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"The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month."
– Henry Van Dyke  
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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 3 March 2019  

None Black Forest News   None Book Review   None Business Briefs   None Community Calendar  
None Did You Know?   None FFPD Column   None From the Publisher   None Guest Column  
None Marks Meanderings   None Monkey Business   None News From D 49   None People on the Plains  
None Pet Care   None Phun Photos   None Prairie Life   None Rumors  
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  April BOE meeting wrap-up
  By Lindsey Harrison

   All members of the El Paso County School District 49 Board of Education were present at the April meeting. No members of the student board of representatives attended.
   Before the regular meeting, the BOE held a “Fantastic 49” event and recognized Shayla Castel-Gonzalez and Meadow Cooper, fifth graders at Remington Elementary School, for contributing to the school’s literacy night about fifth-grade writing styles.
   The BOE also recognized Lori Dion, physical education teacher; Cat Giadone, art teacher; and Katie Stafford, a music teacher from Ridgeview Elementary School, for supporting “whole child” education.
   The board recognized Anthony Guerra, a senior at Falcon High School, for winning the state-level PTA Reflections essay competition. His essay, “Within Reach,” will compete at the national level.
   The BOE recognized Katrina Smith, a senior from Sand Creek High School, for securing a spot as a finalist in the National Merit Scholarship selection process.
   Board update
   Marie LaVere-Wright said D 49 is a recipient of the 2017 Rocky Mountain Performance Excellence award, the highest award possible at the state level through the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.
   Chief officers’ update
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, said construction preparations have begun at the Vista del Pico elementary school site.
   Action items
   The board unanimously approved the following:
  • Revisions to the following job descriptions: attendance and substitute staffing specialist; human resources assistant; human resources reporting specialist; leave specialist; and staffing specialist
  • A resolution recognizing the week of May 7-11 as National Teacher Appreciation Week
  • Revisions to the following policies: students in foster care; evaluation of chief officers; federal fiscal compliance; staff ethics and conflict of interest; staff conduct and responsibilities; professional staff contracts and compensation; admission of non-immigrant foreign students; homeless students; and Title I parent and family engagement
  • Addition of an American Sign Language III course and name change of Pre-AP to Honors Art at Vista Ridge High School
  • District and school level unified improvement plans
  • A site improvement plan for Banning Lewis Preparatory Academy to install an all-weather track around the existing athletic field; the track is funded by the Banning Lewis Ranch Academy Foundation
  • Annual Alternative Education Campus applications for the 2018-2019 school year for Patriot High School and GOAL Academy
  • Revisions to the following job descriptions: head coach, assistant coach and support coach
  • A resolution designating the Vista del Pico elementary school site as part of the POWER zone
  • Bank account changes as follows: opening of new accounts with JP Morgan Chase for the district’s main operation, payroll and purchase card transactions; closing of a bank account at Bank of New York that was used to repay bond payments; and closing of a bank account at Farmers State Bank, which was used to receive human resources fingerprinting fees
  • The zone special education administrator job description

   LaVere-Wright clarified a resolution for a waiver concerning substitute teacher licensure: “We are recognizing a severe shortage in the substitute teacher pool and there are many highly qualified community members without their teaching license who could help with that shortage. We will ensure they meet our quality standard by training them ourselves.”
   The board unanimously approved this resolution.
   Discussion items
   Lou Fletcher, director of culture and services, presented information about the milestones reached with the action plan between the district and the Department of Justice monitoring agreement of 2014. The DOJ has released the district from the agreement.
   Matt Wilhelm, project manager with Wember Inc., updated the board on the district’s 3B project list, highlighting work that had been done over spring break.
   David Nancarrow, director of communications, provided an update on the data collected from the Voice of the Community Survey regarding a name change for the district. He said the survey was “well-taken” and a new one is available online for community members to provide feedback.
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, said the district administration is actively seeking input from school groups like the student advisory councils regarding the name change, and will present that information as a discussion item at the May meeting.
   John Graham, vice president, said there is a breakdown of the costs associated with the name change, which is available directly at the D 49 website.
   Nikki Lester, career and technical education director, presented a list of the current CTE programs available across the district. “Over 500 D 49 CTE students are earning college credit before they graduate,” she said. Additionally, 126 students received 38 certifications and four pre-apprentice statuses, earning the district $21,029 in reimbursements from the state of Colorado, Lester said.
   Bob Gemignani, the workplace learning manager who was hired last summer, discussed goals for his department. “Our mission is to work with businesses in our community and carry that message to our schools to educate students so they can enter the workforce after high school or post-secondary education,” he said. “We expect to serve about 300 students and want to create a talent pipeline from D 49 to the workforce in our community.”
   Hilts said D 49 is the only district in EPC to have a dedicated workplace learning manager, and it has already benefited the community.
   Lester said future plans include taking all D 49 eighth-grade students to SCHS in October to allow them to experience the CTE programs available.
   Pattie Vail, gifted education coordinator, showed data on gifted identification for all four zones and presented information on department activities and goals.
   Emily Leschisin, director of special education, presented data on three areas of focus for the special education department: effective instruction, recruit and retain, and collaborative communication.
   Rachel Duerr, health and wellness coordinator, highlighted key points from each school’s School Health Improvement Plan. She said Stetson Elementary School is one of 47 schools statewide to earn a Healthy School Champion Award, presented by the Colorado Education Initiative.
   Duerr said the district will hold its second D “4.9” walk/run event at FHS on Saturday, Sept. 29.
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is May 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the D 49 Education Services Center.
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  Ridgeview Elementary receives national award
  By Lindsey Harrison

