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"New Year’s Eve, where auld acquaintance be forgot. Unless, of course, those tests come back positive."
– Jay Leno  
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  Volume No. 18 Issue No. 1 January 2021  

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  December 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 meeting in December. Ilana Sherwood, a 10th grade student from Pikes Peak Early College, and Delia Case, a 10th grade student from Sand Creek High School, were also present as members of the Student Board of Representatives.
   
   Board update
   Dave Cruson, treasurer, said he and John Graham, president, attended the Colorado Association of School Boards convention remotely this year, and said it was informative and a great refresher.
   
   Rick Van Wieren, secretary, said he attended the district accountability advisory committee’s meeting and is impressed with the commitment of the committee members.
   
   Chief officers’ update
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, said it warmed his heart to hear the amount of compassion and sensitivity the SBOR (Student Board of Representatives) has for their teachers during this difficult time.
   
   Hilts said he and the other chief officers have been participating in focus groups with fellow staff members following the annual Voice of the Workforce survey. “There is nothing that we do that is as meaningful and brings as much insight as sitting for an hour with a dozen colleagues,” he said.
   
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, said the annual audit is almost complete, marking the earliest audit completion in recent years. He said it is a testament to the hard work of the finance team.
   
   Pedro Almeida, chief operations officer, said his team is in the process of interviewing for the facility project manager position but there are still significant shortages in the transportation and nutrition services departments.
   
   Almeida added that it is important for people to register for the noon meal distribution taking place at seven locations across the district. The meals are free and anyone who has not registered will not be turned away, but it helps the nutrition services department prepare more effectively for each day’s distribution if they have an accurate meal count, he said.
   
   Student board of representatives’ update
   Sherwood said the SBOR meetings have been focusing a lot on the adjustment back and forth from hybrid learning to virtual learning. She said she thinks going full virtual again after the break will be easier now that students and teachers have gotten the hang of it.
   
   Open forum
   Jennifer Scarselli, teacher at SCHS, said she would like to propose a teacher board of representatives so that there is a true 360-degree model in policy and decision making for D 49. “There is a great need for the classroom teachers at all levels to be included in policy creation and decision making at the district level,” she said.
   
   Leslie Fischer, Angie Reid, Lisa Reece and Kimberly Thornton –- all teachers with D 49 –- spoke in support of forming a teacher board of representatives.
   
   Mary Lougee, teacher at Vista Ridge High School, said she thought “teacher liaisons to the Board of Education” could be a great option to form a conduit from the BOE to the schools.
   
   Action items
   The BOE unanimously approved the following:
  • Revisions to the board policy regarding graduation requirements
  • The AVID (advancement via individual determination) job description to enhance the AVID elective course and prepare students for career, college and post-secondary success
  • The reporting and system specialist job description
  • The revised job description and compensation adjustment for the transportation fleet manager
  • Revisions to board policies. Among those revisions: accreditation; district personnel performance evaluation council; Family Medical Leave Act eligible staff leaves and absences; non-FMLA eligible staff leaves and absences; and more.
  • Certification of a mill levy for property owners within D 49 for the 2020 tax year totaling 43.021 mills, representing a net 2.541-mill tax credit established by House Bill 20-1418

   
   Discussion items
   Almeida provided an update on the status of in-person learning in D 49 and said there are clear signals that the district should not plan to jump back into in-person learning after winter break. He said that EPC medical partners are saying the earliest return date should be Jan. 19 in anticipation of attendance at New Year’s Eve parties. Almeida added that vaccination for COVID-19 will not be a condition of employment.
   
   “We are making sure that we have balance,” Ridgway said. “We want to make sure that when we bring people back, we bring them back to stay.”
   
   Hilts said the decision to remain remote after the winter break is not just a safety issue; it is about maintaining a full staffing capacity in the buildings.
   
   Van Wieren said in-person learning is obviously the path D 49 would like to take but only when it is safe.
   
   Dave Rex, DAAC (District Accountability) chairman, updated the BOE on each of the DAAC subcommittees and their recent discussions.
   
   Ron Sprinz, finance group manager, updated the board about enrollment numbers for the 2020-2021 school year and the amended budget.
   
   David Nancarrow, director of communications, provided an update on the department’s performance, including COVID response and the D 49 Dispatch, which will be getting a new look in preparation for a new calendar year.
   
   The board unanimously agreed to move certain policy and procedure reviews forward for action at the next regular BOE meeting as follows: student interviews and searchers; secret societies’ gang activity; security/access to buildings; student conduct on buses; school owned vehicles; student transportation; accident reports; educational support staff hiring; licensed staff recruiting/hiring; criminal history record information; staff use of the internet and electronic communications; and staff conduct and responsibilities.
   
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is Jan. 14, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. at the Creekside Success Center’s Peakview Hall.
  
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  Santa’s Toy Express still goes on, just different
  Photo and write-up from the D 49 Facebook page

   In its 19th year, El Paso County Colorado District 49’s Santa Toy Express event organizers and transportation drivers RJ and Marysu Berry continued with the tradition, but with a twist this year because of COVID-19. This year, donations were distributed to 52 students in the district. Transportation drivers dropped off donations at seven elementary schools where families were notified to pick up their gift bags.
   
   In the years prior to COVID-19 restrictions, students were bussed to the district’s transportation department where they met with volunteers to enjoy a morning filled with holiday cheer. Activities included a hot breakfast, shopping at Wal-Mart for student families, gift wrapping, games and a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Each student also received a new backpack, jacket, stocking and toy.
   
   This year volunteers collected and bought a scooter for each student, a small additional toy, a new coat and backpack, blankets made and donated by the Falcon Education Foundation, hats and gloves, stocking stuffers and a $50 gift card to Wal-Mart.
   
   Many community organizations donated items and volunteered, including Aspen Auto, McCandless Truck Center, Farmers State Bank, Falcon High School JROTC, Kathy Kenda and Wheels of a Dream, a non-profit organization led by Academy District 20 transportation driver Jim King. The program also received a generous anonymous donation of $1,000.
   
   “The one thing we can’t do is lose sight of those who have a need’ that would be inexcusable,” said RJ Berry, event organizer. “We could not do this every year without the hard work of our volunteers. It’s a great story of resilience during a stressful year, and we hope things return to normal for next year’s event.”
  
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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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