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El Paso County Colorado District 49

BOE April meeting wrap-up

The El Paso County School District 49 Board of Education held its monthly meeting April 14. Amy Matisek, internal communications manager, recognized the following Fantastic 49 recipients for their contributions to the district:

  • Jackie Ornelas, athletic director, Horizon Middle School, for her support of the school and students that goes beyond athletics.
  • Stetson Elementary team of music, art, physical education and technology teachers ó Meghan Jannicola, Nicholas Nelson, Dave Ritz and Lauren Waldorf ó for their collaboration to strengthen the student experience and for organizing the schoolís first Harvest Festival.
  • Julie Ellstrom, student management liaison for the transportation department, for playing a key role in a restorative practices conference.
  • Marianne Holt, culturally and linguistically diverse education teacher, Skyview Middle School, for her support of students and efforts to maintain a bond between home and school.
  • Ben Wells, physical education teacher, Bennett Ranch Elementary School, for his innovative use of technology in physical education and encouraging wellness in everyday life.
Open forumThe majority of the comments during the open forum referred to social-emotional learning, both positive and negative. SEL was not an agenda item but was addressed for a large portion of the meeting.Chief officersí updatePedro Almeida, chief operations officer, thanked the board and staff for supporting Month of the Military Child. Almeida said multiple facilities projects were completed during spring break. He received good feedback on visits to schools after the Voice of the Worker survey results were rolled out. The chiefs have begun a rounding process to check in with educators and staff members.Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, said the business office team has been working since March to convert to the Skyward system; they are using the new software to produce payroll in April.Peter Hilts, chief education officer, addressed information circulating in emails and in a letter to the editor for The Gazette from two board members about decreased test scores in D 49. He pointed out that in 2015, the state Legislature paused the accountability framework, and no schools were granted points. He said another reason for decreased scores is hosting the GOAL Academy, which has added 5,000 students to the districtís portfolio. Hilts said, ìIím proud of the noble mission of this district. As a portfolio district, we serve the entire state of Colorado; we serve them well by hosting and authorizing GOAL Academy. We chose to authorize an intensive care school.î Hilts said that without GOAL, the district scores would increase by 100 points; however, GOAL scores have improved since joining D 49, and overall district scores are improving.Board updateJohn Graham, president, and Lori Thompson, secretary, each read an anonymous letter they received regarding their actions on the board. Due to perceived threatening language; for example, ìWe can take you out if you screw with our kids,î the letters were reported to the police. Thompson said, ìThis is not how we operate as a district. We donít tolerate bullying.îGraham read the board member code of ethics and called for an executive session to discuss violations of board policy.Graham, attended a recent event hosted by the Academy for Literacy, Learning and Innovation Excellence. He said he didnít learn about dyslexia until after his son who has dyslexia graduated. Graham said, ìThatís why I had approved ALLIES five years ago. It was a school within a school. Thereís a lot of SEL happening but itís the good SEL. Ö If someone says there isnít good SEL, they donít understand what teachers are going through.îThompson attended Experiencing Dyslexia at ALLIES. She described learning what it is like to be dyslexic. She said one in five D 49 students are dyslexic, and she would like to see ALLIES in every zone in the district.Lucy Liu, treasurer, visited schools during recent rounding with chiefs. She reported that one teacher wanted to quit because she felt she could not be a counselor or behavioral psychologist. Liu said the district is not helping teachers manage the kidsí behaviors and that kids are failing. Liu said, ìThey (teachers) are not licensed to treat suicides. What is this SEL program that is supposed to help prevent suicides?î Liu said that some SEL is good but that some of it ìtwists your kidsî minds in minute ways that borders on psychological abuse by untrained professionalsJamilynn DíAvola read an excerpt from ìAmericanís Godly Heritageî by John Gilbert, arguing separation of church and state. DíAvola said, ìChildren are being influenced by wickedness, and that has got to stop. We are normalizing immorality. We should be teaching them the truth about who they were created to be.î She said that counselors provided teachers with a get-to-know-you confidential form to give to students. The form stated that the information would not be shared with parents, she said. DíAvola also stated counselors have formed gay, lesbian and straight alliance clubs for students.Action itemsThe BOE unanimously approved the following:
  • Teacher Appreciation Week will be the first week of May
  • April designated as Month of the Military Child
  • Resolution to Renew the Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning Charter Contract
Discussion itemsPaul Anderson, director of human resources, provided an update on efforts to increase staffing. Some challenges involve time that is required to process applicants and system limitations, necessitating manual work. Several steps have been taken to improve hiring and retention practices such as adding a roving guest teacher position to improve coverage for teachers; implementing a recruit and retain pay plan; pay range adjustments for bus drivers and paraprofessionals; guest teacher program with higher pay for substitute teaching; and a bus driver referral program.The district held its first job fair. Out of 83 attendees, there were 10 job offers. HR is requesting an increased budget to support hiring a staffing specialist for the licensing team and a second position for substitute recruitment.Andy Franko, iConnect Zone leader, reported that the Banning Lewis Academy has invited him to their next board meeting on May 19. Franko said he is seeking an opportunity to negotiate with the BLA board on changing terms of their contract. A change from a 30-year to a five-year agreement would enable the district to intervene in the case of underperformance of the school.Melissa Andrews, community and facility planning manager, CJ Jilek, co-director of facilities, and Daniel Payne, co-director of facilities, presented the districtís capital funding allocation process. Andrews said a capital site audit team visits all buildings to identify needs. A capital prioritization committee allocates levels of priority with the highest priority based on health, safety, ADA or other code compliance and system failure. At present, the master capital list indicates $68 million in capital needs, with the highest priority items totaling about $5.3 million.Jack Pietraallo, director of transportation, provided an operations update. He reported that there have been 168 stop arm law enforcement infractions this school year, compared to 24 last year. These are incidences involving drivers who do not stop for a school bus that has its stop sign out and red lights on. Pietraallo said there is a StopFinder application available for families, and it provides notices of delays or breakdowns of a school bus, which would impact pickup or drop-off schedules.Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, presented data and a budget discussion on general fund normalization. The normalization process ensures that students across the district are funded fully for their education by establishing equity in funding. The evaluation projects the per-student equitable funding resource would be $7,177.81.The next regular meeting of the BOE is May 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the Peakview Hall at the Creekside Success Center in Colorado Springs.

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