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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 7 July 2019  

None Black Forest News   None Book Review   None Community Calendar   None Did You Know?  
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Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In
  October 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 regular board meeting in October. Natalie Danford, 11th grader at Springs Studio for Academic Excellence, and Samaya Singleton, 10th grader at Pikes Peak Early College, were present as part of the student board of representatives.
   Before the regular meeting, the BOE held a “Fantastic 49” event and recognized the following: Michelle Suggs and Sophie Bettendorf, employees of the district’s nutrition services department, for creating a special experience for students who participated in the summer meal program; Katherine Nunn, library staff member at Odyssey Elementary School, for her passion to inspire reading through family engagement; Carolyn Merritt, instructional coach, for her contributions to students’ achievements in math and for helping teachers build math confidence; and Logan Nestelroad, a student at Sand Creek High School, for constructing eighth-grade band lockers at Horizon Middle school as part of his Eagle Scout rank pursuit.
   Board update
   Dave Cruson, secretary, participated in the second annual D 4.9k run/walk event Sept. 29 at Falcon High School, and thanked everyone who participated or helped host the event.
   Cruson said there are many concerns about traffic near the new school being built in Banning Lewis Ranch; those concerns need to be addressed to the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners or the Colorado Springs City Council.
   John Graham, vice president, said he attended a district-wide senior mentor training for teachers with seniority to help newer teachers.
   Chief officers’ update
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, said the Springs Studio for Academic Excellence is moving toward a partnership with Judson University in Elgin, Illinois, for a summer architecture program as an extension of the current courses offered at SSAE.
   Action items
   The BOE unanimously approved the following:
  • Review of the policy on administering medications to students
  • An increase in the amount charged for adult breakfast, from $2.10 to $2.40, to be compliant with federal regulations and guidelines
  • Changes to the job description for senior data analyst (learning and improvement)
  • The new job description for programmer (academic systems administration); early childhood educator; and teacher on special assignment (TOSA) — job title instructional technology coach
  • Statute waivers requested by GOAL (Guided Online Academic Learning) Academy and the replacement plan for those waivers
  • Accreditation of the district’s schools as required by the Colorado State Board of Education

