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Five questions with St. Vrain Valley school board member Richard Martyr

Have you ever wondered what a school board does? Today marks the final installment of an eight-part series focused on what the St. Vrain Valley board does and getting to know its members. 
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Richard Martyr (Courtesy photo)

Editor’s note: Have you ever wondered what a school board does? Today marks the final installment of an eight-part series focused on what the St. Vrain Valley board does and getting to know its members. 

Monday: Q&A with Board President Joie Siegrist on how the board operates

Tuesday: Five questions with Siegrist 

Wednesday: Five questions with Paula Peairs, board vice president 

Thursday: Five questions with Karen Ragland, board treasurer and assistant secretary

Friday: Five questions with John Ahrens, board secretary 

Saturday: Five questions with member Chico Garcia

Sunday: Five questions with member Jim Berthold

Today: Five questions with member Richard Martyr

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Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I was elected to the SVVSD Board of Education in 2015 after a 13-year career as a Longmont High School chemistry teacher — the best job I ever had. 

I served as a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee for the successful 2008 bond issue and mill levy campaign. 

Before moving to Longmont and becoming a teacher, I served for 24 years, first in New York City and subsequently in Washington, D.C., as a senior executive of two of our nation’s largest nonprofit organizations — the National Audubon Society and then American Youth Hostels. 

I was elected to the board of directors and to the executive committee of the Colorado Association of School Boards in 2017, an association serving and advocating for Colorado’s 178 local districts. 

Why did you run for the school board? 

I deeply admired the extraordinary transformation Superintendent Don Haddad was leading SVVSD through, bringing it from teetering on the edge of bankruptcy in 2001  (the year I joined the teaching staff) and the progress he was making building SVVSD into the best school district in Colorado. 

America’s public education system is the essential pathway to fulfilling its promise as a land of opportunity for all its people. Public education must adapt to society’s changing needs and provide equitable education opportunities for all its students regardless of demographic and/or geographic disparities that exist in our district and throughout the country. 

I believe that SVVSD has the leadership, teachers, resources and community support to lead the way demonstrating how our public education system can be transformed to equip each and every student with the skills needed to become contributing citizens. I hoped my experience and perspective as a classroom teacher and a nonprofit CEO would enable me to contribute to advancing SVVSD’s programs to benefit each and every student. 

What is your favorite thing about SVVSD? 

As a school district, my favorite thing is the district’s top to bottom commitment to academic excellence by design and progressive improvement. Teachers, classified staff, administrators — leaders at every level — are authentically committed to providing the best possible learning environment for our students.  

What do you feel is the biggest way you contribute as a school board member? 

By providing a responsive connection between parents, community members and SVVSD’s leadership. By listening to individuals throughout our community and sharing the rationale for SVVSD’s decisions. And finally, by providing feedback to SVVSD’s leadership. 

Can you share your favorite memory or story about how you interacted with parents, the community and/or students? 

Each year I participate as a judge/community leader with Ms. Justelle Grandsaert’s  Civics and Action Project for her class of Silver Creek High School juniors. This year our meetings were via WebEx, but every year I emerge tremendously inspired by the thoughtful projects and insightful solutions students create. The projects my student contacts proposed this year included: the need for lights at all SVVSD high school track/football fields; a case for creating a new school course in environmental conservation and fire mitigation; and the benefits of moving SVVSD’s required sophomore Personal Financial Literacy course to the junior year. I’m confident our  society will be in very capable hands with these students and their classmates as our future leaders.