All members of the El Paso County Colorado School District 49 Board of Education were present at the regular meeting in January, except Kevin Butcher, vice president, who was absent with prior notice. Kristin Voss, a 12th grade student from Sand Creek High School; and Ilana Sherwood, a 10th grade student from Pikes Peak Early College, were also present as members of the Student Board of Representatives.
Before the regular meeting, the BOE held a “Fantastic 49” event and recognized the following: Melissa Watts, family community liaison at the Falcon Elementary School of Technology, for connecting community members to various resources; Carri Crowe, instructional coach at Skyview Middle School, for creating a Zen room for staff to relieve stress and anxiety throughout the day; and the Junior Student 2 Student group at Falcon Middle School, which has partnered with the Military Child Education Coalition to welcome new students to FMS.
John Koster, director, said he joined the district accountability advisory committee.
John Graham, president, said he attended the special education advisory committee meeting and learned that the special education compliance position helped the district reduce their individual education plan audits and reviews from more than 600 to 19. Additionally, the special education coordinators have worked to increase inclusive practices at many of the D 49 schools, and students are benefiting from that.
Chief officers’ update
Pedro Almeida, chief operations officer, said with students returning to the buildings, extra cleaning continues to take place.
He said the transportation and nutrition services departments are still experiencing a shortage of employees and a transportation recruitment task force is working to find strategies to deal with the bus driver shortage.
Bruce Brown, the district’s new facilities project manager, started this month, he said.
Almeida said lunches will continue to be free thanks to the federal government’s reimbursement program; cafeterias around the district will be open to serve students from inside the buildings. Families are urged to sign up for meal pickup to make the process run more smoothly, he said.
Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, said the budget process will be extended again this year with the legislative session that will likely extend past the traditional June end time.
Ridgway also said the Voice of the Workforce Compensation Team, now called the VoW Collaboration Team, met in January and is designed to give every school building and department representation. “The purpose is to be a two-way conduit of information between the senior administrative team and the members, the staff and colleagues they represent,” he said.
Peter Hilts, chief education officer, said the Pikes Peak Business Education Alliance now provides regional advisory boards for all the D 49 schools. “Regional advisory boards are efficient and ensure that the community has a strong voice in our career preparation,” he said. Several district leaders serve on those advisory boards, Hilts said.
Hilts said the winter sports season began in January, and there will be specific guidelines with limited entry for safe spectator attendance wherever possible. Parents of competitors and performers will have first opportunity to attend, he said. Additionally, within that group, parents of 12th grade students will be prioritized as well, Hilts said.
With the Colorado Measures of Academic Success statewide assessment coming up, Hilts said D 49 administration recommends the test be suspended for 2021 since it would have to be administered in-person and would likely not provide data that is comparable across years and across schools. He said the SBOR agreed on suspending the test.
Hilts said the Colorado Department of Education has addressed the teacher shortage for guest teachers across the state by developing a provisional license option. A social media promotion was launched to garner interest in the district’s answer to that licensing option through the Parent Star Program, he said.
John Graham, president, said anyone interested or concerned about the program can visit the http://www.d49.org/parentstar for more information.
Student board of representatives’ update
Voss said she noticed teachers were making more effort to help online students; whereas, last semester she felt the focus was more on the in-person students. She said there is more communication now and she appreciates that.
Sherwood said that discussion at the SBOR meeting centered on student mental health; the counselor at SCHS has implemented mental health initiatives throughout the school.
Graham said mental health is a priority across the district this year. “We made mental health, not only of students, but also of staff a priority during our annual planning summit last year,” he said. “I would encourage all of our schools and professionals to take that seriously and get people involved.”
Cathy Gardino, D 49 community member, told the board about an issue she had with obtaining curriculum information that should be a matter of public record. She said she has made multiple requests but only one was answered, and she was told she needed to pay about $120 for someone to retrieve and assemble the requested documentation. Gardino said she is particularly interested in sex education, Black Lives Matter and the 1619 Project curriculum.
Hilts said the request was processed through the Colorado Open Records Act, which follows both a statutory and practical process.
After some discussion, Graham referred Gardino to David Nancarrow, director of communications, who can help determine the best approach to resolve her issue since the board does not resolve issues during open forum.
The BOE unanimously approved the following:
Tom Sistare, auditor from Hoelting & Co. Inc., updated the board about the audit findings for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. The board agreed to move this forward for action at a subsequent meeting, and Ridgway will present a plan of action and an update at the February work session.
Hilts provided an update on the “return to learn” schedule, community health conditions, testing options, quarantine models and vaccination plans. Both Sherwood and Voss said they felt it was too soon to implement the “return to learn” plan.
Paul Andersen, director of human resources, gave an overview of the state of the workforce annual report.
Andy Franko, iConnect Zone leader, updated the board about Liberty Tree Academy’s corrective action plans as a priority improvement school.
Ron Sprinz, finance group manager, provided an update on 2020-2021 enrollment and the amended budget. He said he does not foresee any changes to any of his numbers prior to his presentation in February.
Ridgway provided an update on the district’s annual legal costs.
The next regular meeting of the BOE is Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Creekside Success Center’s Peakview Hall.
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