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“In my desperation, I have finally discovered that the only way that I can begin to fill the gaping hole within me is to be thankful for what’s there, and not angry for what’s not.”
– Craig D. Lounsbrough, author  
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  Volume No. 14 Issue No. 11 November 2017  

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  April BOE meeting wrap-up
  By Lindsey Harrison

   All members were present at the Falcon School District 49 Board of Education regular meeting in April. Carly Harold from Sand Creek High School also attended as a member of the student board of representatives.
   
   Before the meeting, Marie LaVere-Wright, president, asked for a moment of silence for Julia Roark, the Falcon Zone Leader who was killed April 8 while riding her bicycle on Woodmen Road.
   
   Board update
   Kevin Butcher, treasurer, said no one has applied for the vacant seat on the board left by David Moore after he moved to South Carolina. He said the board will also need to fill two more seats since he and Tammy Harold, secretary, will complete their terms in November.
   
   Chief officer update
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, said the district has been going through tough times with the loss of two transportation employees in February and a teacher from the Banning Lewis Ranch Academy in March. “We have needed to support each other this week, and I want to thank everyone who has provided that support,” he said.
   
   Student board update
   Carly Harold said the student board of representatives met and had good discussions on athletic fees across the district.
   
   Action items
   The board unanimously approved the following:
  • New job descriptions: director of 3B mill levy override capital construction; and project manager for 3B priority 2 projects
  • May 7-12 as National Teacher Appreciation Week
  • Annual applications for alternative education campus designations for Patriot High School and GOAL Academy
  • Revisions to the following job descriptions: accounting technician; dean of at-risk/expelled and PEAK programs; education technology specialist –- assessment; education technology specialist –- instruction; and education technology technician
  • New workplace learning manager job description
  • Revisions to policies involving chief officers’ conduct; media use; liability of school personnel/staff; professional staff; part-time and substitute employment; intra-district choice/transfers; public information and crisis communication; distribution of non-curricular materials
  • Reduction in the German language program at Falcon High School for the 2017-2018 school year due to low student interest
  • A supplemental budget for Fund 46 for the project funds from ballot measure 3B

   The board unanimously passed the district and school unified improvement plans for the POWER zone following a presentation by Mike Pickering, POWER zone leader.
   
   The board discussed the proposed revisions to policies regarding graduation requirements. Carly Harold asked how the current senior class could show a mastery of a subject through scores they receive on the advanced placement tests, if the scores are not posted until the summer. Amber Whetstine, education director of learning services, said using AP scores is one option but not the only one. Students can opt to take the AP exams earlier to ensure the scores are posted prior to graduation, she said.
   
   “The current senior class probably will not be able to use those scores,” Whetstine said. “They will need to use some other criteria to show mastery of a subject.”
   
   The board unanimously approved the district graduation policy and regulation revisions.
   
   Discussion items
   Sean Dorsey, Sand Creek zone leader, presented the zone’s spring performance update, and said all three elementary schools in his zone have implemented math programs to improve primary math proficiency. Evans International Elementary School implemented the Spatial-Temporal Math program and has the highest level of syllabus completion in the state of Colorado.
   
   “Completing a grade-level syllabus is no small feat,” Dorsey said.
   
   At the middle and high school levels, the Math 180 program has been implemented and Dorsey said he is excited with the progress students have made in the first year.
   For additional math support, a summer bridge transition program will be available for up to 50 fifth-grade students transitioning to Horizon Middle School and 50 eighth-grade students transitioning to SCHS, he said. The program will have two rotations, July 10-13 and July 17-20.
   
   SCHS students can also get math support through the Scorpions Saturday program — a voluntary half-day tutoring session on Saturdays at the high school. In February, 42 students attended the sessions and currently 68 students are participating, Dorsey said.
   
   Lou Fletcher, compliance officer, updated the board about the status of the October 2014 agreement between the district and the United States Department of Justice. The contract came after a conflict –- predominantly based on race –- that prompted parental involvement and DOJ intervention. “The Department of Justice has commended us on our transparency efforts,” he said.
   
