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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 3 March 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 Health and Wellness   None Letters to the Editor   None Marks Meanderings   None Monkey Business  
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Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In
  February BOE meeting wrap-up
  By Lindsey Harrison

   All members of the Falcon School District 49 Board of Education were present at the February meeting, except for Marie LaVere-Wright, president, who was absent with prior notice. Victoria Kim from Sand Creek High School and MyAvion Walker from Falcon 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 two teams, made up of both students and staff members, for their contributions to the district.
   The BOE recognized the broadcasting team from Falcon Middle School, which includes teachers Kendra Ramirez and Tim Scheck and students Helen Mosquera and Mason Premer, for their hard work in transforming the morning announcements.
   The board also recognized a team of enrichment teachers from Ridgeview Elementary School: Kim O’Connor, library media specialist, for providing students with a creative space lab; Sue Ann Ross, library paraprofessional, for cultivating a love of reading in students; Victoria Villescas, technology teacher and coach, for keeping the school’s technology running smoothly; and Cheri Bagby, technology and math paraprofessional, for helping integrate technology into the classrooms and being the school’s expert with the ST Math and Reflex math programs.
   Board update
   Dave Cruson, secretary, attended freshman orientation and a few sporting events at Vista Ridge High School, and thanked coaches and community members for their support.
   Chief officer update
   Pedro Almeida, chief operations officer, said he has been visiting schools for the “rounding” process, which allows chief officers to have conversations with individuals or small groups in the various schools.
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, invited the community to gather to remember Micah Flick, the El Paso County Sheriff’s deputy who was killed in the line of duty on Feb. 5. “This is a season of real loss and significant loss for our district,” he said.
   Hilts also recognized Bella Mitchell, a sophomore from VRHS, for taking second place in girls wrestling at the state tournament, which is not sanctioned by the Colorado High School Activities Association because they have not yet created a competitive division for the sport. It was just the second state tournament for the all-girls wrestling division.
   Action items
   The board unanimously approved the following:
  • Conditional approval of the charter contracts between the district and the following charter schools: GOAL Academy, Imagine Classical Academy and Rocky Mountain Classical Academy
  • Revisions to the following job descriptions: bus driver; bus paraprofessional; transportation dispatcher; transportation driver trainer; transportation operations technician; transportation student liaison technician; and transportation trainer
  • Review of the following policies: School District 49 identity, vision, mission and philosophy; banking services; fiscal accounting and reporting; record of fixed assets; salary deductions; expense authorization/reimbursement; cash in buildings; student activity funds; disclosure of information to prospective employers; retirement of staff; retirement of professional staff; retirement of education support staff; and educational support staff transfer and vacancy policy
  • New course proposals at VRHS: World of Work; Education Exploration; College Preparatory Physics; and Military Science
  • The new job description for the athletic director at FHS

   Discussion items
   Matt Wilhelm, project manager with Wember Inc., updated the board on the district’s 3B project list. He said staff members toured the Bennett Ranch Elementary School site, where the roof is about 50 percent complete. Work continues at VRHS and FHS, and the safe entry for Meridian Ranch Elementary School is scheduled for installation over spring break, Wilhelm said. About 50 percent of the Priority 2 work is already under contract, he said.
   John Graham, vice president, thanked Wilhelm and the construction team for their hard work and the community for voting for the 3B mill levy override ballot measure, which has provided the funds for these projects.
   In response to a board initiative tasked to the chief officers in 2016, Hilts presented the “champions or teams of champions” for five Mission Innovation proposals. The proposals were developed by staff members, and Hilts said the goal was to have the board members hear each proposal and identify one or two they would like to further review.
   Courtney Hutchinson and Staci Gehling, sixth-grade teachers from Horizon Middle School, presented their proposal called “Camp Innovation.” The learning day camp program is geared toward third, fourth and fifth grade students, providing them with a minimum of a week of hands-on science, technology, engineering and math through various activities, Hutchinson said.
   Other schools outside of the district already have similar types of camps, and the goal would be to have other schools participate in the HMS camp, she said.
