Grand Junction chamber offers statement on forum and 500 Plan

To the editor:

On behalf of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, I am writing to officially respond to a request for an interview for a story that is being done on the Grand Junction Chamber Forum and 500 Plan that was received by our CEO, Diane Schwenke.

Based on a very real concern about the objectivity of the article, we have decided to decline the interview request. We have had an opportunity to view some of the likely questions to be asked and note that they are more editorial than fact driven.

However, we would like to make the following public statements about the Grand Junction Forum and the 500 Plan to address some of the misconceptions and misinformation we have heard and been informed about.

The Grand Junction Forum is:

A small committee of the chamber charged with taking a long view toward identifying ways to build on the strengths of the community as we grow.

A group of diverse leaders, including those who are new to the community who bring a different perspective to the discussions.

A group that has done research and had discussions about ways to positively affect the K-12 education in the Grand Valley in the hopes of creating more opportunities for students and the community to compete on a global stage.

The Grand Junction Forum is not:

The one and only venue for discussion and action on education.

A community based organization with a charge for widespread community dialogue.

An attempt to usurp the authority or actions of the school board, the administration or the teachers in School District 51.

The 500 Plan is:

One small step toward increasing the amount of time that students spend in a learning environment. Time has been shown to be a key variable in student performance worldwide.

A way for business professionals and others to, through working one-on-one with a student for one hour per week, individually take action that helps students succeed.

A way for volunteers to support what has been taught in the classroom by practicing reading and writing with students.

Voluntary. No one has to participate, but we hope many people do.

A way to build relationships between business volunteers and schools and demonstrate that we all have a responsibility for supporting the education of our youth.

The 500 Plan is not:

The total answer to issues that need to be addressed in creating a world-class education. It was never meant to be. As noted above, it is one small step.

Business professionals taking over the work of teachers and parents. It is quite simply a way for another adult to help students practice their basic skills and show they care.

Some grand plan or scheme to do massive reform in schools.

A fund-raiser. All funds donated to the Mesa County Business Education Foundation for the 500 Plan go to support the expenses associated with conducting background checks and other hard costs.

It is unfortunate that the Business Times has chosen to view this effort in a negative light or make assertions about its purpose, intent or outcomes that do not fit with the facts. That being said, if just one child out of the 100 now receiving this weekly assistance succeeds in part or in whole from what is being done under the 500 Plan, then from the perspective of this chamber, our efforts, whether praised or criticized, will be well worth it.

Craig Lamberty,
chairman of the board
Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce