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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 11 November 2019  

None Black Forest News   None Book Review   None Business Briefs   None Community Calendar  
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Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In
  August BOE meeting wrapup
  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 August.
   Before the meeting, the BOE held a “Fantastic 49” and honored the 2018-2019 D 49 Teachers of the Year (see sidebar).
   Board update
   Dave Cruson, secretary, reminded everyone of the D4.9K run/walk Sept. 14 at Falcon High School.
   Marie LaVere-Wright, president, said the SafeStop application is a great way for parents of students who ride the bus to monitor that bus’s progress through its route. The problems with the app from last year have been fixed, and parents and students can get notified when the appropriate bus is approaching, she said. It allows parents to keep track of their kids and the buses, LaVere-Wright said.
   Chief officers’ update
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, said the opening of Inspiration View Elementary School went well.
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, said the district has switched to a new system that allows parents to pay student fees online, and responses have been positive.
   Pedro Almeida, chief operations officer, said the facilities team is working on the building trades facility construction at FHS and the space for the Head Start program at Falcon Elementary School of Technology.
   Wireless access points have been installed in all secondary schools across the district, as well as the Blue Point system; and new transportation routes have been created now that IVES (Inspiration View) is open, he said. “I think these updates will set the district up for success in the future,” Almeida said.
   The operations department is working on a new IT vendor contract, which should be ready for the January 2020 meeting; the contract will be updated at the regular meeting in October.
   Open forum
   Ellen Duckers, community member, asked if Aspen View Homes has transferred the title of the property, designated as a school site for D 49, near the Forest Meadows subdivision to the district. The answer was no as of the meeting date.
   Action items
   The BOE unanimously approved the following:
  • Appointment of John Graham, vice president, as the BOE representative for the Colorado Association of School Board 2019 delegate assembly
  • A resolution to authorize an intergovernmental agreement between the district and the EPC Board of County Commissioners, the EPC Clerk and Recorder and the State of Colorado to participate in the Nov. 5, 2019, general election to elect new BOE members for director Districts 2, 3 and 4 at a cost of about $43,000
  • Revisions to business office policies regarding continued financial stability and expense authorization reimbursement
  • A regulation on the evaluation of chief officers
  • Revisions to the board policy on vacation leaves and holidays
  • The dean of career and college success job description

   The BOE approved the revised 2019-2020 BOE meeting dates in a 4-1 vote, with Graham opposed. The revised list includes a special meeting on May 27, 2020, for imperative time-sensitive issues, if necessary.
   Discussion items
   Matt Willhelm, project manager with Wember Inc., updated the board about the 3B mill levy override projects, and said all the Priority 2 summer projects are complete. About 90 percent of the Priority 2 funds have been spent, with about $1 million left to spend.
   Ridgway said the business office will get the final amounts of leftover funds from each school’s 3B project, and then begin discussions with the BOE, administration and district accountability advisory committee to determine how to spend that money.
   Mary Perez, director of applied and advanced learning, updated the board about the progress of the newly created advanced and applied learning department, which is a reorganization of the career and technical education, work-based learning, concurrent enrollment, international baccalaureate and advanced placement programs into one department, as authorized by the board in May. She said the priorities for the upcoming school year include supporting all D 49 campuses and increasing and updating communication.
   Per Colorado Department of Education regulations, Perez said all districts within an economic region must work with businesses, business leaders, parents and students to create a needs assessment every two years. The goal is to make sure the districts are developing and supporting the right CTE pathways for the workforce in their region.
   “We already have the Pikes Peak Business and Education Alliance so we have been doing this for some time now,” Perez said.
   Andy Franko, iConnect zone leader, presented one new and two revised job descriptions for the board’s consideration: portfolio of schools coordinator; home-based education specialist; and general education para-educator and registrar, respectively.
   The board agreed to move all three descriptions forward for action at the September meeting.
   Graham recommended that the board argue for the following resolutions at the CASB delegate assembly:
  • LR14, which requires the CDE to collaborate with district and charter school boards of education to develop a system for counting student enrollment that is more equitable than the current single-day “October-count” model
  • LR6, which urges the United States Congress to amend the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act to include an exception for the administration of non-psychoactive cannabinoid oils to students (under medical supervision) on school grounds
  • LR13, which calls for the support of full federal funding and full funding of the state portion of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

