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"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
– George Bernard Shaw  
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 10 October 2018  

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  May BOE meeting wrap-up
  By Lindsey Harrison

   All members of the El Paso County School District 49 Board of Education were present at the May meeting. No members of the student board of representatives attended.
   
   Before the regular meeting, the BOE held a “Fantastic 49” event and recognized Mehki Reese, 12th grader at Sand Creek High School, for receiving both Boettcher and Daniels Fund scholarships, for being a full international baccalaureate candidate, and for being chosen as “Mr. Sand Creek” and homecoming king.
   
   The BOE also recognized the following: Dwayne Morris, custodian at Woodmen Hills Elementary School, for his positive attitude and commitment to teachers; Annette Romero, professional learning specialist, for her level of customer service; and Brian Green, coordinator of learning services, for his ability to influence change through supportive relationships, authenticity and trust.
   
   Board update
   Dave Cruson, secretary, said he was honored to participate in various graduation events like senior breakfast. He also thanked the Falcon Education Foundation for its service to the district.
   
   Josh Fry, director, said it has been great to see what impacts the teachers have had on their students when they were recognized at different graduation events.
   
   Marie LaVere-Wright, president, said she attended the award ceremony with the three district chief officers to receive the 2017 Rocky Mountain Performance Excellence award on behalf of the entire district staff. The award is the highest possible at the state level through the Baldridge Performance Excellence Program.
   
   LaVere-Wright recognized Peter Hilts, chief education officer, and Donna Richer, executive assistant to the BOE, for five years of service to the district. She also recognized Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, for 10 years of service.
   
   Chief officers’ update
   Pedro Almeida, chief operations officer, said members of the transportation department attended the transportation rodeo hosted by Academy School District 20. He congratulated the teams and individuals who won their events, and said they all put forth their best effort to represent the district.
   
   Open forum
   Two students from Vista Ridge High School addressed the board about concerns with class availability and overcrowding at the school.
   
   Mary Lougee, science teacher at VRHS, read a statement regarding a policy that concerned many teachers at the school. The policy verbiage seemed to allow the principal at a school to require mandatory teacher participation in events outside of regular school hours, which she said could become problematic and result in much longer work days.
   
   Action items
   The board unanimously approved the following:
  • Student fees for the 2018-2019 school year
  • Contracts between the district’s nutrition department and the following: Banning Lewis Ranch Academy, Banning Lewis Preparatory Academy, Imagine Classical Academy, Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning and Power Technical Early College
  • The following new course proposals: Introduction to Architecture at Springs Studio for Academic Excellence; Urban Planning at SSAE; Exploratory Art at VRHS; and Intro to Digital Photography at Skyview Middle School
  • Salary placement for specialized service providers
  • Pay schedules for the 2018-2019 school year for the following positions: licensed personnel; education support personnel; professional/technical; administrative; and extra-curricular and co-curricular
  • “Supplement, Not Supplant” -– demonstration of compliance
  • Performance domains for chief officer evaluations and goal-setting

   After much discussion, the board unanimously voted against a resolution that would allow Imagine Indigo Ranch charter school to take actions to relocate the school to a new facility opening in the fall of 2019. LaVere-Wright said there are still different pieces that need to be in place before she would vote yes on this issue.
   
   The board directed Andy Franko, iConnect zone leader, to bring the interested parties together to discuss the school’s future, including its future location.
   
   Discussion items
   Matt Wilhelm, project manager with Wember Inc., updated the board on the district’s 3B project list. He said the estimated completion date for work at Falcon High School is June 29; there will be about 56 projects in progress or completed during the summer.
   
   Ron Sprinz, finance group manager, described the proposed budget for the 2018-2019 school year. He said the current per-pupil funding rate is $8,541.66, and he plans to present any budget changes at the regular board meeting in June. The goal is to have the board vote on the budget at the special meeting prior to the work session June 27.
   
   Franko presented the board with charter contracts for GOAL Academy, Imagine Classical Academy and Rocky Mountain Classical Academy, all of which have renewed their contracts with the district. The board moved this to an action item at the June meeting.
   
