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""My father always used to say that when you die, if you've got five real friends, then you've had a great life.""
– Lee Iacocca  
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  Volume No. 18 Issue No. 6 June 2021  

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  April 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 April. Shelby Gabrielson, a student at Vista Ridge High School, was also present as a member of the student board of representatives.
   
   Before the regular meeting, the BOE held a “Fantastic 49” event and honored the following: Jim Coker, bus driver, and Felicia Waggoner, dispatcher, for their effort to find a missing student after school; Yolanda Baird, bus driver, for her skill in building relationships with students; Tonya Schroeder, transportation department trainer, for creating online learning opportunities to train current and new bus drivers; and Paula Pratt, bus driver, and Kim Sherman, paraprofessional, for helping find a student’s missing support dog.
   
   Board update
   Kevin Butcher, vice president, reminded everyone that he is term-limited so his seat as representative for District 5 will be open.
   
   John Graham, president, said the district’s attorney has review the latest mandates from Gov. Jared Polis, and the district will follow those guidelines.
   
   Chief officers’ update
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, said the human resources department is processing a record number of open positions within the district.
   
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, acknowledged the academic achievements of many students and the athletic achievements of the sports teams throughout the district.
   
   Hilts also said Sen. Michael Bennett visited Horizon Middle School; he interacted with teachers and support staff at Horizon.
   
   Hilts said the district’s partners at UC Health Field and the Rocky Mountain Vibes baseball team secured a five-star certification for El Paso County health conditions, which means graduates can invite up to 10 guests to the ceremony in May.
   
   Open forum
   
   Jim Robertson, D 49 parent, said, “We are deeply concerned with the path being taken by our district in regard to the equity, diversity and inclusion training of our teachers and subsequently the exposure to our children.” He said the training is ultimately critical race theory in sheep’s clothing and makes race the prism through which its proponents analyze all aspects of American life.
   
   “CRT material distracts educators and students away from rigorous learning content while also teaching ideas that undermine the value of America’s ideals,” Robertson said. “While we spend our time teaching our children to hate each other, they are falling further behind in math, reading, civics and history.”
   
   Other D 49 community members who addressed concerns about critical race theory/equity/white privilege included the following: Bruce Hutchins, parent; Jim Riggs, grandparent; Jacob Medley, former student; Evan Kimes, former student; Cecil Caywood, grandparent; Jeff Hall, concerned citizen; Sabrina Balister, concerned citizen; and Anna Mitchell, concerned citizen.
   
   Graham said the board has not addressed or approved any critical race theory curriculum for students. “We are focusing on trying to treat everybody with respect and treating everybody equally,” he said. “I understand some of the concern is that some people have been treated in a discriminatory fashion … and that’s not acceptable in D 49. What is acceptable in D 49 is caring and respect for all.”
   
   Skylar Nelson, D 49 parent, spoke regarding the Spacious Skies Charter School and said, “You (board members) have the opportunity to give the special needs children in our community a great education in an environment full of love and compassion.”
   
   Other D 49 community members who addressed concerns about the Spacious Skies Charter School included Evelyn Cortez-Ford, principal and founder of the school; and Veronica Corral, parent.
   
   Action items
   The BOE unanimously approved the following:
  • Revised job descriptions as follows: special assignment — special education compliance; individualized education programs specialist; and individualized education compliance assistant
  • The new gifted education specialist job description
  • The unified improvement plants for the schools identified for improvement in 2019
  • The supplemental budget requests for Funds 49 and 10
  • Policy and procedure review as follows: use of video/audio monitoring; student health services/records; and screening/testing of students
  • The personal and professional goals of the COO, CBO and CEO
  • A resolution declaring May 3-7, 2021 as Teacher Appreciation Week

   
   Discussion items
   Andy Franko, iConnect Zone leader, updated the board about the Spacious Skies Charter School’s status and said the school has gone through two review cycles and the application was approved with conditions.
   
   The board agreed to move this item forward for action at the April 18 special meeting in a 3-1 vote, with Graham opposed.
   
   Melissa Andrews, district planner, presented the capital maintenance and improvement priorities for the 2021-2022 school year, which follows the district’s prioritization policy.
   
   Jack Pietraallo, transportation director, presented a performance report from his department and said the staffing shortages continue, which could result in the department operating in a reduced manner if the positions cannot be filled.
   
   Daniel Payne and C.J. Jilek, co-directors of facilities, presented a performance report on their department.
   
   Payne presented an organizational chart that included hiring several positions for the next school year.
   
   Jilek said the high number of work orders, more than 10,000 this school year, indicate a need for increased manpower but the size of the workforce and the need to provide a competitive wage are challenges.
   
   Jim Tanner, IT service manager, presented a performance report for his department.
   Rachel Weir, health and wellness specialist, updated the board on health and wellness activities within the district.
   
   Ron Sprinz, director of finance, provided an update on the 2021-2022 budget focus, which he said includes an increase of about 5% to the per-pupil rate the district must budget for.
   
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is May 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the Peakview Hall at the Creekside Success Center in Colorado Springs.
  
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  D 49 receives Purple Star
  March 17 news release

   El Paso County Colorado School District 49 earned a Purple Star designation for its support of military families. According to a March news release, the designation places the district in a category of its own in the Pikes Peak Region and the state of Colorado.
   
   “This is a tremendous honor that validates our commitment to our military families,” said Alex Malone, D 49’s Military Student Transition Consultant. “D 49 has put years of work into developing firm foundations that create a welcoming and engaging environment for the students of our servicemen and women.”
   
   The Purple Star designation launched in Ohio in 2017, as a grassroots effort to create a support framework for schools and school districts that serve military families and their children. Since its inception, 11 states and several school districts across the nation have adopted this program. D 49 meets all program requirements with existing resources.
   
   “We dedicate significant time and energy to create seamless transitions into new environments for military-connected students,” said Dr. Louis Fletcher, D 49 director of Culture and Services “With the coordination of Mr. Malone as our military family liaison and programs like Student 2 Student on multiple campuses, we ensure the school experience is great through their entire relationship with D 49.”
   
   “Attending school and starting fresh in many cities is a challenge unique to the military experience, and we recognize that,” added Malone. “We want our families to know immediately we can serve them, and that they’ll find a welcoming environment where their students will succeed in their pursuit of an excellent education.”
  
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