   Graham also recommended rewording the resolution on the allocation of revenue from marijuana retail sales to the district for special education. “Last year, most of the districts wanted the freedom to determine where that money goes, rather than have it be designated for only one area,” he said.
   LaVere-Wright suggested the resolution includes the following: If districts allocate marijuana sales money to special education, the money in each district’s budget currently used on special education would be freed up to use in other ways.
   Hilts said D 49 needs to oppose a resolution that allows districts to have oversight and closure of multi-district online schools operating in their district, which would in essence abolish the MDOS. Colorado allows parents to choose any school to send their children to, regardless of the district; online students from one district can take classes via an online program run by another district. If the resolution passes, any district that has at least one student in an online program run by D 49 could ultimately have a say in how that program is run, or even close it if they do not think the education that student is receiving is good enough, Hilts said.
   Ridgway said the current legislation appears open to a resolution that would allow for ticketing drivers caught running through the school bus stop arm, based on video evidence. The board directed the administration to draft a resolution about this issue.
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is Thursday, Sept. 12, at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the D 49 Education Services Center.
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  D 49 Teachers of the Year awards

   The following El Paso County School District 49 teachers awards for 2018-2019 were handed out at the August board of education meeting.
   Katy Gibe, Meridian Ranch Elementary School;
   Linda Hagedorn, Springs Ranch Elementary School;
   Brittaney Juarez, Stetson Elementary School;
   Amanda Martin, Bennett Ranch Elementary School;
   Julie Nealy, Ridgeview Elementary School;
   Karen Parks, Remington Elementary School;
   Julie Platt, Falcon Elementary School of Technology;
   Bianca Rimbach, Evans International Elementary School;
   Katie Scott, Academy for Literacy, Learning and Innovation Excellence;
   Anna Tapia, Woodmen Hills Elementary School;
   Amy Willis, Odyssey Elementary School;
   Carrie Clay, Falcon Middle School;
   Cindy Doorack, Skyview Middle School;
   William Yerger, Horizon Middle School;
   Jennifer Aubain, Springs Studio for Academic Excellence;
   Natalie Cummings, Pikes Peak Early College;
   Lisa Banegas, Patriot High School;
   Brooke Neilson, Falcon High School;
   Shawna Quinn, Vista Ridge High School;
   Erika Siemieniec, Sand Creek High School;
   Adriane Jasper, PEAK Education Center;
   Tammy Peterson, Falcon Homeschool Program
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  D 49 teacher attends innovator program in London
  By Lindsey Harrison

   In July, Mary Mullikin, family and consumer sciences teacher at Vista Ridge High School in El Paso County Colorado School District 49, attended a three-day academy in London called the Google for Education Certified Innovator program.
   According to the program’s website, the Google for Education team has developed three different certification programs to meet the professional development needs of educators around the world. The programs are Google Certified Educator, with levels 1 and 2 certification, Google for Education Certified Trainer and Google for Education Certified Innovator.
   The website states that Google for Education Certified Innovator program was “designed for education thought-leaders who create new and innovative projects using Google for Education tools.” Teachers eligible to apply for the Innovator program must have completed the Google Certified Educator Level 2 program; the criteria for applying also requires that teachers identify a challenge in either their own classroom or their school that they would like to solve.
   Mullikin said she and the other 35 teachers from around the world were selected from a field of 1,800 teachers who applied for the program. The teachers brought the challenge they had identified to London, where they worked individually and together to develop a solution to each one’s specific challenge, she said.
   “Some people were creating apps; someone was creating a website,” Mullikin said. “One of the innovators was going to write a book. The problem I identified was that students do not have access to personal finance (education) in a way that is engaging to them. Kids either do not have the opportunity or it is not exciting. I decided that the best way to address the problem of (understanding) personal finance is through a game.”
   Over the next year, Mullikin said she will be working with her Google for Education mentor, a former Google for Education Certified Innovator based in California, to create a prototype of her game, which she called “Adulting: The Game.” Eventually, she would like the game to be used in classrooms throughout the country as part of the curriculum.
   “It is a fun way for kids to learn finance in an engaging way,” she said.
   Mullikin had to fund the trip herself, but said she turned the experience into a week-long trip and was able to explore London a bit. “It was something I wanted to do with my time and thought it was important, so I was willing to pay for it,” she said. D 49 helped by picking up the tab for one night in a hotel room, Mullikin said.
   With so much change occurring in education over the past few years, Mullikin said it is important to keep up with where education is heading, especially when it comes to technology. Participating in the Innovator program allowed her to make connections with educators around the world who had great ideas that she can implement in her own classroom, Mullikin said.
   “At the core, it is always about the kids and doing what is best for the students,” she said. “I am always thinking about how I can give my students these really important pieces of knowledge in a fun and engaging way. This (Innovator program) is not just another thing to add to my resume; the reason I do this is to do the best thing for my students and be a better teacher for them.”
Mary Mullikin, a teacher at Vista Ridge High School, was one of 35 teachers worldwide selected from a field of 1,800 for the Google for Education Certified Innovator Program, held in London in July. Submitted photo
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  D 49 reorganizes career and college pathways
  By Lindsey Harrison

