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El Paso County Colorado District 49

BOE December meeting wrap-up

The El Paso County School District 49 Board of Education held its monthly meeting Dec. 14. All BOE members were present.

Open forum

Open forum speakers provided comments equally for and against the BOE resolution proposed regarding the use of “In God We Trust” in classrooms.

Superintendent’s update

Peter Hilts, superintendent, recognized the Vista Ridge High School’s performance of “Mean Girls” at the Thespian Conference in Denver. He said the VRHS cheer team came in second place in the state competition, within one-half point of first place. Hilts said he has completed 25 listening sessions as part of the Voice of the Workforce program.

Board update

Lori Thompson, president, recognized new board members. She attended one day of the Colorado Association of School Boards training and said a session about neurodiversity conducted by Teaching the Autism Community Trades was valuable in learning the range of neurodiversity.

Marie LaVere-Wright, secretary, attended the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education multicultural night. She said it was an amazing experience with students from Sand Creek High School giving presentations about their cultures and family celebrations. She gave kudos to the Falcon Business Networking Group for partnering with the Falcon Zone to provide for the needs of families.

Jamilynn D’Avola, vice president, attended the CASB conference and said as a delegate for D 49, it was helpful to network with other board members around the state. She also participated in classes on Roberts Rules of Order and finance.

Mike Heil, treasurer, attended three days of the CASB conference and said there was useful information provided. “I came away from it with a new respect for this role and a new perspective,” Heil said. He attended the CLDE fair and also attended the final Cultural Leadership Advisory Council meeting. Heil said the new structure under the District Accountability Advisory Committee will accelerate positive change. 

Debra Schmidt, director, attended the CASB conference and several classes that covered policies, school finance and Roberts Rules of Order.

Action items

The BOE unanimously approved the following:

  • Sand Creek High School Criminal Justice Pathway courses
  • Upper-level Mandarin Chinese course
  • Falcon High School course proposals as presented in a November BOE meeting
  • Policies and procedures with minor changes

The BOE approved the following by a majority vote:

  • National motto resolution encouraging schools to display the national motto “In God we Trust” and other historical displays “depicting the founding and heritage of the United States”

Discussion items

Paul Andersen, executive director of people and culture, and Amy Matisek, internal communications manager, presented an annual overview of the Voice of the Workforce findings. Andersen said the VoW is the district’s system for listening to the workforce and understanding what the district is doing well and what it can improve on. Matisek said 93% of staff completed the survey, with 9,500 comments. The superintendent conducts learning tours with 40 groups of employees over the fall and winter time frame. “The administration is dedicated to asking for feedback and doing something and making meaningful changes with that information,” Matisek said. Staff members rate areas important to them in two categories — satisfiers, such as basic needs like pay, benefits and safety; and engagers, such as work-life balance, input into decisions and recognition for work. Andersen said relationships with coworkers and managers were highly rated and senior leadership was deemed effective. Factors that need more work are competitive salaries and work-life balance. Matisek said leaders in each building are given the results of the surveys at both the building and district levels. Each principal is asked to share at least one goal or objective as a result of the feedback. Senior leadership will propose action plans for improvements and the BOE can adopt and direct resources to approved plans at the annual planning summit.

Katie Boal, Falcon home school program manager, requested that the BOE consider adding a new position for a dean of the homeschool program. The position would be half-time and require a teaching license. Boal said the program has grown from about 150 students to 241 as of October. She said the new position would help handle the growth as well as alleviate the problem of having to be at two locations at the same time. “This allows our program to continue to grow and to continue to bring on more opportunities for our homeschooled students,” Boal said, adding that the program is a hybrid, offering blended learning. For example, the academic program offers classes in history, science, technology, engineering and math. The BOE moved the request forward for a vote at the next regular meeting.

Jim Rohr, procurement manager, provided an external partners and vendors report for the 2022-2023 school year. He said $69 million was spent on external support to a total of 5,128 vendors. Rohr said the largest expenditure has been in construction at 24% of the total expenses paid. He said upcoming public bids include roof replacements at four schools, phone system replacements, secure vestibule upgrades, Springs Ranch gym floor replacement and a central office renovation after the transportation department moves to their new facility.

Ron Sprinz, director of finance, provided an enrollment and amended budget update. He said the mill levy rates are on hold and there has been a pause at the state level regarding the October student count. Sprinz said more information is expected around Jan. 17. He said current enrollment is at 12,839, down from 13,154 students the prior year. Although enrollment is down, Sprinz feels the per-pupil rate may go up enough to offset the lower student count. Sprinz said overall other revenue is looking favorable.

David Trautenberg, chief financial officer, provided a quarterly financial update. He said spending is on track for 2023-2024 with the budget forecasted at $147 million. Trautenberg said even though student count is down, he anticipates the zones and district will not have to adjust their budgets. The external audit is expected to be completed by Dec. 31 without any material weaknesses or significant deficiencies. He said the district’s financials look good, and cash is being managed extremely well and appropriately allocated.

Lanette DePaul, senior executive assistant to the board of education, presented a proposed policy for public comment sign-up for BOE consideration. DePaul proposed that public comment sign-up be completed online for a certain period of time prior to the start of the board meeting to give the public sufficient time to sign up. The BOE decided to move forward for discussion and refinement to the policy.

The BOE discussed the need for new board advisory committees and liaison assignments. Existing assignments will remain until the next meeting.

The next regular meeting of the BOE is Jan. 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Peakview Hall at the Creekside Success Center in Colorado Springs.

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