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“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.”
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  Volume No. 14 Issue No. 12 December 2017  

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  November BOE meeting wrap-up
  By Lindsey Harrison

   All members of the Falcon School District 49 Board of Education were present for the November meeting. Jaxon McNeil from Falcon High School and Rachel Washburn from Sand Creek High School 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 recipients of the 41 Falcon Education Foundation Mini Grants, totaling more than $28,000.
   
   Board update
   Kevin Butcher, treasurer, thanked fellow BOE member Tammy Harold, secretary and outgoing board member, for her service on the board for the past eight years.
   
   Dave Cruson, director, presented Harold with a gift for being his board mentor when he was first seated.
   
   John Graham, vice president, said he attended several ground-breaking ceremonies across the district and expressed his thanks to all veterans for their service.
   
   Harold said she took a group of students from Stetson Elementary School to Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver in recognition of their “Fuel Up to Play 60” efforts. She also addressed her time on the board: “I appreciate this district so much, and it has done so much for my family and me. I also want to thank my daughters for what they gave up for me to be on the board.”
   
   Marie LaVere-Wright said the district’s performance excellence evaluation took place during the week of Nov. 6-10. She added that the BOE retreat will be Jan. 27, 2018.
   
   LaVere-Wright said she promised Harold she would not present a plaque for Harold’s service on the BOE; instead, she presented her with a scrapbook that included contributions from D 49 students, staff, community members and the other board members.
   
   Chief officers update
   Pedro Almeida, chief operations officer, said plenty of construction is going on across the district. He also thanked Harold for her service on behalf of the operations department.
   
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, said he saw Harold’s grace under unfair pressure prior to coming on board with the district. “It has been a pleasure, and I deeply appreciate you.”
   
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, also expressed appreciation for Harold’s time as a board member.
   
   Student board of representatives update
   Washburn said Sand Creek High School has seen a tremendous improvement in positivity, and the students are now building relationships with the staff.
   
   Action items
   LaVere-Wright administered the oath of office to newly elected board members, Butcher and Cruson. All board members signed the confidentiality affidavit as required by state law.
   
   The board unanimously approved
  • LaVere-Wright as president, Graham as vice president, Butcher as treasurer and Cruson as secretary
  • Donna Richer as the assistant to the BOE and Ridgway as the assistant treasurer
  • A resolution allowing the district to use charter buses as alternative forms of transportation to and from school events
  • Review of the following board policies: school board member conduct; school board member financial disclosure; and board member code of ethics
  • Identification of boundaries for Bennett Ranch Elementary School
  • The following graduation dates and times for the Class of 2018 at the World Arena in Colorado Springs: May 26, 2018, at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. for Falcon, Vista Ridge and Sand Creek high schools, respectively
  • Definition of the D 49’s five director districts
  • A resolution declaring a vacancy in director district No. 4 with a revised due date of Dec. 7 for receipt of applications

   Discussion items
   Ron Lee, director of 3B mill levy override capital construction, and Matt Wilhelm, project manager with Wember Inc., provided an update on the construction progress. Lee said all but three safe entry sites have been completed thus far. About 40 percent of the projects are under contract with about 25 percent of that budget already spent, he said.
   
   Mike Pickering, POWER zone leader, presented a performance update for the zone, and said data for the ALLIES (Academy for Literacy, Learning and Innovation Excellence) program at Odyssey Elementary School has confirmed that the program is worthwhile. Pickering also highlighted areas of growth across the POWER zone.
   
   Ridgeview Elementary School is showing a decrease in math and English language acquisition growth, and the zone will attack the issue head-on, Pickering said.
   
   Ron Sprinz, finance group manager, provided an update to the amended budget and said the per-pupil funding rate from the state stands at about $667. He said he dug deeper into the district’s finances and discovered there are about 40 different accounts that determine the per pupil rate.
   
   Matt Meister, director of communications, said his communications’ team provided an after-incident report regarding the flash freeze the district experienced Oct. 31. In situations like that, the communications team determined they might need additional time to decide which action to take: whether to have a two-hour delay or cancel school, he said. The decision could mean calling back buses that have already been dispatched, but the team will inform the community if that decision is necessary, Meister said.
   
   His team is also working at bringing a D 49 app for smartphones into the district’s repertoire of communication methods.
   
   Following the regular meeting, the BOE held an executive session for discussion of the CBO evaluation and review. No action was taken at that time.
   
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom at the D 49 Education Services Center.
  
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  Falcon Education Foundation mini-grant recipients
  By Lindsey Harrison

   Educators and staff at Falcon School District 49 received mini-grants from the Falcon Education Foundation at the regular D 49 Board of Education meeting Nov. 9. The 41 grants totaled more than $28,000.
   
