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“I may not be where I want to be, but I'm thankful for not being where I used to be.”
– Habeeb Akanea  
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  Volume No. 17 Issue No. 11 November 2020  

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  BOE meeting October
  By Lindsey Harrison

   All members of the El Paso County Colorado School District 49 Board of Education were present for the regular meeting in October, except for John Koster, director, who was absent with an excuse. Maia Case, a 12th grade student at Sand Creek High School and Colton McCormack, an 11th grade student at the Springs Studio for Academic Excellence, attended as members of the student board of representatives.
   
   Before the regular meeting, the BOE held a “Fantastic 49” event and honored educators and staff from the Falcon and POWER Zones, nominated by department and building leaders in the zones.
   
   Board update
   Dave Cruson, treasurer, said he participated in a webinar with the district’s Wellness Council about mental health and wellness. He said he also attended two school tours where he was able to see how teachers, staff and students are adjusting.
   
   “I was blown away by the way that both the teachers, staff and students were adjusting to things, moving on the fly,” he said.
   
   John Graham, president, and Rick Van Wieren, secretary, said they also attended school tours. Van Wieren said he learned that discipline referrals at both Horizon Middle School and Sand Creek High School were way down from last year and added that if a more peaceful environment for the students to learn in is a side effect of the pandemic regulations, then that is a good takeaway.
   
   Chief officers’ update
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, urged students to remember to be vigilant when they return from break, especially with rising rates of the coronavirus in the community at large.
   
   “It is inevitable that rising case rates will land on our schools, which means they will land on our students and our staff,” he said. “I implore all of us to keep reminding people to redouble our efforts to stay safe in the community because if are downstream from the community. If it gets worse there, it gets worse here.”
   
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, echoed much of what Hilts said and added that the human resources department is working to fill vacancies in the district.
   
   Pedro Almeida, chief operations officer, said many of the personnel issues Ridgway spoke about are in the operations department, in particular transportation, where there is still a shortage of bus drivers. He said there is also a shortage of nutrition services personnel and the department continues to work on finding people to fill those positions.
   
   Although the transportation department is experiencing shortages, Almeida said the annual Santa’s Toy Express –- traditionally hosted and manned by the transportation department staff –- will continue this year. He said it will look very different from previous years, eliminating the breakfast and the Santa Claus meet and greet in the department’s offices.
   
   Open forum
   Lisa Cross, co-president of the Falcon Education Association, spoke about a petition — signed by 145 people on the Action Network website — asking the BOE to consider relief efforts for the overworked educators in the district.
   
   She listed the following demands: that substitutes be used for teacher absences when available; if no substitute is available, central administration should be used to cover classes to prevent educator burnout and a rotation should be generated within each school so no teacher has to give up more than one time for planning per week to cover a class; and, if a teacher is mandated to cover a class for an absent teacher, he or she should be paid the traditional rate for covering a class and giving up their planning time.
   
   Melissa Ellenberger, parent in D 49, said she feels the district is putting unreasonable requests on teachers, such as asking teachers to drive to a student’s house to get paperwork signed or to be at school 30 minutes before and after the school day, which contradicts the 15 minutes specified by BOE policy. She said teachers could come to resent each other for taking time off for being sick because other teachers lose planning time and have to cover for their coworker.
   
   Ellenberger asked that the BOE make sure teachers are not working beyond what their contracts require, that they are not forced to make a decision between staying home sick or going to school sick so they do not inconvenience their colleagues and to be more transparent about the number of cases of quarantined students and staff.
   
   Action items
   The BOE unanimously approved the following:
  • Accreditation of all D 49 schools
  • New and revised student participation fees
  • Review of policies and procedures: tobacco-free schools; open hiring/equal employment opportunity; professional staff recruiting/hiring; support staff recruiting/hiring; grading/assessment; equal educational opportunities; admission and denial of admission; intra-district choice/open enrollment; inter-district choice/open enrollment; violent and aggressive behavior; bullying prevention and education; school-related student publications; and student distribution of non-curricular materials

   Discussion items
   Daniel Payne and CJ Jilek, co-directors of facilities, provided a facilities department update to the board, including a list of completed and outstanding projects left to complete from the 2019-2020 school year and various performance indicators.
   
   Jim Tanner, technology service manager –- infrastructure, Mark Roscoe, technology service manager –- end users, and Caleb McNary, Sentinel account manager, provided an update regarding the district’s IT systems, including a list of COVID-19 impacts and a current major projects list.
   
   Ken Witt, executive director of Education reEnvisioned board of cooperative educational services provided an annual update to the board, including a list of new schools and programs that are part of the BOCES for the 2020-2021 school year.
   
   Sean Dorsey, Sand Creek Zone leader, provided an update about the zone’s goals and strategic actions to achieve those goals, including increasing the graduation rate and increasing employee satisfaction.
   
   Ridgway provided an update to the board about projected enrollment and the amended budget.
   
   Following the regular session, the BOE held an executive session to discuss the chief education officer’s evaluation and performance review. No action was taken at that time.
   
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in Peakview Hall at D 49’s Creekside Success Center.
  
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  Help El Paso Council PTA celebrate 100 years!

   PTA mission: To make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and community to advocate for all children.
   
   Founded in 1921, El Paso Council PTA is gathering stories and memories from former PTA leaders and members to celebrate our century of support to our county’s children. Please send your input, including photos, to Karen Hobson at karenhobson@copta.org.
   
   Visit https://www.epcpta.org, https://www.copta.org, and https://www.pta.org for more information about today’s PTA!
  
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