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  Volume No. 18 Issue No. 5 May 2021  

None Book Review   None Business Briefs   None Community Calendar   None Did You Know?  
None FFPD News   None From the Publisher   None Health and Wellness   None Marks Meanderings  
None Monkey Business   None News From D 49   None People on the Plains   None Pet Adoption Corner  
None Phun Photos   None Prairie Life   None Wildlife Matters  
Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In
  March BOE meeting wrap-up
  By Lindsey Harrison

   the regular meeting in March. Taylor Thorpe, a student at Falcon High School, also attended as a member of the student board of representatives.
   Before the regular meeting, the BOE held a “Fantastic 49;” and, in collaboration with the Falcon Education Foundation, they honored the following: Karen Bixler, instructional coach at Stetson Elementary School; DeDe Bolke, volunteer at Vista Ridge High School; Benjamin Brown, aerospace science instructor at Sand Creek High School; Greg Cox, dean of students at Patriot High School; Elizabeth Dalzell-Wagers, assistant principal at Horizon Middle School; Karen Duncan, special education paraprofessional at the Academy for Literacy, Learning and Innovation Excellence; Jeric Goin, 8th grade student at Falcon Middle School; Darlene Hammann, retired registrar at FMS; Söndra Rymer, discovery professor at ALLIES; Kortney Sorensen, former P.E. teacher at FHS; Cathy Tinucci, retired principal at Skyview Middle School; and Riley Trujillo, 5th grade student at ALLIES.
   Board update
   Dave Cruson, treasurer, thanked the D 49 wellness committee for coming together to have a discussion via Zoom, and address the mental and social emotional well-being of district students and staff.
   Rick Van Wieren, secretary, said he attended the recent district accountability advisory committee meeting and is gratified to see the level of care the parents and staff members have for D 49.
   John Graham, president, said he attended the majority of the Leaders in Literacy conference and it went well.
   Graham said he also attended the Rocky Mountain Restorative Practices conference and added, “Kids that become hopeless, become helpless. The focus of the conference was restoring that hope, and I know that’s something that District 49 can help with among all of our children, helping them feel that belonging and feeling accepted and feel that resiliency.”
   Odyssey Elementary School students also participated in a national Braille competition, and FHS participated in a national conference on convergence, Graham said.
   Chief officers’ update
   Pedro Almeida, chief operations officer, said some progress has been made in hiring staff in the transportation department. Since January, his department has interviewed 24 bus drivers and have 15 in the hiring process.
   “Even if we get those 15, that is still less than half of the number of drivers that we are short,” he said. “We still have a long way to go in order for us to provide transportation services across the district.”
   Similarly, Almeida said the nutrition services department is about 31 short of 98 possible positions.
   Almeida said his department is also “setting the chess pieces on the board” to start the process of building a new school. The selection process for a designer and a contractor is complete, and the district is working on the land acquisition process with a target of August 2023 for opening the new facility.
   Open forum
   Chiquinquira Rivero, a student at SMS, spoke about her concerns that the district plans to have students attend in person on Fridays after spring break. She said the school has had Fridays as remote learning days, and making the change now would have a negative impact on students and teachers.
   Action items
   The BOE unanimously approved the following:
  • Strategic objectives for 2021 as follows: upgrade support to address disruptive and harmful student behavior; foster mental wellness for students and the workforce; elevate local accountability measures and systems; secure community leadership to increase school funding; implement a comprehensive strategic communications plan; optimize facility planning and configuration; and sustain and extend enhanced security
  • Revisions to the board policy regarding paid sick leave
  • A resolution for the district’s Purple Star Designation and a resolution designating April as the Month of the Military Child
  • A review and refresh of policies and procedures as follows: fiscal management goals/priority objectives; financial administration; federal fiscal compliance; fiscal emergencies; funding proposals/grants and special projects; grant applications; grant approval process; grant applications and funding requirements; revenues from investments/use of surplus funds; banking services and deposits of funds; bonded employees and officers; fiscal accounting and reporting; record of fixed assets; audits/financial monitoring; bidding procedures; sales calls and demonstrations; payroll procedures/schedules; tax sheltered annuities and salary deferrals; cash in buildings; community use of district real property; guest user policy; community use of real property insurance requirements, real property rental rate sheet, district real property; individual high school track use licensing agreement; and student activities funds