   Additionally, Franko presented a waiver from Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning to move away from No Child Left Behind and Highly Qualified language to the Every Student Succeeds Act language. The board moved this to an action item for the June meeting.
   
   Kim Boyd, director of community care, outlined activities within her department, including securing a grant to begin work on a new mental health program in the district.
   
   Hilts presented information about the improvement process for the student board of representatives. The proposal will make the experience more like an academic experience for the participants, as well as a chance to earn academic credits.
   
   He also presented the revised job description for the student information system data and reporting analyst. He said converting this position from an hourly position to a professional technical position properly places it in the district’s organizational chart. The board moved this forward to an action item for the June meeting.
   
   David Nancarrow, director of communications, presented data obtained from the most recent Voice of the Community survey about establishing a common and legal identity for the district. Based on that information, the board directed the administration to come back with a recommendation for a strong name to consider at the June meeting.
   
   Mike Pickering, POWER zone leader, introduced Kristy Rigdon as the new planning principal at the Vista del Pico Elementary School. His team is working to determine a name for the new school. The board agreed there is sufficient time to make that determination and to get student input before deciding.
   
   The board entered into an executive session to receive legal advice about a request to hear a stakeholder grievance. No action was taken at that time.
   
   Following the executive session, the board reconvened and denied the request for the hearing. Butcher said the board needed to direct Hilts to follow up and make sure the appropriate corrective actions are completed.
   
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is June 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the D 49 Education Services Center.
  
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  Teacher salaries in Colorado and D 49
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On May 13, teachers from Pueblo City Schools District 60 ended a five-day strike after winning a 2 percent cost-of-living pay increase. With teachers’ salaries in the spotlight across the country, news outlets, including The New Falcon Herald, have been curious to see where the states stack up.
   
   According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the estimated average salary for K-12 teachers nationwide was $58,064 in 2016-2017, while the National Education Association states the average was $58,353.
   
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer for El Paso County School District 49, said those numbers might seem high, but for D 49, they are mostly accurate. Out of the almost 920 teachers in the district, there are significantly more people with 10 years or more of teaching experience, which ratchets up the average salary to about $50,000, he said. That number does not include administrative salaries, Ridgway said.
   
   According to the NEA, the average estimated salary in Colorado for K-12 teachers in 2017 was $46,506. The Colorado Department of Education places the average pay for teachers in Colorado a bit higher at $52,728 per year, according to a KKTV Channel 11 investigative report by Katie Pelton. The report, released April 12, noted that CDE statistics showed the average pay for teachers in El Paso County at $43,000. District 49 landed a bit below the middle of El Paso County schools at an average of $42,857. KKTV also researched numerous school district documents for their report.
   
   Ridgway said the discrepancy, regardless of the varying stats, between D 49 and the rest of the state can be tracked to the influx of new teachers into Colorado.
   
   “The growth in our state has meant that a lot of teachers have been hired into our system; and, in general, those are going to be younger teachers,” he said. “The state is not just attracting (teachers who earn) the national average; we are filling open positions based on the supply we have available, which is usually recent graduates.”
   
   Base pay for a new teacher in D 49 is $36,000 and the number gets higher with every year of experience, he said.
   
   According to an article posted on The Washington Post’s website March 5, Colorado saw a 15 percent decline in average teacher salaries from 1969-2017.
   
   “Adding that much staff at that lower cost rate is going to naturally shift the average down,” Ridgway said. “It just means the mix of newer teachers on staff is higher, causing that change. In D 49, there has never been a pay cut. There has been a (pay) freeze but there has never been anyone taking a pay cut or being asked to take one.”
   
   D 49 has retained many of the teachers who have more than five years of experience – 696 out of 920 – which puts the district’s average salary in a higher range, Ridgway said.
   
    “The numbers are pretty evenly distributed, which means there is no bubble that could burst, like having 200 teachers being lost to retirement at one time.”
   
   On another note, the KKTV investigation revealed higher salaries for top administrators; “15 superintendents in El Paso County are earning a combined $2.4 million, plus more than $13 million for other high-level execs, not including principals. These are people like the deputy superintendent of personnel support services, chief education officers and chief financial officers.”
  
Graph of teacher salaries by district from KKTV Channel 11
 
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