   The El Paso County Colorado School District 49’s Board of Education authorized the reorganization of its career and technical education, concurrent enrollment and work-based learning programs into one department at the regular May meeting. Mary Perez is the new director of the department, which is called the applied and advanced learning department.
   The reorganization is meant to reframe the idea that all career pathways require a four-year college degree, Perez said. Some might only require certifications, while others require a two-year or four-year degree, she said. The aim is to honor every student and every pathway, Perez said.
   Beginning in elementary school, students are exposed to work-based learning experiences through various ways, like classroom visits from industry professionals to virtual field trips, she said.
   In middle school, students district-wide take a survey, called the YouScience Career Interest and Aptitude Survey, to help them determine their natural talents and interests, Perez said. “They can then see what fields or jobs would work for them based on that information,” she said.
   “Students do the survey once in middle school and then again in high school. Once they get those high school results, they can view information about each job, including the salary, how much education they need, like a certification, a two-year degree, a four-year degree, or just work-based learning experience. It also tells them different colleges and universities that offer the different degrees.”
   The conversation about the students’ futures no longer starts with whether they want to go to college, Perez said. Instead, the conversation is about matching a career with the students’ persona and interests.
   “If students can connect why they are coming to school with their own personal destination after high school, they might find more relevance and even be happier while they are in high school; and take their classes more seriously,” Perez said.
   CTE (career and technical education) learning opportunities are available beginning in middle school via elective classes, she said. In high school, students can continue to take those CTE classes, Perez said. About 40 percent of the high school student population in D 49 is looking into a CTE pathway that would require a certification or two-year degree, and they can finish those requirements while still in high school, she said.
   “As a community, we think everyone will appreciate people graduating and constructively contributing to their communities,” Perez said. “There are expected to be more than 1,000 jobs in the culinary and hospitality industries over the next three years because of all the hotels being built, and there is no pipeline to get people into those jobs.”
   D 49 is working with the 13 other districts in the Pikes Peak region to develop a consortium called the Pikes Peak Business and Education Alliance to create that pipeline, she said. The PPBEA brings together business and industry partners with representatives from each district to share and coordinate the various work-based learning opportunities, she said.
   “We have lots of connections in various industries and industry partners,” Perez said. “We could not fill those positions for them fast enough, so we shared that with the other districts; and they were so excited and were able to fill some of those opportunities with their students.”
   The businesses in the region are eager to have students in their buildings doing internships, apprenticeships or job shadowing so they can hire those students later on, she said. Those students are making solid connections within the industry, which can lead to a position in the workforce immediately upon graduation, Perez said.
   Students who plan to attend college can use the concurrent enrollment option to get college credit while still in high school, Perez said. Concurrent enrollment classes are college-level classes taught by current D 49 high school teachers who have the graduate education and are qualified to teach those college-level classes, she said.
   In 2014, voters approved a mill levy override and designated those funds to go to technology, security, programming and teachers’ salaries, she said. Some of that money is used to pay for students’ tuition for concurrent enrollment in college classes while still in high school, Perez said.
   “If a student is taking classes in a D 49 high school building, we pay for everything, including tuition, fees and textbooks,” she said. “There is no cost to the parents unless their student fails the class with a D, F or withdrawal. Then the family must repay the tuition.”
   Perez said this method is an investment in the students but also ends up being a cheaper use of taxpayer money because students have the support of their high school counselor and their parents since they are still in high school.
   Rep. Tim Geitner, District 19, was a main sponsor of Senate Bill 19-176, which expands opportunities for students to earn post-secondary course credit while enrolled in high school.
   Taxpayer money pays for students to get high school credits anyway, so enabling them to earn post-secondary credits at the same time makes sense, Geitner said. “I do not see how that could be a negative for the taxpayers of D 49,” Geitner said. “I only see it as a first multiplier of that investment the taxpayers are making.”
   SB 19-176 also created a $1.5 million concurrent enrollment implementation or expansion grant, so that districts that lack funding to create or grow their concurrent enrollment program can compete for funding to meet that requirement, Geitner said.
   In December 2014, “The New Falcon Herald” reported that 20 students were enrolled in concurrent enrollment classes; today, 650 students participate, Perez said.
   Students who earn college credit while in high school qualify for scholarships more often, lessening the burden of paying for college off their shoulders, she said.
   “Ultimately, we are getting away from the checklist of just counting credits to graduate,” Perez said. “Students are learning about things that they might or might not want to do; and they might get excited about something and connect the classes they are taking with what they really enjoy doing.”
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