   Martina Meadows, English language development coordinator, said that 95 percent of the district has effective ELD programs in place.
   
   Pattie Vail, gifted education coordinator, said her department is identifying gifted students more appropriately, which has increased the number of gifted students in the district. Because of the increase, Hilts said the administration is contemplating adding employees in the gifted education support department.
   
   Kathlynn Jackson, special education director, presented an update on her department, focusing on effective instruction, recruiting and retaining quality educators and support staff and collaborative communication. She also introduced Emily Leschisin, the new assistant special education director.
   
   Ron Sprinz, finance group manager, updated the board about the budget focus for the 2017-2018 school year.
   
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, updated the BOE about the projects from ballot measure 3B, and said the district should be receiving regular progress reports from Wember Inc., the project manager for Priority 3 and 4 projects.
   
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is May 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the D 49 Education Services Center.
  
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  Falcon Foundation’s 18th fundraising dinner
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On April 21, more than 340 people from the Falcon School District 49 community attended the 18th annual Falcon Education Foundation fundraising dinner at the Hotel Eleganté in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The event also included a silent and live auction, and a presentation of awards for individuals in the D 49 community who have stood out among their peers for helping the community, their investment in their own education and the education of others.
   
   Emcee Jon Karroll, anchor for KRDO TV Channel 13, said, “This dinner is to recognize deserving individuals in the Falcon community and raise funds for scholarships for graduating seniors and grant money for educators.”
   
   Individuals who were honored at the dinner:
  • Connie Parrish – teacher – Rocky Mountain Classical Academy
  • Thomas Russell – teacher – Falcon High School
  • Dave Kranz – teacher – FHS
  • Lauren Stuart – teacher – Sand Creek High School
  • Jamie Levi – teacher – Vista Ridge High School
  • Brianne Martin – student – Odyssey Elementary School
  • Hunter Maldonado – student – VRHS
  • Samantha May – student – Pikes Peak Early College
  • Sophia Mayhugh – student – Springs Studio for Academic Excellence
  • James Sellman – staff – Remington Elementary School
  • Patricia Gioscia – staff – Skyview Middle School
  • Heather Olsen – staff – Ridgeview Elementary School
  • Del Abbott – volunteer – VRHS

   The funds from last year’s FEF dinner and auction were awarded in scholarships to the following 12th grade students:
  • Molly Riggs – FHS – $1,000
  • Megan Liske – FHS – $500
  • Andrea Talain – FHS – $500
  • Kiana Harkema – FHS – $1,000
  • Katelynn Kroeker – FHS – $1,000
  • Jessica Sandwick – FHS – $500
  • Derek Russell – SCHS – $1,000
  • Michael Thuis – SCHS – $1,000
  • Zachary Wortkoetter – VRHS– $500
  • Kahner Sampson – VRHS – $500

   Guests were encouraged to bid on various silent and live auction items, the latter included a Belize fishing and diving adventure for two donated by Safari Unlimited and desserts prepared by D 49 community members.
   
   Joan DeWitt, FEF board president, said this year’s dinner was the biggest ever, with at least 40 more attendees than last year.
  
Matt Meister, director of communications for Falcon School District 49, and Kayla Maldonado, Falcon Education Foundation board vice president, kick off the awards portion of the 18th annual FEF awards dinner and fundraiser. Photo by Lindsey Harrison
 
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  Falcon High gets outdoor education space
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On April 21, students from Falcon High School in Falcon School District 49, along with about 30 landscape professionals, worked together to build an outdoor learning laboratory at FHS. The space will be used for the new landscape curriculum the school will offer in the fall of 2017.
   
   Tammy DiFalco, member relations manager for the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, said local ALCC chapter members donated all the materials and labor. FHS has partnered with the ALCC to create a landscape career pathways program, which will include the new fall course.
   
   Dave Kranz, career and technical education teacher at FHS, will teach the landscape curriculum course in the fall. He said the most in-demand areas of the landscaping industry are hardscape and irrigation. His course will focus on design, installation and irrigation. The outdoor learning laboratory will provide a hands-on opportunity for students to get the training, Kranz said.
   
