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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 7 July 2019  

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  June BOE meeting wrap-up
  By Lindsey Harrison

   All members of the El Paso County Colorado School District 49 Board of Education were present at the June meeting, except for Dave Cruson, secretary, and John Graham, vice president. Both were absent with prior notice. No members of the student board of representatives attended.
   Before the regular meeting, the BOE held a “Fantastic 49” event and recognized the following: Jeri DeGeorge, job transition coach, for her commitment to students with special needs; Pam Lewis, innovation specialist in the POWER zone, for her work developing student portfolios to help guide students throughout their educational experience; Cathy Tinucci, principal at Skyview Middle School, for her work on innovator pathways and student portfolios; and Sarah Temple, dean of pathway learning at Vista Ridge High School, for her work on student portfolios.
   Chief officers’ update
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, said the three chief officers have started “rounding,” which entails visiting various schools to listen to staff voice their concerns. He said one major concern was the shortage of substitute teachers. The Colorado Department of Education gave the district a waiver that allows unlicensed but qualified people to become substitute teachers.
   Pedro Almeida, chief operations officer, said the building for the Academy for Literacy, Learning and Innovation Excellence at Odyssey Elementary School is complete. He said the summer food program at Evans International Elementary School is underway, where all D 49 students can receive a free breakfast and lunch each school day.
   Action items
   The board unanimously approved the following:
  • Renewal of the charter school applications for the following: Rocky Mountain Classical Academy, GOAL Academy and Imagine Indigo Ranch
  • Requests from Banning Lewis Ranch Academy and Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning to waive some requirements related to the Teacher Employment Act and preschool readiness plan reporting.
  • Revisions to policies regarding professional staff; instructional staff transfer and vacancy; teacher displacement; and continuing enrollment of students who become nonresidents
  • Update and renewal of the contract between D 49 and Community Partnership for Child Development – Head Start
  • A calendar change for the 2018-2019 school year to designate May 3, 2019, as an elementary assessment day and May 10 as a professional development day
  • A resolution to establish El Paso County Colorado School District 49 as the common and legal identity for D 49
  • Revised job description of student information and system data and reporting analyst

   Discussion items
   Matt Wilhelm, project manager with Wember Inc. updated the board on the district’s 3B project list. Progress is ramping up now that school is out. So far, about $6.6 million in work has been completed on the priority 2 projects, which equates to about 50 percent of the projects completed.
   John Newbill, member of the district accountability advisory committee, presented the board with a review of the budget priorities prepared by each school’s accountability committee. He said the lists provided an opportunity for the SACs to voice their concerns about specific school needs.
   Marie LaVere-Wright, president, presented information about the goals the BOE has set for themselves, including creating a professional development plan.
   Ron Sprinz, finance group manager, presented the proposed budget for the 2018-2019 school year. The board unanimously approved the budget at the June 27 special board meeting.
   A representative from each charter school briefly presented their school’s budgets for the 2018-2019 school year, which the BOE unanimously approved at the June 27 meeting.
   Amber Whetstine, executive director of learning services, presented information on a new job description for the family engagement community liaison. The position is fully funded through Title I monies and is intended to support EIES, the district’s Title I elementary school. The board unanimously approved this item at the June 27 meeting.
   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. The BOE instructed Hilts to make sure appropriate corrective actions take place regarding the stakeholder grievance.
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is July 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the D 49 Education Services Center.
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  D 49 Below the Surface campaign
  By Lindsey Harrison

   Six schools in El Paso County School District 49 are participating in a public awareness campaign called Below the Surface, in coordination with NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners and Colorado Crisis Services.
   The D 49 schools include Patriot High School, Falcon High School, Vista Ridge High School, Banning Lewis Preparatory Academy, Springs Studio for Academic Excellence and Sand Creek High School.
   Kirk Woundy, communications and grants manager for NAMI-Colorado Springs, said the campaign aims to create public awareness about a crisis text line available to adolescents who need emotional support but do not know where to turn.
   “We are really trying to tell people about a service that is already available that NAMI does not provide on its own,” Woundy said. “The text line is a state-run service run by Colorado Crisis Services, which Gov. John Hickenlooper championed after the Aurora theater shooting to strengthen mental health services across the state.”
   From NAMI’s point of view, Woundy said the text line provides a resource at the state level that meets teens where they are most comfortable communicating, which is texting. “We went after grant funding to create a public awareness campaign around the crisis text line, partnered with Design Rangers (a Colorado Springs design firm) and an eight-student focus group; and came up with something that ended up being this (Below the Surface) campaign,” he said.
   The Below the Surface campaign started in August 2017, and Woundy said it began with two pilot schools: Atlas Preparatory School in Harrison School District 2 and Manitou Springs High School in Manitou Springs School District 14. Throughout the course of the 2017-2018 academic year, NAMI presented the campaign throughout the county, and wound up picking up another 14 schools, he said.
   The crisis text line can be reached by texting “TALK” to 38255. The line is available 24/7 and manned by master-level counselors through Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners, Woundy said. The service does not require insurance and is confidential, unless there is an imminent safety risk; thus, students know that what they share with the crisis text line will not be passed on to parents or local authorities, he said.
   According to RMCP, the goal of the crisis text line is “to offer in-the-moment support and lay the foundation for counseling and effective conversations with parents.”
   Kim Boyd, director of community care for D 49, said when she heard that NAMI was ready to expand to other schools, she and her team talked to the counseling teams at the district high school campuses and showed them some of the campaign materials. “They were all excited about it (joining the campaign) and said, ‘Let’s do it,’” she said. “Once the counseling staff was on board, we went to the principals to tell them that the counselors liked the idea. We wanted to make sure it was something they all wanted to do.”
   Boyd said a major reason she supports the campaign is that research indicates students reporting mental health crises are not initially talking to school counselors; students often go to a security officer, a teacher or coach and then to a counselor.
   “This is not just about suicide,” she said. “It is about anything — if you are stressed about a test, stressed about your best friend who stabbed you in the back, mad at your mom — anything that you just feel you need someone to talk to. Sometimes, kids do not want to talk to their friends about things because they do not want to be judged.”
   By providing campaign materials to the schools, which Boyd said she hopes to do with additional schools in D 49 in the near future, teachers have reference materials for supporting their students. “It allows teachers to open up those conversations,” she said. “Sometimes, they cannot have that conversation with the student and sometimes they are afraid to start those conversations and do not know what to do otherwise.”
   Woundy said NAMI is proud of the campaign because local teens had a say in shaping it. The youth participants provided the insight into creating messages that would appeal to their peers. “They explained issues they are facing and what they are watching their friends face,” he said.
   Boyd said D 49 is following that same formula and asking for the various student organizations to consider getting involved and endorsing the campaign.
   “We want to make sure the students know why we are doing what we are doing and have a say in it,” Boyd said.
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