   After some discussion, the board also unanimously approved the updated student fees. Hilts said stakeholder feedback indicated parents appreciated the ability to space out the fees. Additionally, they liked the clarity on how the fees were spent, he said.
   Each board member voiced their opinion on Amendment 73, known as “Great Schools, Thriving Communities,” which creates a new financial fund in the Colorado Constitution, to be operated outside the boundaries of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. The fund, called the “Quality Public Education Fund,” would receive monies from a new income tax structure designed to net $1.6 billion.
   Kevin Butcher, treasurer, said, “I have a personal thing about this amendment, and it’s that the State Constitution is meant to have ideas that do not change. Anything that has to do with financial matters should not be made immoveable. I do want to have education better funded, but I cannot support this.”
   Marie LaVere-Wright, president, said she agreed with Butcher. “Constitutional amendments should not control behavior, tax policy or financial matters,” she said. “The more we allow constitutional amendments to dictate money, the more control we take away from local entities and give to the state and federal agencies. I think education should be funded better but we should get to decide how to spend it.”
   Cruson said Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, has been working on presenting different ideas that could help educational funding. He plans to follow Ridgway’s lead on exploring those other options.
   Graham said the district has been transparent with the community, and this amendment does not follow that process. “I do not support this amendment,” he said.
   The board unanimously voted to indefinitely suspend the adoption of a resolution in support or opposition to Amendment 73.
   Discussion items
   CJ Jilek and Daniel Payne, co-directors of facilities, provided information about activities within the operations department. Jilek said the amount of work the grounds department must address has continued to increase, although it appears to have peaked last year. The national average for grounds workers has one person overseeing about 20 acres, while the grounds workers in D 49 each oversee 36.5 acres, he said.
   Jilek said he and Payne are working with Pedro Almeida, chief operations officer, to bring on additional support staff.
   Jim Tanner, technology quality assurance manager, presented the “2018-2019 Key Efforts” from the information technology standpoint.
   Keith Mann, director of education technology to D 49 for Colorado Computer Support, said his company has brought on additional staff to address the backlog of work orders from the district. He has a designated team for D 49. By the end of December, Mann said CCS will have assessed all D 49 schools for technology-best practices.
   Tanner said the information will be used to create an IT master plan.
   Sean Dorsey, Sand Creek zone leader, presented performance reports for the schools in his zone. “We have some positive trends, some negative trends and some flat spots, depending on the school,” he said.
   Hilts presented the mastery-based graduation program report, which his department has been creating since the Colorado State Board of Education adopted the new graduation requirements in 2015. The mastery-based requirements focus on a student's ability to demonstrate mastery in a subject area, rather than requiring each student to earn a certain amount of credits for passing a class, which is typically achieved through a test or final exam. However, Hilts said those new requirements are achievement-oriented and do not consider an individual student's growth.
   “The purpose of these standards is so that you can be ready to take college-level courses,” he said. “We are working to develop different ways for students to show mastery other than just through test scores.”
   Josh Fry, board director, asked if transfer students from out-of-state will be impacted by Colorado's mastery-based graduation requirements, since they will likely be coming from states that still require credit accumulation to graduate. Hilts said the district will need to work specifically with those "credit-accumulation-minded" students to help them adjust to Colorado's graduation requirements.
   Lavere-Wright said it will be important to engage with military families and build relationships with the various local military installations to prepare students who have moved into the district from other military locations out-of-state for Colorado's graduation requirements. Hilts said his department has already begun that process.
   Jodi Poulin, accounting group manager said the district is up about 1,600 students, about half of whom are online only.
   Hilts presented information on the CEO performance review results, and said his evaluation tracks closely with that of his peers, which is good. The board agreed to move this item to an executive session at the October special meeting, previously a work session, to conduct their CEO evaluation.
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the D 49 Education Services Center.
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  D 49 student competes to become an Olympian
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On Nov. 25, the finale of “The Next Olympic Hopeful” reality television show will announce whether Cassie Routsis, an 11th grader at the Springs Studio for Academic Excellence in El Paso County Colorado School District 49, will be one of eight athletes invited to join Team USA as a future Olympian.
   The finale will air on NBC from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
   Routsis said this is the third year of the reality television show but the first year the competition has been open to teenagers. She was one of the youngest competitors and the only athlete from Colorado.
   According to the Team USA website, the United States Olympic Committee, in partnership with Milk Life and 24 Hour Fitness, created a talent-identification program to increase and enhance the pipeline of world-class athletes who want to pursue a spot on an Olympic team. That program, called the Scouting Camp, “invites elite American athletes of all sporting backgrounds across the country to apply and try out for a chance to become a member of Team USA,” according to the website.
   Routsis, a gymnast and CrossFitter, said she learned about the Scouting Camp from a family friend and decided to try out. Of the thousands who tried out across the nation, Routsis said she was one of 90 athletes chosen to participate.
   “We stayed five days at the Olympic Training Center (in Colorado Springs) at the end of June and were put through a series of physical tests to see which sports we might be good at,” she said.
   Donovan Routsis, Cassie Routsis’s dad, said the tests were given to identify athletes who could be successful in sports outside the typical Olympic sports like gymnastics or softball. “There are already programs to develop those athletes, but there are no programs to train bobsledders or luger,” he said.
   According to the Team USA website, eight winners of “The Next Olympic Hopeful” will be invited to join the national team camps, one for each of the following sports: bobsled, skeleton (similar to bobsled and luge) boxing, canoe/kayak, cycling, rowing, rugby and weightlifting. “The four men and four women winners will be eligible to receive financial, medical and training support as they prepare for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games,” the website states.
   While Routsis was not able to divulge too much information prior to the show’s finale, she said her favorite part of the Scouting Camp was the free food, but also the friendships she made with the other athletes. “I felt like I made a lot of new friends,” Routsis said. “The people around my age kind of stuck together a bit. We still talk and say we want to go back next year if we can. The whole time it was a mixture of emotions, excitement and nerves. It was crazy.”
   Donovan Routsis said the program also helped the athletes learn the ropes of being exposed to the press. “Because the program itself was a reality TV show, they really encouraged the athletes to use social media to share their successes, and they learned how to handle the media aspect of being in the spotlight,” he said.
   Cassie Routsis said the experience was definitely a good one. “I was surprised that everyone was cheering each other on, like we were all part of Team USA already.”
Cassie Routsis, an 11th grader at the Springs Studio for Academic Excellence in El Paso County Colorado School District 49, has passed some tough tests to compete as a future Olympian. Eight winners will be announced Nov. 25 on NBC’s reality show, “The Next Olympic Hopeful.”
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  D 49 students earn pilot’s license
  By Lindsey Harrison

   During summer break, two Air Force JROTC cadets from El Paso County Colorado School District 49 earned their private pilot’s license through a Flight Academy scholarship, fully funded by the United States Air Force.
   Daniel Roach, a senior at Sand Creek High School, and Mark Wilson, a senior at Vista Ridge High School, attended an eight-week program at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, from the end of May to the end of July.
   Roach said his path to aviation began in April 2017 when he attended an event at Meadow Lake Airport in Falcon, Colorado, where he had a chance to fly an airplane.
   His colonel with the AFJROTC told Roach that he was good at flying and asked him if he wanted to be part of the Flight Academy program, he said.
   While in the program, Roach said he learned how to fly a Cessna Skyhawk C172S Nav III model airplane and learned how to use a Garmin G1000 navigation system to help track his flights and plot points to other airports.
   “My favorite part was flying, but beyond the flying, it was actually hanging out with the people I got to know there,” Roach said. “Beyond the aviation knowledge I got, I gained knowledge of a college experience and made a lot of friends so there was a social experience there as well.”
   The knowledge he gained during the program could help him get into the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, which Roach said is his No. 1 choice of colleges. “Part of the Air Force Academy application asked about aviation experience,” he said. “I do think that having my private pilot’s license will give me a leg up with military installations because they are looking to fill pilot roles.”
   The biggest takeaway from the program is that time management is essential, he said.
   “Flying can be fun, but there is a lot of information you have to take in, and it can be very overwhelming.”
Daniel Roach, a senior at Sand Creek High School, flew a Cessna Skyhawk C172S Nav III model airplane at a flight program this summer, sponsored by the U.S. Air Force.
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