   The learning laboratory, which includes areas along the front and back of the school, features the following:
  • Four irrigation system stations where students will learn about installation, repair and water management technologies
  • A large garden for students to learn about plant identification, planting and plant maintenance
  • A 400-square-foot area dedicated to hardscape instruction, like installation of pavers, stones and other non-plant materials
  • A section dedicated to sod installation instruction and calculating slopes and grades

   The locally owned Heidrich’s Colorado Tree Farm Nursery donated a memorial tree that is incorporated into the design at the front of the building. Kim Boyd, lead school psychologist for D 49, said Heidrich's donated the tree because of the losses Falcon has experienced in the last few months. The tree memorializes the persons who have died, and adds some positive energy to this project.
   
   The estimated value of the project is $47,000, about three times the amount FHS originally anticipated, he said. But the value extends to what the future holds for the students in the landscape career pathways program, Kranz said.
   
   “These companies will need employees, and who better to hire than the kids who are already trained in doing the work,” he said.
   
   The project began at about 8 a.m. and was completed as scheduled by about 4:30 p.m., Kranz said.
  
Landscaping industry professionals work side-by-side with Falcon High School students to construct an outdoor learning laboratory at the school.
 
The finished product will provide an outdoor lab for the landscape curriculum. Photos by Lindsey Harrison
 
Landscapers transport the memorial tree donated by Heidrich’s Colorado Tree Farm Nursery to its home in the outdoor learning laboratory.
 
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  Patriot open house highlights alternative learning
  By Jeff Bowles

   Falcon School District 49’s Patriot High School held an open house in early April to showcase their alternative curriculum and recent rebranding effort. Principal Dan Mulay said the event was not only for students and families but also for D 49 staff. Patriot is the only high school in D 49 designed for non-traditional learning.
   
   “A lot of the students we serve are having trouble in their lives,” Mulay said. “The purpose of the open house is to really give parents and community members a chance to see what we do, to come and visit the new Patriot High School.”
   
   Located at 11990 Swingline Road in Falcon, Patriot recently entered its ninth year of operation. The location at one time housed both the junior high and the Falcon campus of Pikes Peak Community College.
   
   Patriot is designed to give challenged students a place to re-adjust and academically improve, Mulay said. The school relies on smaller classroom sizes and an emphasis on blended learning, which is a form of education that utilizes online classrooms.
   
   Research conducted in the last decade suggests children tend to do better in online settings. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Students who took all or part of their class on the Internet performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.”
   
   In addition to its core academic curriculum, Patriot also offers a Career and Technical Education program. The school said their CTE programs are designed to put students on the right path to success by educational opportunities in culinary and visual arts, construction, hospitality and health science.
   
   “We’re showcasing our versatility tonight,” Mulay said. “Blended learning has enormous potential, and we’re interested in letting people see how it operates. The student has some control over the time, the place and the pace that they’re working at. There’s significant flexibility there.”
   
   According to the school’s website, Patriot facilitates a diverse community that stresses learning through creativity and special attention given to students’ individual needs. Children may exhibit everything from mental health issues to flat-to-poor attendance. Patriot tries to address lack of motivation by engaging students’ senses and relating coursework to their immediate environments.
   
   “There are currently nine teachers in the high school. Homework is only assigned as needed, and class sizes are rarely larger than 15 students … . Students are chosen through the combined input of parents, the referring school, and the teachers and administration at Patriot Learning Center. They are admitted on a needs and numbers basis, with the final decision coming from Patriot High School.”
   
   At the open house, Patriot administrators and staff focused on their alternative curriculum and changes the school has made. Patriot recently initiated a rebranding effort, transitioning their mascot to a stylized bison. School officials also intend to move away from a standard semester-based academic year and implement a new trimester system, perhaps beginning as soon as next year.
   
   “We’re interested in better serving kids and their families,” Mulay said. “That change would allow students to enter a school year during three separate enrollment periods rather than two. With trimesters, they can come in midway through a year without having to wait.”
   
