All members of the El Paso County Colorado School District 49 Board of Education were present for a video conference of the regular June meeting.
Before the meeting, the BOE held a “Fantastic 49” event and recognized three educational support staff members: Nicole Croney from Woodmen Hills Elementary School, Michelle Graves from Horizon Middle School and Natasha Trapp from Vista Ridge High School. Each received full-ride Summit Scholarships from Western Governors University to earn their bachelor’s degree and teaching license.
The BOE also recognized a group of teachers who have been working to enhance math instruction in D 49 through a partnership with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Those teachers are Kathy Beadles, Tanja Bower, Jessica Copper, Lauren Crocker, Barbara Frederiksen, Katy Gibe, Carolyn Jones, David Jung, Heather Krammes, Ariel Lopez, Cori Owen, Debbie Putney, Bryanna Shirin, Mary Beth Spurlock, Carri Strand-Crowe and Catherine Watson.
Last, the BOE recognized Carolyn Jones and Tania Rymar-Rodney, teachers from Falcon Elementary School of Technology, for impacting a student at the school during the e-learning portion of the year.
Chief officers’ update
Peter Hilts, chief education officer, said the district currently has four major issues to deal with: the disruptions and adjustments to graduation; the planning and adjustments needed to reopen school in August; the social upheavals reaching into the D 49 community and around the nation; and the budget crisis.
“This is a time when our budget is so significantly heavy on the personnel side,” he said. “We will feel some pain. Our commitment as chief officers is we are going to feel the biggest bite. We are going to make sure that we three personally experience and what administrators experience is that, if we have to do pay cuts or furlough days, we are going to take the largest cut; we are going to take the most days.
“We do not underestimate the gravity of this time — it is momentous — and the importance of leading with a personal heart for what this does for students and families and the community.”
More than 25 people signed up to speak during the open forum. The first 10 speakers each had three minutes to speak to adhere to the 30 minutes typically set aside for open forum. The remaining speakers were notified that they may not have a chance to speak but their written statements would be included as part of the official record.
Many of the speakers addressed teacher layoffs, budget cuts and the need for a fiscal emergency plan.
The BOE unanimously approved the following:
- Revisions to the district accountability advisory committee’s bylaws
- Revisions to nutrition services job descriptions
- The special education teacher on special assignment job description and extension
- A new computer science discoveries course at Skyview Middle School
The board approved revised job descriptions for the finance-payroll technician and p-card specialist positions (administers the purchasing and travel card program) in a 3-2 vote with John Graham, president, and John Koster, director, opposed.
The board discussed the possibility of declaring a state of fiscal emergency and a state of fiscal exigency. Brad Miller, legal counsel for the D 49 BOE, said declaring a state of fiscal emergency would allow the district the latitude to change or renegotiate certain contracts based on the funding limitations caused by the coronavirus.
Miller said the fiscal exigency is an official acknowledgment by D 49 that revenue from the state will not support the cost of maintaining the 2019-2020 operating structure, and allows the district the flexibility to restructure and/or terminate existing contractual relationships.
“Those declarations do not say that something is going to happen in particular,” he said. “It gives the district the opportunity to work with stakeholders to make those choices.”
Hilts said without declaring a state of fiscal exigency, the administration is only allowed to consider the impacts to half of the workforce, specifically the non-teaching half. He said the priority is not just to protect the teachers but to protect learning in the classroom, and the best way to accomplish that is by doing right by the teachers.
Additionally, Hilts said he wanted to dispel any rumors that cutting teachers was the first method to deal with the budget shortfall. “I am personally involved in eliminating six administrative positions, and we are not done,” he said. “I personally will be taking the largest pay cut in the district.”
The board agreed to direct district administration to develop a “frequently asked questions” document on this topic to deal with budget impacts. Graham encouraged the D 49 community to continue to ask questions and the BOE will provide answers. After additional discussion at the special meeting on June 24, the BOE unanimously approved a resolution declaring D 49 to be in a state of fiscal emergency for the year 2020-2021.
Josh Harbaugh, facility project manager, provided an update on current 3B mill levy override projects, and estimated the amount of funds remaining for the 3B MLO refurbish and refresh projects.
The chief officers presented a discussion about the district’s response to racism, injustice and unrest. Based on a number of letters from students and the community as a whole, the BOE directed the chief officers to learn about and work on some of the issues outlined in those letters that students, community members and faculty experience. They will then bring back their information and findings to either the September work session or the regular October board meeting.
Matt Barrett, director of data and performance, presented a revision to the systems administrator, student information systems job descriptions that replaced the senior system administrator position. The board unanimously approved this item at the June 24 special meeting.
Ron Sprinz, director of finance, presented information on a proposal to establish a long-term capital lease and finalize the planning for the addition at Springs Studio for Academic Excellence, which will house the Pikes Peak Early College. The board unanimously approved this at the June 24 meeting.
The next regular meeting of the BOE is July 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the D 49 Education Services Center.