Soap Box

A checklist for Rep. Scott Tipton
08/30/2018

Dear Mr. Tipton:

Here’s a worthy task for you: Restore conservative principles to the Republican Party; for example:

1. Explain to voters that personal integrity, human decency and adherence to the rule of law are traditional conservative principles that Trump tramples on every day, and that you’re going to stop pretending he doesn’t.

2. Denounce Trump’s attacks on the Justice Department, the F.B.I. and special counsel Robert Mueller.

3. Condemn Republican senators who encourage Trump to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

4. Demand that Devin Nunes be removed from the House Intelligence Committee, and that the Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in our elections resumes at once.

5. Subscribe to legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

6. Announce that you’ll initiate impeachment proceedings if either Mueller or Rosenstein are fired or disabled or if Trump pardons anyone who might be in a position to testify against him.

7. Promise that you’ll no longer be beholden to big corporate donors and the NRA and that from now on you’ll represent the interests of the people in your district.

Better get started. The election is only a couple months away.

– Edward Packard, Durango

Polis should face West Slope voters
08/30/2018

To the editor,

I am very concerned and even angered that Jared Polis has refused to debate Walker Stapleton at the Club 20 annual meeting. Club 20 has hosted political debates for years and never has a gubernatorial candidate snubbed the event. Does Polis not care about issues on the West Slope? Is he a coward? I am sure he has all kinds of excuses, but I don’t buy them. And don’t give me the line that a debate put on by the Grand Junction Sentinel will suffice. Jared, if you want to be our governor, we on the West Slope deserve to know on what principles you stand. Come face us!

– J. Paul Brown, Ignacio

McCain could've stopped Iraq War
08/30/2018

To the editor,

Although John McCain graduated at the very bottom of his class at a naval academy, he was slick enough to have advisors to work their PR magic to enhance his image – most notably in politics. One would think the trials and tribulations of his experience as a POW would have seen through the greedy war ambitions of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld, whom I consider The Founding Father’s of ISIS, and stopped them from killing 400,000 innocent civilians in Iraq. Instead, McCain made up a cutesy song after a Beach Boy hit called, “Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran.” Going back in time, this PR crew made sure when the spotlight was on McCain for being part of the “Keating Five,” which created a financial collapse, he was unscathed and still won election after election. He knew “humor” was key to getting out of other jams. When it came to describe his time in the military, he said another “funny” by saying it was like being a “Pirate in the Caribbean.”

During a 2008 presidential campaign, candidate John McCain made a brave statement to a woman that accused Obama of not being a true American. I only wish McCain had been brave enough to call out a stop to the ungodly wars after the Vietnam War fiasco.

– Sally Florence, Durango

Vet's office hosts S. Ute outreach
08/30/2018

To the editor,

The main objective of the Veterans Service Office is to provide prevention, protection, advocacy and support services to veterans and their families so they can maximize their quality of life, well-being and potential. The La Plata County Veterans Service Office (CVSO) provides information and assistance to veterans and their families. There is a wide range of benefits available for our nation’s veterans. Every veteran is encouraged to contact the CVSO to find out more about their VA benefits. Your CVSO can assist you in any matter pertaining to the Department of Veterans Affairs. These services are free of charge. Please visit www.co.laplata.co.us for more information.

The La Plata County Veterans Service Office is co-located with the Durango VA Clinic at 1970 E. 3rd Ave., Suite 102. For clinic appointments, call 970-247-2214. The Veterans Service Office phone number is 970-759- 0117. Office hours are 8 a.m. – 12 noon and 1 - 5 p.m., Monday – Friday, except holidays. Appointments are encouraged: call (970) 382-6150.

CVSO Veterans Service Officer Richard S Schleeter will hold a veterans outreach event in Ignacio on from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sept. 5 at the multipurpose room at 258 Ute Road. This event is being hosted by the Southern Ute Veterans Association, who will be providing snacks.

There will also be a representative from the Denver VA regional office. The Farmington Vet Center also will be on site to share information about re-adjustment counseling, military sexual trauma counseling, spousal groups and family counseling.

All Southern Ute Veterans are encouraged to attend and learn more about your VA benefits. This outreach event is open to all veterans who reside in La Plata County. All veterans are encouraged to come by and visit with us and learn more about their veterans benefits.

– Richard Schleeter, La Plata County Veterans Service Officer

What's a teacher to do? No, really
08/23/2018

To the editor,

When I went off to college to learn to be a teacher, the responsibility of an elementary school teacher was mostly teaching “reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic,” the 3R’s. Social studies, science and physical education rounded out the curriculum. Then came monitoring the cafeteria, to accommodate students receiving free lunch, then free breakfast. Students, we determined, couldn’t learn if they were hungry. Now we have decided that there are many other demands on a teacher’s time that are “necessary” for students to learn so we’ve expanded the “mission” of school.

Since I’ve been a member of the State Board of Education, I’ve visited with teachers, administrators and taxpayers in the school districts I represent. I’ve found that we’ve come a long way from the “3 R’s.” For example, teachers are now required, in teacher prep programs, to take courses that enable them to teach non-English speaking students. Classes aren’t directed toward any specific language but languages in general (HB14-1298). The students are called English Language Learners (ELL). If teachers are already in the classroom, they are required to take continuing education courses in ELL as they earn credits to maintain their teaching credential.

Another tough duty is dealing with special needs students. I recently visited with several special education (SPED) teachers who specialize in autism. Some students are with their SPED teacher for part of the day and integrated into a general classroom the rest of the day. The SPED teachers told me that it is essential that all classroom teachers take specific coursework in teaching and understanding students with autism. So far this is not a requirement.

Teachers are also expected to incorporate “social and emotional” lessons into their classroom curriculum. Students are coming to school without skills usually learned at home; therefore, teachers need to include social-emotional skills in classroom lessons. Teachers are also required to have an understanding of suicide prevention, depression, mental illness and bullying. And then there’s drug prevention, sex education and “safe schools.” It’s understandable why school administrators continue to request more school counselors and health professionals to address these needs.

Another area where teachers need ongoing professional development is in technology and its effective use in the classroom. On the flip side, parents are becoming more concerned about too much “screen time” for their students in and out of school. Social skills and socialization may be compromised, say when too much time is spent on technology.

On a positive note, with the economy doing better, the Legislature put 10 percent more into the K-12 budget for 2019. A superintendent on the West Slope said he was giving his teachers a raise. As the economy improves, the Legislature sees the probability of more money in the future.

I ask you, “What’s a teacher to do?” Only one word comes to mind, RECESS!

– Joyce Rankin, State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District