   A small but important part of the larger D 49 system, Patriot’s student body is about 125. The school offers most if not all the same core classes found at larger high schools in the region, but Mulay asserted Patriot’s main purpose is to give students an opportunity to learn at their own pace. Smaller class sizes equals better one-on-one instruction and more flexibility for students, parents and teachers.
   
   “We are slightly more compact than Falcon High or Sand Creek or wherever else you can go,” he said. “The important thing is that we’re an alternative school, and a lot of struggling kids benefit from the kind of learning that we can provide.”
  
The culinary arts program is just one of the Career and Technical Education curriculums offered at Patriot High School. The CTE programs help students choose their path to success post high school. Photos by Jeff Bowles
 
 
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  FHS students attend P.A.R.T.Y.
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On April 11, students from the emergency medical technician course at Falcon High School in Falcon School District 49 participated in a day-long program geared toward preventing risky behavior, like driving while impaired or texting. The Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth program was held at UCHealth’s Memorial Hospital North in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
   
   Matt Gibbs, P.A.R.T.Y. program coordinator for the Pikes Peak region who also teaches the EMT class at FHS, said he wanted the students to get a first-hand look at what types of situations they might face as EMTs. Gibbs, who is also a firefighter with the Falcon Fire Protection District, has been coordinating the P.A.R.T.Y. program for four years, he said.
   
   According to the program’s website, the intent of P.A.R.T.Y. is to reduce the frequency and severity of youth injuries. “The P.A.R.T.Y. program is about prevention and awareness. It’s about learning through vivid and emotional experience. It’s about learning from real people and their very real experiences … . This P.A.R.T.Y. is about experiencing what happens when young people make a decision that changes their life forever.”
   
   The students heard presentations from several experts, including the hospital’s chaplain, the El Paso County coroner, a flight paramedic, an emergency department nurse, and Drew Candin, who survived an accident that he caused.
   
   Candlin’s story, “Years of Bad Decisions and the Results,” describes how he ended up almost killing two people on his 26th birthday. He said he had been drinking at a few bars in downtown Denver, and decided to drive himself home at 1:30 a.m. While driving 50 miles an hour down Speer Boulevard, a 30-mile-per-hour zone, he ran two red lights and T-boned another vehicle, pinning it against the brick wall of a nearby hospital, he said.
   
   As he showed pictures of the accident to the audience, he said, “I look at these pictures every time I give this presentation, and I cannot believe they (passengers in the other car) survived.” The police charged Candlin with two counts of vehicular assault, he said.
   
   After describing what the aftermath of his accident looked like, including the toll it took on his family and their everyday life, Candlin said, “My main point I want to get across here is that one decision can change your life.”
   
   “We have these survivor speakers to really bring the realism to the students,” Gibbs said.
   
   Aside from the presentations, the students also participated in various activities, including distracted driving games to simulate driving under the influence, he said. Gibbs said the overall goal is to save lives; and, through the program, students start to think about their own driving, and they realize how many people can be affected by one bad decision.
  
FHS students Katelyn Jensen (left) and Traci Wuerstl (middle) listen as Tami Hollister, manager of the emergency department at UCHealth’s Memorial Hospital North, describes what happens when a patient is brought to the department for a trauma.
 
Deb Stover (right), critical care ground transport team member, tells Katelyn Jensen (left) and Traci Wuerstl (middle) what her job entails inside an ambulance.
 
Drew Candlin (standing) shares an image of the vehicle he hit while driving under the influence of alcohol. The people in the car he hit survived. Photos by Lindsey Harrison
 
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  Keeping the light on
  A tribute
  By Peter Hilts
  chief education officer

   As our district endures a horrible season of loss and uncertainty, we have multiple examples of how a caring individual can change the course of a single life or an entire community. Amongst the sadness, it has been comforting to remind ourselves of the powerful impact a committed educator can have on students and colleagues.
   
   We first heard about Julia Roark when she applied to be superintendent of a school district a little north of here. Several of us knew people who were finalists for that job, so we read the articles and reviewed the resumes that were posted online. It was pretty clear to us that their top candidate should be an assistant superintendent from Aspen named Julia Roark. Well, fortunately for us, they chose a different leader.
   
