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"And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier's tomb, and beauty weeps the brave."
– Joseph Rodman Drake  
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 5 May 2018  

None Black Forest News   None Book Review   None Business Briefs   None Community Calendar  
None Did You Know?   None FFPD Column   None FFPD News   None From the Publisher  
None Garage Sales   None Health and Wellness   None Marks Meanderings   None Monkey Business  
None News From D 49   None Obituaries   None People on the Plains   None Pet Care  
None Phun Photos   None Prairie Life   None Rumors   None Taste of Falcon  
Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In
  February BOE meeting wrap-up
  By Lindsey Harrison

   All members were present at the Falcon School District 49 Board of Education regular meeting in February, except David Moore, vice president, who was absent with prior notice.
   Before the meeting, the BOE held a “Fantastic 49” event, and recognized elementary students from across the district nominated by their teachers: Tailor Fecteau, a fifth-grader from Stetson Elementary School; Laiyla Brewer, in kindergarten at Remington Elementary School; Natalia Roach, in second grade at Odyssey Elementary School; and Madison Nahrgang, a fifth-grader from Springs Ranch Elementary School.
   Melissa Ardolf, physical education teacher at Falcon Elementary School of Technology, and the elementary students demonstrated the school’s first Drums Alive program to the BOE. Ardolf coached a two-week session on the Drums Alive curriculum, which combines general education, personal fitness, cardiovascular conditioning, neuromuscular coordination and musical rhythms. The school’s student council raised the money to buy the Drums Alive curriculum, and used a Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools grant to buy the equipment; including drumsticks, fitness balls and plastic tubs.
   Chief officer update
   Jack Bay, chief operations officer, said construction on the office complex in the warehouse near the bus barn is nearing completion and should be ready at the beginning of March.
   Action items
   The board unanimously approved the following:
  • Review of the charter school contract between the district and Banning Lewis Ranch Academy
  • Renewal of the charter school contract between the district and the Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning
  • Revisions to two policies: electronic participation in school board meetings and physical activity policies
  • Proposals for a life sciences course and a critical thinking course at Vista Ridge High School, and a teen leadership course for the iConnect zone
  • The 2017-2018 D 49 school family calendar and preliminary approval of the 2018-2019 calendar
  • The contract with Colorado Computer Support for network infrastructure services starting July 1
  • A resolution allowing D 49 to negotiate the charter school contract with the Colorado Military Academy

   The board discussed concerns about the job descriptions, preliminary budget and facilities plan for the proposed Academy for Literacy, Learning and Innovation Excellence in the POWER zone. The program would be an extension of the one that began at Odyssey Elementary School in 2014, which specifically serves students who fit a profile of dyslexia. Tammy Harold, board secretary, said she had concerns about funding a new program based on the potential for future budget cuts. “I have no concerns with this program specifically,” she said. “I want to know about additional funding sources and that the money will be there to sustain this program.”
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, said the mill levy oversight subcommittee has approved the program and would likely allow some funding.
   Harold also expressed concerns about pulling students from other elementary schools outside of the district rather than from other zones within the district. “If 120 students qualify and 30 are from each POWER zone elementary school and another 25 are from out of district, surely we have another 30 students in our own district that qualify rather than from outside,” she said.
   Marie LaVere-Wright, board president, said the district has policies in place that prioritize district students over outside students. “The budget assumes that those 25 seats would be able to be filled even without other zones’ students coming in,” she said.
   Harold said she was concerned about the program’s proposal to move existing modular units to house the new program.
   Bay said issues could arise from modular units, and his staff is looking into a semi-permanent facility that could be moved. “We will make sure we have a quality facility for the students,” he said.
   The BOE unanimously approved the job descriptions, preliminary budget and facilities plan.
   Discussion items
   Julia Roark, Falcon zone leader, provided an update on the status of the zone’s literacy goals. “We are increasing our tutoring efforts at all three elementary schools to help make the kind of growth we want to make,” she said. At the middle and high schools, Roark said the focus is on math intervention to help students who are not at the benchmark level for their grade.
   Matt Meister, director of communications, said his department would like to restructure the existing digital communications specialist position to a digital communications manager position and create a new internal communications manager position.
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, said the administration is being judicious about where to focus the district’s funds, and the new position would benefit the entire district. “We are constantly looking at opportunities for consolidation, but we see the value to all the departments for this position,” he said.
   “This is an investment in other people to free them up to do what we need them to do,” LaVere-Wright said.
   The board agreed to move both the position items forward to the March 9 regular board meeting.
   Melissa Andrews, district planner, updated the BOE on the projects from ballot measure 3B. She said her team received the list of project priorities from the following schools: Evans International Elementary School; Remington Elementary School; Sand Creek High School; Falcon High School; and Vista Ridge High School. Those schools presented their priority lists to their student advisory councils and the mill levy oversight subcommittee, and Andrews said the next step is to start pricing out each project. Whatever projects are top priority and make up 60 percent of the budget will be completed first, she said.
   “If safety and security is not in that top 60 percent, it must be addressed within two years so they either need to use this money or find it in their budgets somewhere,” she said.
   LaVere-Wright presented information on the first run-through of the BOE self-review and goal-setting process. “We want to finalize the review process, including what goals were set,” she said. “I will provide another update on those goals as a discussion item at the March 9 meeting.”
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is March 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the D 49 Education Services Center.
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  New D 49 military charter school
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On Jan. 12, the Falcon School District 49 Board of Education unanimously approved the charter school application for the Colorado Military Academy. The CMA will be the district’s seventh charter school.
   Andy Franko, D 49 iConnect zone leader, said the school is a good fit for the district primarily because so many students and their families are affiliated with the military. “The district promises to meet the needs of its students, and this school offers a specific education model not currently offered,” he said. “The school has promised a high-quality education for its students, but purposefully plans to serve a population of students that we are under-servicing at this point.”
   John Evans, executive director and commandant of CMA, said the school’s vision is to have an opportunity to develop children for 21st century jobs and careers that do not exist yet. “We want to develop them as leaders, and the traditions and leadership aspects of the military provide that,” he said.
   The school will offer a science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics and business curriculum through project-based learning, Evans said. All teachers are licensed but do not necessarily have a military background, he said. “Our teachers are trained through the School Leaders of American Charter College Education program,” Evans said. Additionally, the school will offer physical education and athletic programs to the students, he said.
   Through the idea of “esprit de corps,” students will understand the importance of teamwork emphasized through a chain of command similar to the military’s, Franko said.
   When classes begin Aug. 14, the school will serve students in kindergarten through ninth grade, and add 10th, 11th, and 12th grades one year at a time, Franko said. Although students will be required to wear uniforms, CMA is not a military reform school, he said.
   Evans said the school is located outside the northern-most border of Peterson Air Force Base, and the first floor of the current 87,000-square-foot facility will be remodeled starting April 1. He said CMA anticipates that the first floor remodeling phase will be completed by July 27, and the upper floor remodeling phase will start in the fall. CMA has also proposed a 48,000-square-foot addition, adjacent to the existing facility and a 5-acre practice field and surrounding track, he said.
   Rather than burden D 49 with trying to bus students to the facility, Evans said CMA will employ a private shuttle service to help get kids to school and keep them safe.
   Funding for CMA comes from the state just as any other public school’s funding does, Evans said. And all students are eligible to apply.
   “The Colorado Military Academy will provide a dynamic educational environment that can change as the world changes,” he said.
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  Districts rally to help D 49 pay respects
  By Peter Hilts
  Chief education officer