   The recipients of the 2017 Falcon Education Foundation mini-grants:
  • Margaret Stanley – Meridian Ranch Elementary School: $49.85 for “A Paleontologist’s Adventure”
  • Erin McGovern – Stetson Elementary School: $665.76 for “Developing 21st Century Skills Through Play”
  • Michael Hoffman – Vista Ridge High School: $890 for “Silvercoats Literary Magazine: Curation, Collaboration, and Celebration”
  • Krista Rauer – Skyview Middle School: $326.12 for “ACCESS and PREPARE Curriculum for Social Skills in Middle School”
  • Amanda Bower – Odyssey Elementary School: $191 for “Can You Hear Me Now?”
  • Madison Stuart – Horizon Middle School: $360 for “Enhancing Spanish Acquisition Through Free Voluntary Reading”
  • Jimmi Wright – Pikes Peak Early College: $313.67 for “Next Gen Photos & Videos”
  • Melissa Ellenberger and Joel Patton – Woodmen Hills Elementary School: $1,000 for “Drums Alive! Brings Music and PE Together”
  • Emily Callahan – Falcon Middle School: $150 for “Skeleton in the Choir Room”
  • Jedd Sims – FMS: $1,000 for “Mini Golf Course”
  • Stephanie Peterson – Remington Elementary School: $500 for “Hawk Quest Educational Experience”
  • Kari Roberts – WHES: $987.46 for “SPED Help in Preschool”
  • Mickelle Spendlove – HMS: $986 for “IXL to Target Student Needs in Science”
  • Molly Garrett – OES: $683 for “Bring Imagination to the Life with Robots”
  • Amy Willis – OES: $540 for “Good Reads, Good Deeds”
  • William Yerger – HMS: $1,000 for “Healthy Clean;” $1,000 for “First Responder Project;” and $1,000 for “Zapped (Fundraising Tool)”
  • Matt Monfre – SES: $303.08 for “Earth, Wind, and Rain Barrel;” $524.73 for “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here;” and $1,078 for “Good to the Last Drop”
  • Krystle Jankovsky – Sand Creek High School: $650 for “High School Buddy Program”
  • Kristi Guinn – OES: $932.81 for “Light Up and Build”
  • Carolyn Leyes – RES: $836.60 for “All Remington Reads – A Novel Event”
  • Stephanie Hazelton – Academy for Literacy, Learning and Innovation Excellence: $671.54 for “Engineering & STEM Tools for Girls;” and $798 for “3 Doodlers for Young Creators”
  • Christine Perrizo – Falcon Elementary School of Technology: $36 for “Mindup Program for FESoT”
  • Melanie Hawthorne – HMS: $1,100 for “Bringing Music to Life with a Rehearsal Piano”
  • K-5 Teachers – Falcon Virtual Academy: $990 for “Coding with the Kano Motion and Pixel Kits”
  • Merry Monk – MRES: $832.18 for “Zap It! Exploration Through Experimentation”
  • Paul Austin – Patriot High School: $1,000 for “STEM in the Stream” and $1,000 for “23 and Me”
  • Mary Beth Vander Molen – Ridgeview Elementary School: $900 for “RVES Loves Literacy”
  • Lori McCoy – RES: $467.94 for “Hand to Mind: Math Manipulatives”
  • Lanee’ VanSant – SES: $379.96 for “Little Raiders Love to Move, Move, Mooooooove!”
  • Dave Kranz – FHS: $1,000 for “Irrigation System in a Box”
  • Brandon Ager and Lynn Williams – VRHS: $865 for “Ceramics for Real Life”
  • Joshua Wixom – Springs Studio for Academic Excellence: $960 for “Coding to Learn”
  • Sandra Smith – Falcon Homeschool Program: $450 for “Using Educational Escape Rooms for Learning”
  • Michael Roth – FESoT: $700 for “Making Heroes”
  • Mary H. Hopper – WHES: $915.20 for “Building Inspiration for Elementary Engineers”
  •   
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      D 49 population still growing strong
      By Lindsey Harrison

       With half the school year already on the books, Falcon School District 49 has seen significant growth in the student population in both coordinated and charter schools. The passage of ballot measure 3B in November 2016 has provided funding for the district to address growth through construction of new schools and refurbishment of existing facilities.
       
       Melissa Andrews, community and project planning manager, said the district grew by about 600 students for the 2017-2018 school year, although the final number will not be published through the Colorado Department of Education until January or February 2018.
       
       According to the CDE’s website, the average growth rate of pupil count for students in preschool through 12th-grade in Colorado for the past 20 years has been 1.4 percent. Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, said D 49 grew by 3.7 percent from last October’s student count to the most recent count.
       
       “A good portion of that growth was in Banning Lewis Ranch,” Andrews said. “Paint Brush Hills is planning to build more than 500 additional homes, and Meridian Ranch is still building. All of that growth is in the Falcon zone, but Banning Lewis Ranch will become part of the POWER zone in 2019.”
       