   One year later, we met Dr. Roark when she applied to lead the Falcon Zone. We got excited. When we saw her perform through a gauntlet of panel interviews and timed tasks, we got very excited. By the end of the day, we saw six candidates, but no competition. Julia was the brightest prospect of the bunch, and we were thrilled when she agreed to come and lead the Falcon Zone. We knew we had a leader who was going to make us better — we just had no idea how much light she would bring to our lives.
   
   Julia brought light to all she did and everyone she served. In education, we often talk about the aha moment when the light comes on and you have a flash of understanding. Well, with Julia it wasn’t a flash because the light was always on. She wasn’t just well-educated —making her smart; she was also well-experienced, making her wise. When she studied something, Julia learned all the things and quickly became an expert. When she first came to District 49, Julia came to me, somewhat sheepishly, and said she would need to miss one of our first leadership meetings. She had a prior commitment to attend a training in Alaska. What she didn’t say was, “I’m a national leader for cognitive coaching, and there are dozens of school districts counting on me to come and lead their training.” She could have said that, but she didn’t. One of Julia’s defining characteristics was humility. She never drew attention to herself or her accomplishments. When I visited her office this week, Julia’s degrees and diplomas were literally stacked on a side desk gathering dust. Somehow she never got around to posting her own credentials. What was displayed were a poster about kindness, a book about happiness, some Dr. Suess artwork, lots of pictures of her children, Austin and Alex, and a big framed glossy of her husband, Greg, front and center.
   
   Instead of resting on her past accomplishments, Julia doubled up on learning about our district, and brought years of leadership to serve the principal team in the Falcon Zone. Her principals would tell you that Julia rarely planned anything that began with “I” — it was always “We” except when she said, “How can I help?” If you messaged Julia with a problem or crisis, she didn’t call back — she drove over. She walked in the door and asked, “How are you doing? How can I help?” Last night, after we learned about the tragic death of Michael Finley, I needed to call Julia. We could always depend on her best when we were at a loss. Like the light she embodied, Julia brought warmth and insight. Imagine walking down a dark path, stumbling, uncertain, tentative … leadership is like that sometimes when problems and crises take you past your experience. But that’s just when we appreciated Julia’s light the most. She illuminated our understanding with her careful questions —reminding us to pause and reflect.
   
   Last summer, Julia lived out that philosophy on a long climb up our local landmark. As part of a district event, a bunch of teachers and parents, administrators and board members gathered for a symbolic climb up Pikes Peak. Julia was fully capable of lacing up her bright orange trail shoes and zipping up the mountain, but she didn’t. Instead, she joined others and me in the final group (we were the ones planning a “deliberate” pace) and spent the next 10 hours encouraging our progress. One friend was moving on pace, but as the air got thin, doubt crept in. Julia said, “Just 50 steps more. You don’t have to climb the whole mountain, just 50 steps more. You can make it 50 steps, you can do this.” With her encouragement, that climber and our whole group turned 50 steps into 500. Then 500 steps into 5 miles, and eventually we ran out of mountain and celebrated at the summit. That’s exactly Julia’s greatness. She’d walk alongside you until you ended up doing more than you knew was possible. Her personal warmth and professional wisdom enlightened our lives and made us all better. As sunlight brings life, Julia helped us come alive.
   
   No matter if you called her Julie or Julia, Dr. Roark or Mom, you knew when you called on Julia she’d be there. We will miss Julia deeply and often. This loss is not something we will get over or move past. It is our new and painful reality. But, I encourage us all to remember that Julia left a hole in our hearts, but not a shadow. The light she brought is reflected in each one of us. The best way to honor her legacy is to live as she lived — in the light.
   
   Each morning, the sun will rise and Pikes Peak will glow. We see the sun about 300 days a year. So every sunset when you see our sun and Pikes Peak in the sky together — think of Julia. Remember her strength to encourage us all, “just 50 steps more.” Remember the light she brought to our darkness and the light that showed us a new way. May the life she lived be an inspiration to the lives we touch.
  
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