Gene Hammonds, D 49 transportation director, was shot and killed Feb. 14, as he left his home in Denver for his job at D 49 in Falcon. The NFH would like to extend our sympathies to the D 49 staff and Mr. Hammond’s family.

   This is a poignant time of year for me. Thirty years ago this month, my brother was swept off the deck of a crab boat near our hometown in Alaska. The darkness of his loss was partly tempered by warmth and care as our small town gathered to mourn and remember. This month, our family in District 49 suffered a similar and equally sudden tragedy. Through senseless violence, Gene Hammond — our “Transportation Guy” — passed on from a life of deep commitments and even deeper affections.
   At the service, where fellow U.S. Marines presented Gene’s family with a folded flag and remembered him with solemn military honors, a throng of family, friends and colleagues shared memories of his zest for life and his inexhaustible friendliness and wry humor. The courage Gene displayed through serving his country was only matched by his enthusiasm for the family he loved and the colleagues who became great friends. As the leader of our transportation department, Gene was a relentless advocate for more and safer equipment and the resources to hire needed drivers to cover our expanding system of routes. He showed great wisdom and leadership in leading the state fight to make safe driving around school buses a higher priority. If you fixed or drove or rode on one of his buses, you got Gene’s absolute best every time.
   That’s why so many of his team, from mechanics and dispatchers to drivers and the paraprofessionals, were determined to travel to Fort Logan National Cemetery and honor Gene’s memory. The problem was, military funerals at a large national cemetery have to be scheduled when space and staff are available, and that schedule was smack in the middle of our busiest afternoon carpool. We couldn’t change the schedule. We couldn’t abandon our students. We couldn’t ask the team he led to miss Gene’s service. The problem seemed unsolvable — until the phone started to ring and the email started to chime.
   You see, in his years with District 49, Gene extended his hand to counterparts around our community. Many mornings he would check in with the leaders of District 11 or District 20 to see how they were handling a tough weather situation or a badly clogged commute. He had District 38 and District 2 on speed dial. Gene was a role model of open communication and early notification. He knew that a big network leads to better decisions. So, when his extended team of transportation leaders heard about our scheduling impasse, they picked up the phone and acted just like Gene.
   Friends like Josy and David in Harrison 2; Tom, Jim, and Cindy in Academy 20; Karen and Mark from Lewis-Palmer, 38, didn’t need to be asked. They offered their drivers, dispatchers and mechanics to care for our kids. So many districts and volunteers responded with support that all who could were able to pay their respects at Gene’s memorial gathering. To cover liability and manage the costs of hiring backup drivers, we created an inter-district agreement to cover the costs. But none of our neighbors remembered to send us a bill. They just sent us the drivers and mechanics and care that we needed.
   It’s said that a candle shines out brightest against the darkest night. That has been my personal experience, and now it’s part of our district legacy as well. As part of a larger collection of school districts from El Paso County, we are proud to compete with quality districts around our community. We want to learn and perform and earn the business of our parents — and so do they. But when tragedy intruded, it was heartwarming to see how the heart of our neighbors showed up and shone out. Those of us who called Gene “our guy” say “Thank you.” For your care and quick response, “Thank you.” For showing our staff and our students what compassion can look like between colleagues and communities, “Thank You.” Your care and support are and echo of the qualities that make us miss Gene so much.
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