy sailing, traveling, reading, skiing and spending time with my family.

Why are you running for school board?

We have great schools in Durango. I want to build on what we have and improve a few areas. I believe we need to have our kids reading at grade level by third grade, we need to have our kids enter high school with better writing skills, and we need to attain a 100 percent graduation rate. I also think that we need to do a much better job of involving the community at large in schools. We have a large population of people in this community who have a lot to offer our students and we need to get them involved. It takes a town.

What school board issues do you care most about?

I think I have incorporated change into the above answer in terms of curriculum changes. I have two children who have recently gone through the 9-R system from K-12. They are great examples of what’s right about our schools.

Please list two ways in which you think Durango School District 9-R is improving and two ways in which you’d like to see it improve.

Improving:

1. With the addition of Julie Snider-Popp, we have much improved communication about our schools and its successes.

2. I think that our student evaluation systems are dramatically improving and that we are now obtaining much more meaningful data about student achievement. The new School Vault system developed by 9-R offers a new 21st century solution to evaluating student achievement.

Needs Improving:

1. Our graduation rate needs improving. In my capacity as a member of the S.W. Workforce board, I have come to learn about the amazing opportunities that the Colorado Community College system offers. We need to make sure that our kids have the ability to access that system by graduating high school.

2. I think that there are areas I discussed above regarding our elementary kids’ reading and our middle school kids’ writing skills that I would like to improve.

What do you think of the district using the traditional school calendar versus a longer or year-round calendar?

I am not a fan of year-round school. I believe that kids need time off to recharge and have some time that is not scheduled. For high school students, the summer is a time to gain work experience and make some money. For younger children, it’s a time to play and develop social-emotional skills. We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and summer is a great time to encourage our kids to get outside and develop other parts of their brains.

What do you think of Amendment 66?

I support Amendment 66.

The Colorado State Senate has gone a long way in ensuring that teachers are effective by passing Senate Bill 191. Under this legislation, teachers will be evaluated, and for the first time, a teacher who receives two poor evaluations in a row will be put on probationary status. We need to make sure that teachers never get to that second poor evaluation by giving them support, tools and professional development to raise their skills. I was on the professional development committee that met for a year and developed recommendations that created our current PD program.