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""My father always used to say that when you die, if you've got five real friends, then you've had a great life.""
– Lee Iacocca  
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  Volume No. 18 Issue No. 6 June 2021  

None Business Briefs   None Community Calendar   None Community Photos   None Did You Know?  
None FFPD News   None From the Publisher   None Health and Wellness   None Marks Meanderings  
None Monkey Business   None News From D 49   None People on the Plains   None Pet Adoption Corner  
None Phun Photos   None Prairie Life   None Rumors   None Wildlife Matters  
Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In
  Meridian Ranch students in all-state choir

   The Colorado Elementary All-State Choir, comprised of about 300 students from various parts of Colorado, presented a concert Jan. 30 to a full crowd at the Broadmoor Hotel. Five fifth-graders and three fourth-graders from Meridian Ranch Elementary sang in the choir, which was divided into two groups of 150 kids each. The concert, presented by the Colorado Music Educators, is in its fifth year. Craig Phipps, an at-large member of the all-state choir and a teacher at MRES, had worked with the students representing MRES since the beginning of October.
   Paul Caldwell, the artistic director of the Youth Choral Theater of Chicago in Illinois, led the performance, which included seven songs.
Eight students from Meridian Ranch Elementary were among 300 kids statewide who participated in the Colorado Elementary All-State Choir, held Jan. 30 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs: from left (side) Benjamin Chapman, Kaiya Apricio, Amber Hollingsworth; (front row) Samone Toney, Saga Purcell, Chloe Brooks; (back row) Aliya Huntchings and Mary Jane Stepanek. Photo submitted
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  Landscapers in the making
   Staff report

   The New Falcon Herald featured Dave Kranz’s unique agricultural program at Falcon School District 49 in the February issue.
   Since then, Kranz, along with 28 other Colorado teachers, participated in a grassroots initiative that hopes to resolve a shortfall of workers in the landscaping business.
   According to a Feb. 23 news release, the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, in partnership with the Colorado Community College System, has launched a Career Pathways Program to guide high school students to career opportunities in the landscape business. According to ALCC, the statewide trade association, landscape companies across Colorado are facing the worst shortage of skilled workers since 2009.
   The program trains teachers to train students. In a Denver classroom, an irrigation expert showed Kranz and the others how to assemble sprinkler systems, using a “Sprinkler System in a Box,” which is a training device with all the components to build a working sprinkler system on a 6-foot-long tabletop. Each teacher received a Sprinkler System in a Box to take back to their classrooms, along with the skills they can share with their students. 
   Falcon High School is one of the first schools in Colorado to participate in the Career Pathways training program.
   “There is a large demand for irrigation technicians. It’s one of the highest-paying entry-level positions in the industry, and it often provides quick upward mobility,” said ALCC executive director Kristen Fefes. “The State Water Plan projects a 500,000-acre-foot water gap by 2050, so the role of irrigation and water managers will only increase in importance.”
   The program will also provide students with exposure to careers in the industry, from entry-level positions to manager and ownership levels, to landscape design, project management, equipment operation and office support through job shadowing and internship opportunities.
   “Not every student can afford a four-year degree or wants to go to college immediately out of high school” said Fefes. “This program opens job opportunities to new high school graduates and serves as a stepping stone to advance in the industry through the Community College System, along with on-the-job training.”
   Fefes said ALCC’s landscape companies throughout the state are standing by to involve students in job shadowing and internships within their operations. Hands-on experience allows students to gain exposure to a variety of jobs and helps them hone their skills while they are still in high school.    
   The landscape industry employs about 45,000 workers and brings more than $2 billion to the Colorado economy each year. A 2015 industry poll revealed that two-thirds of landscape companies could take on more work if they had more skilled employees.
   ALCC has six chapters statewide. Members include horticulturalists, landscape designers and architects, arborists, installation/maintenance and irrigation professionals. For more information, visit
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  D 49 BOE February meeting wrap-up
  By Lindsey Harrison