       Boundary changes like what BLR will experience provide an additional way to relieve overcrowding in certain parts of the district, she said. The Sand Creek zone is the slowest-growing for now, so other boundaries are being adjusted to funnel kids who are closer to that zone’s facilities into those schools, rather than busing them across the district, Andrews said.
       
       Bennett Ranch Elementary School, which is currently under construction, is located on Londonderry Drive, near Falcon Middle School. Andrews said BRES was intentionally placed there to alleviate the growth at Meridian Ranch Elementary School.
       
       Ridgway said the district had a list of more than 200 projects it planned to undertake with money from the mill levy override ballot measure. Every building in the district benefited from that money in some way, but the work is moving more slowly than anticipated, he said.
       
       “We have had to work with contractors who have a lot of other work to do besides with school districts,” Ridgway said. “For example, with the Vista del Pico Elementary School in Banning Lewis Ranch, the contractor market lacked availability to begin work in time to open in August 2018. We decided to wait until the 2019 school year to open it rather than open it part-way through the 2018-2019 school year.”
       
       Matt Meister, director of communications, said the district’s website has a list of 3B project reports that is updated monthly, if not more frequently. “We have worked really hard to be transparent and accountable,” he said. “We have put a lot of resources into doing that.”
       
       Andrews said the district has been staying on top of current real estate sales to see how many homes have been sold and in what neighborhoods to help them determine district-wide future building needs.
       
       “Based on the data just from the development we know about now, we will need to add 12 elementary schools, three middle schools and one high school to address that new growth,” Andrews said. “Those facilities will not address over-capacity issues at the other schools. We are still playing catch-up on that.”
      
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      Reading is the foundation
      By Kristy Rigdon

       If you are reading this, thank a teacher! The ability to read impacts all aspects of an individual’s life. It also improves the success and trajectory of every student’s academic career. In D 49, providing a firm foundation in literacy has been a targeted improvement strategy for several years — one that is bearing results. Unlike walking and talking, which children can learn by trial and imitation, reading and writing are complex language skills that must be explicitly taught and practiced.
       
       The primary years of kindergarten through third grade often set students on their pathway of reading success, or not. Students must be able to hear and manipulate sounds, connect those sounds to letters, which then forms words, sentences, etc. The ultimate goal is to comprehend text and communicate through writing. This oversimplified version of reading acquisition does not fully convey the technical challenges, but teaching reading is rocket science.
       
       Colorado legislators recognize the critical need for students to become proficient readers and the implications if students are not readers by the time they leave third grade. Since 2012, the Colorado READ Act (Reading to Ensure Academic Development) has set standards for literacy development and boosted D 49’s efforts by providing funding to improve achievement in reading. In keeping with D 49’s status as a district of innovation, elementary school teams re-examined everything about literacy instruction to ensure that students and teachers have the tools they need to improve reading. Schools made sure they had the right materials for core instruction and intervention, delivered by appropriate and well-trained staff. They even examined daily schedules to ensure that learning drives decision making, and instructional time is maximized and uninterrupted.
       
       Schools have also demonstrated an increasing emphasis on engaging families and the community. Many schools adopted an all-school read event, where everyone reads and discusses the same book and also developed close ties with the Pikes Peak Library District. Schools are even leveraging out of school time to improve student reading skills. The district invested in a digital library, myON, which provides online access to thousands of quality texts students can read anytime, day or night.
       
       Literacy experts invite K-3 students with reading challenges to attend the district’s READ Camp (Readers Exploring Amazing Destinations), available during interim breaks. This successful reading intervention program is gaining recognition and interest across the state as a role model to replicate. READ Camp enjoys partnerships with the UCCS School of Education and the Olympic Training Center. Masters candidates and preservice teachers complete internships with READ Camp, giving them real world experience and providing D 49 students with more individualized attention. Colorado Springs is the Olympic City, and the Olympic Training Center provides enrichment opportunities for our students. This partnership is a natural fit as Olympic athletes and learning readers have many of the same needs. They both need excellent coaches, constructive feedback, extensive opportunities for perfect practice, a good diet — for readers this means a variety of materials and reading opportunities.
       
       Over the last four years, D 49 students are seeing increasing improvement and growth in reading as measured by the DIBELS Next reading assessment. When compared to other districts and schools across the nation, D 49 is making well above average progress. At the same time D 49 is experiencing increased enrollment and high mobility. We also observe that more students are entering kindergarten less prepared. Our ongoing commitment to a firm foundation in literacy makes D 49 the best choice for families.
       
       What can you do? If you have children at home, read to and with them every day. Even middle and high school students will bond over a good young adult fiction book. If you don’t have children at home, contact your local elementary or library to volunteer. Schools regularly welcome community readers into classrooms. While teaching reading may be rocket science, enjoying reading belongs to anyone who can share passion for a good book.
      
     
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