   Amber Whetstine, executive director of learning services, presented her proposal, “APEx Evaluation Teams.” She said the proposal creates an opt-in process for teachers demonstrating highly effective teaching approaches to conduct professional evaluations of each other. Whetstine said she would like the board to endorse the idea so she could help a few schools implement the process in small pilot groups.
   Scheck, Gateway to Technology teacher at FMS, presented his proposal, “Building Tech Coaches,” which would designate a person in each building to serve as an instruction coach on the use and implementation of technology. He said much of the technology issues the district outsources to Colorado Computer Support could be handled in-house, reducing the time it takes to resolve the issues.
   Victoria Kim asked if it is possible to have technology boot camps built into the program to help teachers and other staff members learn the basics about the technology they use in the classroom every day. Scheck said the idea was viable.
   Sahvanna Mease, a career and technical education teacher at VRHS, presented her proposal called, “Teacher Cadet,” which would provide opportunities for students to have pathways to becoming a teacher. Mease said the program would allow current teachers to earn continuing education credit by supervising an intern in their classroom, and the district as a whole would benefit by producing potential teacher candidates who might return to work at the district.
   Walker asked about the classes necessary for a student to participate in the program, adding that she knew many students who would have enjoyed the program if it had been available to them early on.
   Kristy Rigdon, coordinator of literacy performance, and Kayla Martinez, Kids’ Corner program manager, presented their proposal called, “Department of Continuous Learning,” which would be a one-stop shop solution for coordination and collaboration for out-of-school learning. Martinez said this program would be curriculum-based to align with school standards.
   Hilts advised the board to pick one or two proposals to further research.
   Hilts said LaVere-Wright wanted to present the idea of having open forum speakers announced during the open forum session. If anything pertained to a specific topic already on the agenda, a person could choose to speak before the board considered the item. Graham directed the administration to put together a proposal for a policy addressing the issue.
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is March 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom at the D 49 Education Services Center.
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  Graduation dropout rates look bad but need context
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On Jan. 19, The Gazette published an article about the Pikes Peak region’s graduation rates, citing data from the Colorado Department of Education, which placed Falcon School District 49 at the bottom of the 17-school-district list, with a graduation rate of 58 percent. The list also states the dropout rate for the district is the highest, at 9.4 percent.
   In the Pikes Peak region, Manitou Springs School District 14 had the second highest rate with 93.7 percent; Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 followed with 93.4 percent. The largest district, Colorado Springs School District 11, had a graduation rate of 69.7 percent.
   What happened in Falcon?
   Amber Whetstine, executive director of learning services for D 49, said the numbers are correct but do not necessarily compare apples to apples. “A large percentage of our high school students attend GOAL Academy, which is a statewide online school,” she said. “It has about 4,000 students, and the majority of them do not necessarily reside within District 49 boundaries.”
   Whetstine said GOAL Academy and Patriot High School are both alternative schools, with a student body largely made up of students who would not be attending high school if only given the traditional high school option. PHS is focused on helping high-risk students, or students who are the most at risk of failing high school, Whetstine said. Ultimately, those high-risk students would not be successful without the opportunity to attend one of the alternative high schools, she said.
   “About 60 percent of our high school population attends GOAL Academy or Patriot High School,” Whetstine said. “That highly impacts our district-wide average.”
   Taking into account only the traditional high schools, the district’s graduation rate is over 85 percent, which is well above the state graduation rate of 79 percent and comparable to the surrounding districts, she said. “Falcon High School’s four-year graduation rate is 87 percent,” Whetstine said. “Sand Creek High School’s is over 80 percent and Vista Ridge High School’s is 87 percent.”
   In coming years, Whetstine said the district could see another impact on four-year graduation rates because of the district’s Pikes Peak Early College, which allows seniors to stay enrolled for up to two more years to earn an associate degree. Students do not graduate in four years; they graduate in six, but with both a high school diploma and a post-secondary degree, she said.
   “The idea of graduating in four years may not be as relevant as it was in the past,” Whetstine said. “Some students graduate early with certificates to start their careers.”