   All members of the Falcon School District 49 Board of Education were present at the Feb. 11 regular meeting. Before the meeting, the BOE held a “Fantastic 49” event and recognized Aimee Crespin, assistant principal at Falcon Elementary School of Technology, and the Falcon High School varsity cheer team.
   In January, Crespin was chosen as a finalist for the Colorado Outstanding Assistant Principal award by the Colorado Association of School Executives and the Colorado Association of Elementary School Principals.
   The FHS cheer team finished first at the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference championship in the coed cheer division and placed third in the Colorado State Spirit Competition in the 4A/5A coed division. The team left Feb. 24 for Orlando, Florida, to compete in the AmeriCheer InterNational Championship Feb. 27 and 28 (after the NFH deadline).
   Chief updates
   Jack Bay, chief operations officer, said his team is working on plans to better handle large snow storms like that which occurred in February.
   Open forum
   Darryl Murphy, D 49 parent, said he was disappointed with the BOE’s decision to disband Falcon High School’s School Accountability Committee. He said the committee has always tried to work within the rules of the school, and they have no hidden agenda, specifically against Peter Hilts, chief education officer.
   “It seems like it is time to seize back our school,” Murphy said. “I am not threatening, but I know exactly what it takes to get a recall started, and it will be.”
   Action items
   The BOE unanimously approved the following:
  • Remington Elementary School’s innovation plan renewal
  • Addition of Advanced Design and Development and Engineering Independent Study courses at Sand Creek High School
  • Revision of the concert choir and the vocal music program at SCHS
  • Proposals for Advanced Game Design, Game Design II and Technical Writing for Science courses at Vista Ridge High School
  • Changes to the pathways data technician job description
  • Reclassification of the health paraprofessional job description
  • Policies aligning the school calendars across the district
  • The communication plan regarding potential participation in the November 2016 general election
  • The reorganization proposal and timeline for the iConnect Zone
  • Review of the following district policies and procedures: commitment to religious accommodation and neutrality; school board member financial disclosure; advisory committees; career and technical advisory council; school board meetings; environmental and safety program; hazardous materials; prevention of disease/infection transmission; staff training in crisis prevention and management; first aid training; grading/assessment systems; cyber bullying; first aid and emergency medical care; and crisis management
  • Temporary approval of the regulation regarding district relations with charter schools

   Discussion items
   Julia Roark, Falcon Zone leader, provided an update on the zone’s performance. One goal they set last fall has almost been accomplished: to have 90 percent of third-grade students reading at or above the benchmark by the end of the year. Already, 85 percent have met that end-of-year goal, Roark said.
   Additionally, the zone has reduced the percentage of students considered at high risk for requiring educational intervention, from 17 percent at the start of the school year to 9 percent at the middle of the year, she said.
   Roark provided an update on the 49 Pathways program at Falcon Middle School. Administrators and teachers use the Individual Career and Academic Plan information on student interests to develop the school’s courses and mini-courses.
   The zone leadership is also working to develop a Falcon Zone Improvement Plan that will address the strengths and weaknesses of the program.
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is March 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of the D 49 Education Services Center.
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  From the CEO - The energy of our opportunity
  By Peter Hilts
  D 49 CEO

   One of the benefits of serving a growing community is the constant energy of expansion and addition. Every time I drive Meridian or crest the hills along Woodmen, I’m impressed by the new rooftops and neighborhoods emerging from the prairie. It seems like someone planted growth seeds 10 years ago, and now we see a bumper crop of new neighbors moving in next door. Our friends and newcomers to the Pikes Peak region need homes and schools to make their best life, and we’re hosting most of that new growth. With almost three-quarter-of-a-billion residents projected by 2020, there are a lot of people eager to live and learn in our community.
   That’s why I’m excited by the leadership and support we’ve seen from voters and residents in District 49. Two years ago, after a robust community campaign, our voters approved district plans to apply ongoing revenues to programs, safety, technology and teacher compensation. Our voters did not raise taxes to fund a bond, but they strongly supported the programs and people that make our district the best choice to learn, work and lead. Our residents expect us to deliver best-in-class education, but to also live within our means. We are taking that direction to heart, so it has been our purpose to find a way to grow our level of service without growing our impact on the tax base.
   In November, we’ll have another opportunity to build our future community. As neighborhoods fill in and our booming elementary population gets older, we are on track to lead the region as the most prolific provider of educational choice for all students. We are determined to build every learner firm foundations in literacy and math. Our three-year emphasis on primary literacy is already lifting student performance across the district. As students move on from elementary, we know that they will launch toward success in a broad range of endeavors after high school. Some will pursue college — and we are getting better and better at preparing them to thrive — but college isn’t the answer for all. Many of our best and boldest students will serve our country, minister in our communities and lead the businesses that all of us depend on.
   The emphasis on professional-technical careers is one of the most important developments in public education, and the portfolio of schools that make up District 49 are positioned well to deliver a generation of skilled workers who know how to contribute on a team. Our secondary schools are leading the way with career preparation in health services, cybersecurity, sustainable communities, manufacturing and business. Our graduates are already caring for our health, designing our cities, securing our networks and finding new ways to produce the food and energy our growing communities will need. They are troops and teachers — radiologists and white hat hackers.
   In November, we hope to ask our voters to continue supporting District 49 students by extending our level of local support into the future. By gaining the endorsement of our voters, the district can build the new programs our students need, construct the elementary schools that are missing in some neighborhoods, and keep teacher salaries competitive — all without raising taxes. By taking care of existing schools and building only what is most essential, we have a plan to optimize education and keep attracting great teachers who will pour into our students’ lives. Our plan will expand existing high schools to offer blended learning and college courses that our students crave, but it will also set aside a growing reserve so we can take on bigger maintenance projects over a 10-year cycle. Along with two new elementary schools and smart renovations at middle schools, we can serve our projected growth into the next decade.
   The growth and energy we see all around us is a challenging opportunity. So, we commit to meet the high expectations of our community, while preserving one of the lowest tax burdens in the region. The residents of District 49 can be proud of our schools, and we are proud to join with you in building our future community. Learn more about our plan at
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