   Ridgeview Elementary School in El Paso County School District 49 was selected as one of 123 schools across the nation to earn the Capturing Kids’ Hearts Showcase School Award for the 2017-2018 school year. The award is presented by the Flippen Group, a management consulting firm in Texas.
   According to the firm’s website, the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program provides a framework that helps educators “experience socio-emotional learning techniques that will provide them with classroom facilitation tools for peaking student interest, establishing 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 began implementing the program about four years ago, along with the other schools in the POWER zone.
   “This award validates the Ridgeview staff for capturing the hearts of our students every day,” Ritz said. “Caring relationships between staff and students, between staff, and between staff and parents are the foundation for everything else that we achieve. Educating children is challenging work and a positive school culture matters.
   “We are educators because we want to be difference-makers in the lives of kids, and this award symbolizes the difference this staff is making for our students. I am exceedingly proud of Ridgeview teachers and staff and honored to be a part of such a wonderful school.”
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  D 49 addresses mental health head-on
  By Lindsey Harrison

   According to an article written in 2015 called “School Shootings and Student Mental Health: Role of the School Counselor in Mitigating Violence” and sponsored by the American Counseling Association, 75 percent of students who suffer from some form of mental illness do not receive mental health services.
   According to a post by Dr. Winston Chung on, many school shooting perpetrators were dealing with symptoms of depression, narcissistic tendencies, rage and often used “splitting” –- the inability to hold opposing thoughts, feelings or beliefs –- as a coping mechanism. Splitting can contribute to a person rationalizing things like homicide, the post states.
   Kim Boyd, director of community care for El Paso County School District 49, said the district is aware of the increased concern for student mental health, which is part of the reason D 49 hired her in July 2017. Since then, Boyd said she has been working on helping the schools develop and implement a socio-emotional learning curriculum for students, so issues can be addressed before they become dangerous.
   “We were reactive (to mental health issues) well prior to many of these shootings,” Boyd said. “We are trying to do character development in elementary and middle school so in high school they can handle themselves better. It is about trying to figure out what the kids need so they do not resort to self-harm or harming others as coping mechanisms.”
   Boyd said she has been applying for grants to get funding for more professional development days, and is working on finding ways to get all 1,600 district staff members additional mental health training over the next two years.
   However, Boyd said she faces a hurdle with offering additional training because typically that must be done after school, on weekends or during school breaks. “Providing training for staff during breaks and after hours or during the summer is not necessarily being respectful of their personal time,” she said. “We do not need to add more stress.”
   Boyd is a licensed clinical psychologist and licensed school psychologist. She said a misconception about school counselors is that they offer therapy for students who need it, but they do not. She said she is working to bring more therapeutic support to D 49 so that students who do need therapy can more easily access it.
   “We have AspenPointe, a community mental health provider, at three of our campuses; and are looking to roll them out to all of our regular campuses,” Boyd said. Sand Creek High School, Patriot High School and Evans International Elementary School each have a designated room for AspenPointe so therapeutic resources or counseling sessions can be provided, she said.
   Part of the difficulty with identifying students who may have mental health issues is finding someone to step up and reveal the problem to a person in a position of power, Boyd said. The Safe2Tell program allows students, teachers, staff or parents to make an anonymous report about disconcerting behavior or threats. The program has been identified on the back of student and staff ID tags throughout the district’s high schools, she said.
   “We train the students and staff to see that the Safe2Tell information is right there,” Boyd said. The program can be used for any scenario, i.e., if a parent sees something worrisome posted on Facebook or if a staff member wants to report a concern about another staff member.
   According to the Safe2Tell website, the program was initiated by the findings of a study convened after the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado. The study was intended to make recommendations about preventing another school massacre; and, as a direct outcome of that study, the Safe2Tell Initiative was created.
   “The Safe2Tell Initiative was created to implement a critical recommendation: to provide an anonymous venue for parents, students, teachers, school administrators and law enforcement to share information,” the website states.
   Boyd said training for staff members on prevention and awareness, as well as how to verbally de-escalate a student in crisis will continue to be a focus at D 49.
   “We have teams on every single campus that have that training,” she said. “The goal of our district is to get more mental health training and support to every staff member.”
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