Virden Receives Prestigious Award from Colorado Rural Schools Alliance

Hinsdale County School District Directors and Administration were at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs late last week, joining school board members from throughout the state for the annual conference of the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB).
A highlight of the annual convention — which includes a series of informative workshops on pertinent school topics — are awards presented to educators who have positively impacted education in the state.
Surprise recipient of this year’s Colorado Rural Schools Alliance Leadership Award went to Lake City resident Phil Virden who serves as President of Hinsdale County School Board.
Virden is a past president of CASB and during his term in 2003 was instrumental in the formation of the rural school alliance with a principal focus on the specific needs of schools in less populated regions of Colorado.
In making the presentation to Virden, Colorado Rural Schools Alliance Executive Director Michelle Murphy cited the Lake City resident for his “visionary guidance and exceptional leadership in rural advocacy.”
Virden’s “vision of having an organization serve as the collective voice for rural education in Colorado is alive and well,” Murphy said.
Colorado Rural Schools Alliance annually hosts its Alliance Breakfast during CASB’s annual conference, which was attended by over 200 rural school district members and administrators last Friday, December 1.
Virden, when contacted by SILVER WORLD in regard to his state honor, noted “I believe next year will mark my 25th year as a school board director for Hinsdale County School District RE-1…my passion for doing what is best for kids, especially in rural and small towns, will always be a part of my life.”
Virden was among Hinsdale County School Board Directors attending last week’s annual CASB convention in Colorado Springs with school board vice president Rob Hudgeons, secretary/treasurer Elizabeth Stuntz, and members Tara Hardy and Bill Reinhardt. Also attending were Hinsdale School Superintendent Leslie Nichols and Administrative Assistant Shawn Arthur.
Conference sessions attended by all the Hinsdale County school representatives included the Colorado Education Leadership Council, Apple’s view on Trends in Educational Technology, Superintendents’ School Finance Modernization Proposal, the Key People Meeting, Keep Your Finger on the Pulse of Your Community, What’s Behind the BEST Grant’s Match Calculation, and Gaining Insight into Colorado’s Education Landscape.
The conference was headquartered at the Broadmoor with initial sessions opening last Thursday, November 30, and concluded on Sunday, December 3.As an insight into the CASB award, Virden provides Silver World with the following statement:

“My passion for rural and small public schools in Colorado began when I moved to Lake City in 1973. I volunteered at the school that year and was so impressed with the dedication that Larry Stuckey, principal and future superintendent, Noreen Thibault, Mrs. Howard and other staff and teachers were doing for our students. I also saw the long drive (it took three hours round trip) to Gunnison for Lake City’s middle and high school students and the dismay when the little Powderhorn school was closed. It all motivated me to get on the Hinsdale County School Board in 1975. In the 1980s, Mr. Stuckey moved from Lake City to be a superintendent in eastern Colorado. In the early 1990s, he asked me to be a guest teacher for high school students in Akron, Colorado. That experience further ignited my interest in rural education. Not only were the teachers and students great to work with but Akron, along with other eastern plain schools, were doing such exciting and innovative programs. I thought these stories needed to be shared with other educators throughout Colorado. In the late 1990s, I became a director for CASB (the Colorado Association of School Boards). In 2000, I became its 50th President. In that year, I traveled throughout the state visiting outstanding schools and my rural and small school passion went to a whole new level. I had an opportunity to communicate the greatness of rural and small schools to Governor Owens, state legislators, the state board of education, and many others. To my dismay, most of our legislators and state board members were from the larger cities on the front range and had no real grasp of the “other Colorado” and the great things going on in rural and small schools. Fortunately, the CASB board was made up of individuals from throughout the state and saw this need for a more powerful rural voice. In 2001, I was asked to be the executive director for Colorado Rural Schools Caucus (today known as the Colorado Rural Alliance). For the next three years, I was able to build strong relationships with education leaders and representatives in the state. The state board of education began having meetings in other parts of Colorado and I had legislators coming out to Colorado small towns. I became a lobbyist in Denver for Rural Caucus and went to Denver every week during the legislative sessions to try and “educate” our representative on all the good going on in the “other Colorado”. I cherished this time, but I resigned due to too much time away from my loving family. However, I have continued doing what I can in our neck of the woods having served as chairman of the Gunnison High School accountability and in 2013, I continued service as a school board director in Lake City. I believe next year will mark my 25th year as a school board director for Hinsdale County School District RE1. Regardless, my passion for doing what is best for kids, especially in rural and small town, will always be a part of my life.”