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“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt  
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  Volume No. 14 Issue No. 9 September 2017  

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  D 49 3B construction projects begin
  By Lindsey Harrison

   Administrators, students and board members of Falcon School District 49 attended a “wall-breaking” ceremony at Sand Creek High School June 6 to kick off the construction projects approved by voters in ballot measure 3B in November 2016.
   
   The ballot measure focused on four strategic priorities for the $83.5 million expected from the mill levy override funds: attracting and retaining highly effective teachers by offering competitive salaries and benefits; making capital improvements to restore and refurbish all existing education facilities; investing in the traditional high schools to ensure the buildings provide equitable, safe and effective learning opportunities for students; and constructing two new K-5 schools.
   
   Nunn Construction has been contracted for the work at SCHS, which includes remodeling a portion of the school for flexible learning space, extracurricular activity areas, new flooring, safety enhancements, new paint and more energy-efficient LED lights. The renovations are expected to cost $7.5 million.
   
   Audra Lane, associate principal at SCHS, said the renovations could not have come at a better time for the school. “Sand Creek High School is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, and we are so excited to start the next 20 years with enhancements,” she said.
   
   Marie LaVere-Wright, D 49 board president, said she wanted to thank the entire D 49 community for the overwhelming endorsement of an investment in the district. “We are incredibly grateful for the faith you have placed in us,” she said.
   
   The SCHS renovations are scheduled for completion before students head back to school Aug. 1.
   
   D 49 3B: Madelyn Wells, 10th grader at Sand Creek High School, smiles after taking a swing at a wall slated for demolition at the "wall-breaking" ceremony.
  
Madelyn Wells, 10th grader at Sand Creek High School, smiles after taking a swing at a wall slated for demolition at the “wall-breaking” ceremony. Photo submitted
 
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  Falcon zone gets new leadership
  By Lindsey Harrison

   The Falcon zone of the Falcon School District 49 has three new faces among their leadership personnel.
   
   Sue Holmes
   As the new Falcon zone leader, Sue Holmes said her first day of work was the last day of school for the year; so far, the position seemed to be a good fit.
   
   “I saw the job posting and really started researching what the position was and more importantly, what the district has been doing,” Holmes said. “I took a deep dive in and saw some really positive things happening. I saw that the focus and values of the district and the Falcon zone truly lined up with who I am, and felt like it would be a good fit for me.”
   
   Holmes said she began her career teaching secondary English and coaching sports in San Antonio, Texas, where she had received her undergraduate degree. After five years, she moved to Colorado and taught high school English in Peyton School District 23. She eventually received a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and also completed her administrative licensure preparation.
   
   She began her journey into administration in D 23.
   
   “I was the assistant principal and athletic director of the middle and high school in Peyton during my first stage of administration, and then I became the principal,” Holmes said. When the district built its new high school, Holmes became the principal at that school.
   
   After her Peyton teaching experience, Holmes spent eight years as the superintendent of the Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1, followed by two years as the superintendent of the Buena Vista School District R-31.
   
   Along with her husband, Mike, and their two Golden retrievers, Holmes enjoys hiking and fishing in the Colorado outdoors; and reading.
   
   “I feel like the Falcon zone is in a healthy place and a jumping off place to catapult the innovation and engagement strategies in preparing our kids for the ever-changing world,” she said.
   
   Sheehan Freeman-Todd
   Sheehan Freeman-Todd took over as the principal of Meridian Ranch Elementary School at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. With 20 years of service in public education under her belt, Freeman-Todd said she is honored to have been selected for the position.
   
   After graduating from Rockford University (formerly Rockford College) in Rockford, Illinois, Freeman-Todd taught third and sixth grades and special education She earned her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Rockford as well.
   
   Freeman-Todd started teaching in Colorado at Woodmen Hills Elementary School before transitioning to assistant principal at Falcon Middle School. The last six years, she was the assistant principal at Discovery Canyon Campus School in Academy School District 20.
   
   She completed her principal licensure at Denver University and is happy to stay in Colorado since she, her husband and their Golden retriever enjoy living in Colorado, she said.
   