   After some discussion, the board unanimously approved a boundary change for Remington and Evans International Elementary schools to relieve future overcrowding at RES with the development of new homes in the area.
   Almeida said current students in RES would be grandfathered in so they would not have to change schools with the boundary shift.
   After some discussion, the BOE unanimously approved a resolution to declare a vacancy in director district 4, following the resignation of John Koster on March 3. Applications will be accepted until April 16 and interviews will begin after the work session on April 28.
   Discussion items
   Bruce Brown, facility project manager, provided an update on the mill levy override 3B priority 2 projects, including tennis courts at FHS, roof and HVAC replacement at the Butler building on the Falcon Legacy Campus and playground equipment at SES. Brown said de-escalation rooms in Meridian Ranch Elementary School, Springs Ranch Elementary School and VRHS are complete, and rooms in other facilities are slated for construction this summer.
   Angela Rose, coordinator of title programs, provided an update on the district’s five Title I schools. She also provided program and budgetary information for the Title II, III and IV programs and explained the annual review process.
   Ron Sprinz, director of finance, gave an update on the district’s budgetary focus and preliminary per-pupil revenue for the 2021-2022 school year.
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, gave an update on financial legislation in the state, and said the five strategies his department has been working on to improve school funding statewide, including setting a uniform mill rate, are moving forward.
   Other business
   The board appointed Cruson as the secondary to the DAAC, Van Wieren for the budget subcommittee and Kevin Butcher, vice president, as the COO liaison.
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is April 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the Peakview Hall at the Creekside Success Center in Colorado Springs.
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  Getting to know your school district
  D 49’s Equity Leadership Advisory Council
  By Leslie Sheley

   El Paso County Colorado School District 49 recently implemented an Equity Leadership Advisory Council. They have elected the executive board and are ready to assist the district to make equity part of their strategic plan. Equity is also defined as open-mindedness, objectivity, impartiality.
   Dr. Lou Fletcher, director of culture and service for D 49, said he started looking at chartering a group that would include people from the community, teachers and administrators, to assist the district in maintaining a sustainable environment of equity. “That’s where the Equity Leadership Advisory Council came in,” Fletcher said. The focus group started out with four people in August 2020 and has grown to about 30 people, Fletcher said.
   The council has adopted a charter, and the executive board includes a principal, assistant principal and a community member.
   Fletcher started working for the district seven years ago to assist them with allegations of harassment and discrimination. He said he started a program to work with the District of Colorado Department of Justice to examine what it would take for the district to get to a place where they no longer had to be monitored by the DOJ.
   He then approached the Department of Defense Education Activity, which is responsible for planning, directing, coordinating and managing prekindergarten through 12th grade educational programs on behalf of the United States Department of Defense. Fletcher said they agreed to give the district a five-year, $1.5 million grant; 2021 is the last year of the grant.
   The grant allowed the school district to implement a multi-cultural education program for the adults and curricular intervention for the students; they also created a monitoring and mentoring program and implemented restorative practices. He said they focused on the whole spectrum of equity and diversity, not just race, but also socioeconomic and gender/transgender issues. Through those efforts, they were able to be eliminated from the DOJ’s monitoring list in three years — an unprecedented accomplishment, Fletcher said. “The cultural impact is that restorative practices are a part of D 49; it’s a transformed school district,” he said.
   One thing they learned from the DOJ is to respond, react and then go further to see if there is a policy or anything in their governance that is facilitating the problem. He said if they find something that is inadvertently allowing an injustice to happen or a policy that might no longer be in alignment with the district, they go to the board and change it.
   The media recently reported that a D 49 teacher was reprimanded for showing Black Lives Matter material. However, Fletcher said the teacher did not follow policy before introducing the material; thus, the reason for the disciplinary action. He said the policy states that teachers need to let parents know ahead of time what lessons are being taught and what elements are involved, particularly if they’re bringing up something that is not typical or considered “controversial.”
   “This policy is not so the parents can say, ‘my child isn’t coming to school today because you’re teaching about such and such,’ but so they are prepared to have conversations with their kids when they come home and say for example, ‘we talked about BLM at school today,’” he said. “That’s actually fantastic, that’s what we should be doing and talking about, but we need to prepare the parents so if they choose, they can have a conversation about the topic with their family and not be blindsided.”
   Fletcher said the principal actually gave the teacher permission to talk about BLM, but, in accordance with the policy, she had to let the parents know that the subject could be controversial. He said they also have a policy that states if the parents have a problem with something the district is teaching, they can challenge it; it gives the staff an opportunity to have a conversation with them about why it is part of the curriculum. “We’re open to that; it doesn’t mean we’re necessarily going to change the topic, but it’s a great opportunity to talk about why that piece of curriculum is important,” he said.
   “Our school district exists because of the students, and that’s where our focus is; we’re here for our students and their families.” Fletcher said D 49 wants to make sure the employees and the community know that as a school district, they must be in compliance with federal law.
   And it is important to hear views from all sides.
   “If you just say ban this or burn that, there’s no place for dialogue,” he said. “Sometimes with dialogue, discourse will happen and that’s fine because at least we’re still talking; we just don’t want to have silence.”
   The Equity Leadership Advisory Council will provide more communication and engagement with the students, staff and community, he said.
   “We’re doing work in a very conservative area, and we’re changing hearts and minds,” Fletcher said. “In the past, the district couldn’t get a bond or mill to pass and now we are getting those passed to do great things for our students; if the community was opposed and didn’t trust us, those things wouldn’t be happening.”
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