   The appropriate way to analyze graduation rates in D 49 is to look at individual schools, she said. Each school serves the needs of their student base in different ways, Whetstine said. Some schools are geared toward high-risk students, and other schools have students who do not graduate in four years because they are taking advantage of the PPEC, she said.
   Similarly, dropout rates are skewed in part because of the alternative schools in D 49, Whetstine said.
   “Dropout rates are calculated based on any student leaving the district within a school year and not enrolling in another Colorado school, or enrolling in one that cannot be tracked by the state,” she said. “Springs Studio for Academic Excellence is another high school that had only 50 graduates in 2017. That number is too small to report to the CDE because of privacy laws, but our data shows that school’s graduation rate is still 85 percent.”
   Students may also leave the district and then come back, but the CDE does not always track them as being re-enrolled, she said. Serving a high-risk population like D 49 does certainly affect the dropout rate reported by the state, Whetstine said.
   While the data at the CDE might seem discouraging, Whetstine said both rates are single data points that need to be considered in context, rather than on their own.
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  D 49 school nominated for national award
  By Lindsey Harrison

   Ridgeview Elementary School in Falcon School District 49 has been nominated for the Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase Schools Award, presented by the Flippen Group, a management consulting firm based in Texas.
   According to the Flippen Group’s website, the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program outlines a process that helps educators “experience socio-emotional learning techniques that will provide them with classroom facilitation tools for peaking student interest, establish collaborative agreements of behavior in every classroom, creating high performing groups, increasing pro-social skills, creating more time on-task, and increasing student performance.”
   Theresa Ritz, principal at RVES, said the school has been implementing the CKH process for about four years, when the entire POWER zone decided to start using it. “We trained all of our licensed staff and some of our classified staff at that time,” she said. “Capturing Kids’ Hearts is really foundational to everything else that we do. It is our philosophy, along with the Flippen Group’s, that if you have strong relationships with people, then everything is better.”
   Ritz said the goal of the Capturing Kids’ Hearts process is to help build meaningful connections between students and their peers, students and staff and staff and parents. “We want kids to excel academically, but we also want them to feel safe and cared for,” she said. “We know kids that are comfortable will learn more, retain more, and get along better. It’s a domino effect of positive things.”
   According to the Flippen Group’s website, Capturing Kids’ Hearts was developed in 1990; since then, campuses across the nation have used the process to help create the socio-emotional safety net necessary for learning. The National Showcase Schools Award recognizes and celebrates schools that have implemented Capturing Kids’ Hearts and go above and beyond expectations to build an environment where students are connected to one another and eager to learn.
   Ritz said RVES is one of 134 schools nominated for the National Showcase Schools Award for the 2017-2018 school year and one of six in Colorado. To be considered, Ritz said the school had to go through a rigorous application process that included surveying staff and students and submitting a variety of data, which the Flippen Group uses to determine the nominees from the thousands that implement Capturing Kids’ Hearts.
   Once a school has been nominated, Ritz said the Flippen Group then conducts site visits and looks for specific criteria like interactions between students and staff members. They consider the main Capturing Kids’ Hearts strategies to make sure those are in place and effective; and they also meet with various groups, including a parents group, student group and a teacher leadership group, she said.
   Since teachers go through quite a bit of training during their careers, Ritz said it is rare to find a program that moves everyone on a high level; that is what Capturing Kids’ Hearts has done. “Everyone really believes in the process,” she said. “It is still work, though. It is easy to get distracted by lots of other things but this process means a lot to the staff. They really do love children above all else.”
   Ritz said the Flippen Group is still conducting site visits, but has indicated that they hope to announce the award winners after D 49’s spring break, which runs from March 19 through April 1.
   “Just to make it this far and be an official nominee is quite the accomplishment,” Ritz said. “It says so much about our staff, our students, our parents and the work that we are doing. Regardless of the outcome, I am extremely proud of the staff and really the entire community because it is not just teachers; it is the support staff, the classified staff, the office staff.
   “Whether we win the award or not, what we are doing is the most important thing we can be doing for the kids.”
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  New director of communications
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On Jan. 22, Falcon School District 49 welcomed David Nancarrow as the new director of communications. Nancarrow joins D 49 following former communications director Matt Meister’s resignation and subsequent return to television broadcasting.