   Having worked as an assistant principal at a middle school, Freeman-Todd said she is proud to be the new principal at MRES because she knows where elementary school students are headed. Additionally, literacy is one of her passions so she admires the early literacy efforts in the district, she said.
   
   “Meridian Ranch Elementary School is an excellent school, and I look forward to how we are going to go to the next level of excellence,” Freeman-Todd said.
   
   Michael Roth
   As the new principal at Falcon Elementary School of Technology, Michael Roth said his experience as a camp counselor at Eagle Lake Camp in Colorado Springs inspired him to become a teacher.
   
   “I have empathy for any kids that are struggling because I struggled,” he said.
   
   Growing up in a military family meant frequent moves, which made it difficult to succeed academically, Roth said. By using his personal experiences as a way to connect with his students, Roth said he was able to realize his passion for math, science, reading, social studies and history, which led to his desire to teach elementary students.
   
   Roth said he started teaching in a tough school in San Antonio before moving to North Carolina to be closer to family. After spending time teaching there, Roth said he “got the bug” to move back to Colorado to attend Denver University’s doctorate program. After graduation, he worked in the Denver Public School District before becoming the assistant principal at Aurora Quest K-8 in the Aurora Public School District.
   
   Eventually, Roth and his family moved back to Colorado Springs, and he became the principal of Scott Elementary School in Colorado Springs District 11.
   
   After seeing how the leadership in D 49 handles situations, Roth said he wanted to work for the district.
   
   “Peter Hilts (D 49 chief education officer) really impressed me,” Roth said. “I wanted to work for a guy like that. He is sharp, compassionate and tells it like it is. If you have a district with integrity in the leadership, it means great things for the community.”
   
   Roth said he plans to lead the teachers at FEST by recognizing them for helping to shape the lives of students.
   
   “As the principal, I get to set the tone for respect and dignity,” he said. “What you teach and what you tolerate becomes your culture.”
  
 
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  June BOE meeting wrap-up
  By Lindsey Harrison

   All members were present at the Falcon School District 49 Board of Education meeting in June. Before the meeting, the BOE held a “Fantastic 49” event and recognized the district’s selections for Teacher of the Year from each school.
   
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, introduced Sue Holmes, the new leader for the Falcon Zone.
   
   Open forum
   Several members of the D 49 community spoke about their concern with the decision to move the Falcon Homeschool Enrichment Program from its current location off Mohawk Road. Concerns included the following: a decision was made with no input from the FHEP families; younger FHEP students could be bullied; the new location might not have a playground for the students; and distress at leaving a familiar facility.
   
   Hilts apologized to the FHEP students and families for not doing a better job of communicating the relocation plan and getting input prior to making the decision. “I underestimated the level of attachment to this building,” he said. “There is more demand to use the homeschool facility than what we can accommodate, and the other facility allows for that.”
   
   John Graham, board director, said the district needs to work harder at having communications with the community when students and parents are affected.
   
   Hilts said he will take the comments under advisement and bring back additional information and recommendations
   
   Action items
   The board unanimously approved
  • The nomination of Graham for board vice president
  • The name change of the current advisory class period at Vista Ridge High School to pathway exploration/designs/mastery and the associated credit for completion of the course
  • Revisions to these policies: board powers and responsibilities; and recruitment of chief officers
  • The reauthorization of the contract between the district and the Community Partnership for
  • Child Development-Head Start
  • Revisions of the special education data technician job description to special education program specialist
  • The revised teacher’s salary schedule to overcome some limitations presented by the previous salary schedule

   Discussion items
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, presented information about meetings between district administration and the teacher compensation task forced related to funds from the 3B ballot measure approval. He said they decided to remit a one-time payment of about $283 with the next paycheck for each teacher.
   
   Amy Attwood, district lobbyist, provided an update on the events from the previous legislative sessions, including the amended senate bill that would distribute mill levy override funds to charter schools. The bill died but was brought back as House Bill 17-1375, which passed. It is intended to increase transparent equity of funds distribution across districts for both traditional and charter schools.
   
   Attwood said another bill that passed, HB 17-1340, creates a legislative interim committee on school finance that will meet for the next two years to assess the true cost of educating a child in Colorado. “D 49 was really a leader in developing that bill,” she said.
   
   The state budget for the 2017-2018 school year will see a per-pupil rate increase to account for inflation, but the negative factor still comes into play, making budgets tight around the state, she said.
   
   Jack Pietraallo, interim transportation director, presented information on the fee for service busing program and said the current system is not accurately tracking students’ rides, making it difficult to invoice parents for payment. He presented a new fee structure for the program that emphasizes upfront payment by offering savings in multiple ways. “The new structure creates increased efficiency in our department,” Pietraallo said.
   
   Graham said he was not comfortable moving the new fee structure forward as an action item if there was no stakeholder engagement.
   
   Matt Meister, director of communications, said his team can research various options like a virtual town hall meeting to engage the stakeholders.
   
   Marie LaVere-Wright, president, said the communications team should send an email notification about the fee structure and then the board can discuss and vote on this item on June 28, which was changed to a special meeting rather than a work session.
   
   Jack Bay, chief operations officer, said the Priority 2 projects from the 3B ballot measure are in full swing and his team is working on installing permanent signs to thank the community for their support. He said he has also developed a timeline of the scheduled construction projects taking place over the summer.
   
   David Rex, president of the district accountability advisory committee, presented the list of requests/priorities from each school that submitted one for consideration in the 2017-2018 budget.
   
   The board moved the proposed budget forward as an action item at the June 28 special meeting.
   
   Mike Pickering, POWER zone leader, presented information requesting a change to the calendar for Ridgeview Elementary School for the upcoming year. Pickering said he wanted to designate Aug. 31 as a non-contact student day for teachers to attend a two-day training program through Capturing Kids Hearts.
   
   Pickering also presented information on a new proposed job description for a teacher on special assignment for zone data design. His zone has found value in data analysis and design, and creating a TOSA position will allow the current teacher to do this same work but remain a teacher of record, he said.
   
   The board moved both of Pickering’s items forward as action items for the special meeting.
   
   Sean Dorsey, Sand Creek zone leader, presented information on a new proposed job description for a dean of workplace learning. “We really need a person to support students as they demonstrate skill mastery in different ways,” he said. The proposal would shift roles and responsibilities within the zone and any incurred cost would be at the zone level, Dorsey said.
   
   The board will address this as an action item at the special meeting.
   
   Bruce Grose, principal at VRHS, presented a request to modify the job description of the dean of concurrent enrollment to better fit the position.
   
   The board will present this as an action item at the special meeting.
   
   LaVere-Wright conducted the second read-through of a policy regarding instructional staff contracts/compensation/salary schedule, which was approved on an emergency basis in May. The emergency approval allowed the district to use the new salary schedule during the hiring process for the 2017-2018 school year.
   
   The policy will be submitted for final approval at the special meeting.
   
   Hilts presented information regarding a new software system that the chief officers will use to complete their team performance reviews.
   
   Bay said he wants to develop an apprenticeship program for HVAC and is working with Hilts to secure certification for students.
   
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is July 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the D 49 Education Services Center.
  
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  D 49 Teacher of the Year award recipients
  By Lindsey Harrison

   At the regular meeting of the Falcon School District 49 Board of Education in June, the 2017 Teacher of the Year awards were presented to the following:
  • Eric Canuel – Falcon High School
  • Kendra Ramirez – Falcon Middle School
  • Kirin Kinder – Falcon Elementary School of Technology
  • Wendy Murphy – Woodmen Hills Elementary School
  • Monica Tupper – Vista Ridge High School
  • Desiree Streib – Skyview Middle School
  • Amy Willis – Odyssey Elementary School
  • Marcia Lee – Ridgeview Elementary School
  • Pamela Liles – Stetson Elementary School
  • Adriane Jasper – Sand Creek High School
  • Heather Ullrich – Horizon Middle School
  • Chrysauna Piccolo – Evans International Elementary School
  • Heather Reading – Remington Elementary School
  • Christi Geertsema – Springs Ranch Elementary School
  • Eric Lustig – Patriot High School
  • Jenny Olson – Springs Studio for Academic Excellence

   Congratulations to all!
  
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