   Nancarrow, who also has a background in television broadcasting with Colorado Springs CBS affiliate KKTV 11 News, said he has been working and living in southern Colorado since 2003. He began his broadcasting career as a general assignments reporter with the news station and spent time working various types of stories before landing an anchor position, Nancarrow said.
   “I had the opportunity to work on a number of important and compelling stories for the Pikes Peak region and southern Colorado, including five weeks embedded with Fort Carson troops in Iraq,” he said. “It was incredible, such an eye-opener. It was everything you could possibly imagine; it was exciting and very touching as well. I got to act as a sort of window for people in southern Colorado to see what life was like for their loved ones who were deployed.”
   Nancarrow attended college at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He and his wife and their cat live in D 49, and both like to spend time outdoors.
   “You will find me running and hiking or fishing on occasion, not as often as I would like,” he said. “I enjoy golf, but I am really bad at it. It is like being in someone’s nicely manicured backyard. It is calm, there is not a lot of noise.”
   Nancarrow said his interest in pursuing a new challenge spurred his move to D 49. The position is exciting and brings something new just about every minute, he said. Additionally, the communications team is capable and hardworking, which Nancarrow said makes him feel secure because he is working with people already accomplishing the goals of the district.
   Two weeks after Nancarrow came on board, he faced a major tragedy that affected the entire county, but in particular D 49. El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy Micah Flick was shot and killed while conducting an auto theft investigation in Colorado Springs. The 34-year-old is survived by his wife and 7-year-old twins, who attend school in D 49. As the director of communications, it fell to Nancarrow to handle the situation.
   According to a Feb. 6 article posted on The Gazette’s website, Nancarrow stepped up to tell the community that grief counselors would be on hand at the school Flick’s children attend. He also talked about the family’s request for privacy at the time.
   “It was a tragedy felt across the community, and it resonates with me on that level,” he said. “I understand that this (handling situations like the shooting incident) is an important part of the position, and I hope that my experience with these types of situations over the years will put me in a place of cooperation and understanding.”
   Nancarrow said he learned some things through dealing with the tragedy, and will continue to do the best he can in every challenging situation within the district. “I care very much about the community where I live and work.”
David Nancarrow. Photo courtesy of KOAA
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  Falcon High bowlers
  From Coach Mike Cook

   This year, Falcon High School had four bowling teams of six students each. Throughout the season, there are 10 competitions where five bowlers bowl one regular game and then bowl two Baker games. A Baker game is much like a regular game, but five bowlers are assigned to bowl in two frames of a game. 
   The state competition was held in Littleton, Colo., on Feb. 10 and Feb. 11. Twenty-eight teams from all over Colorado participated this year, and Falcon had one team make it to state: Falcon 1. During the initial competition, all teams bowled three rounds of one regular game and two Baker games. From there, the top five teams went into a stepladder final — they bowled two Baker games in a head-to-head format, where the winner had the most pins after bowling two Baker games. 
   After the initial competition, the Falcon team was the second seed. Their first match was against Colorado Springs’ Mitchell High School. It was a close match but Falcon came out on top and progressed to meet the No. 1 seeded team from Doherty High School, also from Colorado Springs. After the first Baker game, Falcon was up by 25 pins going into the second Baker game; however, Doherty came out striking and ended up beating Falcon by 45 pins, which gave them the overall win.
   The individual competition took place the next day. For the boys, Dylan Bowen, Brayden Brown and Aidan Brown made the cut. For the girls, Hannah Perry moved on.  After the second round, the field was cut to the top five boys and the top five girls, and only Hannah Perry made this round, seeded second. Hannah ended up winning the state title for girls, with a score of 213 to 171. This was Hannah’s first for high school bowling, but last year she won the Pepsi singles for the state of Colorado. In addition to the trophy, Hannah will also be receiving a scholarship from the Colorado High School bowling foundation.
Members of a Falcon High School bowling team went to the state competition this year: (from left to right) Brayden Brown, Aidan Brown, Dylan Bowen, Brandon Roberts, Hannah Perry and Jason Putney. Photo by Lindsey Harrison
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