District 49
El Paso County Colorado District 49

BOE March meeting wrap-up

By Deb Risden

The El Paso County School District 49 Board of Education held its monthly meeting March 14. All BOE members were in attendance virtually due to inclement weather. Amy Matisek, internal communications manager, started the Fantastic 49 celebration by honoring the following:

  • Tamaya Bradley, assistant early childhood educator at Remington Elementary School, for playing a key role in creating a positive learning environment by demonstrating passion and care for students.
  • Marvin Davis, grandparent volunteer at Remington Elementary School for his willingness to help inside and outside of the classroom, including shoveling snow and fixing a fence.
  • Quinn Coleman, fifth grader at Springs Ranch Elementary for giving up her recess two days a week to spend time tutoring second graders.
  • Falcon High School boys’ basketball team for demonstrating support and encouragement to student athletes playing in a unified basketball game at a nearby school district.

Superintendent’s update

Peter Hilts, superintendent, met with principals and other administrators to discuss readiness for CMAS testing, which begins shortly after spring break. Hilts said students are ready for testing and administrators are happy with the focus on standardized testing, and expressed eagerness in showing what students have been learning. He said the district received a report on last year’s school performance; and, if science had been included, D 49 would have shown improvement in school and district scores. Hilts said science scores will be included in CMAS scores.

Board update

Lori Thompson, president, said the district has a roving security patrol for all elementary schools. Thompson attended the school board of representatives meeting where the BOE’s strategic plan is reviewed. Students suggested board attendance at arts performances, sporting events and schools to be more visible. The SBOR discussed ideas for composting. She said the community resource center’s pantry and closet is now open at Horizon Middle School.

Jamilynn D’Avola, vice president, attended the district accountability advisory committee meeting and updated the committee on BOE activities. She said there was discussion regarding armed security in elementary schools.

Mike Heil, treasurer, recognized the Sand Creek High School students who won first place in the southern region mock trial competition and went on to compete at the state level. He said many individual students received honors for their performances.

Marie LaVere-Wright, secretary, attended the El Paso County Council PTA founder’s dinner where Bethany Stegman, Woodman Hills Elementary School principal, was recognized for her work involving the school’s PTA. LaVere-Wright is the BOE appointed liaison for the Falcon Education Foundation. She said the organization’s annual fundraising dinner and silent auction is April 19. The foundation raises money to support teachers and students in the classroom and awards several student scholarships each year.

Debra Schmidt, board director, attended the High Impact Behavior Initiative where she participated in a class on how children regulate emotions and how adults can help them. She attended a Leaders in Literacy Summit where a representative from Renaissance Learning presented information on how growth is measured and the importance of both academics and growth.

Action items

The BOE unanimously approved the following:

  • New courses for Vista Ridge High School: sports literature, and electives swim, weights 2, and basketball and volleyball
  • 2024-2025 annual strategic objectives

The BOE approved the following by a majority vote:

  • BOE resolution for educational freedom and parent choice access
  • BOE resolution in support of local control of school security
  • Revisions to setting BOE meeting agendas

Discussion items

CJ Jilek, grounds department group manager, requested the BOE to approve a reclassification of a current position to a lead facilities equipment technician. The BOE moved it forward for a vote at the next regular meeting.

David Trautenberg, chief financial officer, presented a proposal for how the district might want to evaluate increasing salaries with goals of hiring and retaining teachers in a competitive environment, as well as administrative staff pay adjustments. He pointed out new teacher turnover rates of about 30%. Trautenberg suggested an analysis of adjusting current mill levy override target expenditure ratios to allow for a district focus on salaries, along with possible adjustments in the current step pay model. Any adjustments to current MLO funding ratios would be in line with the voted on ballot language. The BOE agreed that further evaluation of possible scenarios is appropriate for future discussion.

Karen Bixler, coordinator of title programs, provided an update on elementary and secondary school emergency relief funding, allocated by Congress in three installments to help schools and communities recover from the pandemic. She said each program has a spending deadline. ESSER I and II were completed in September 2022 and 2023, respectively. ESSER III’s deadline is September 2024. Bixler said D 49 received about $23.5 million total funding, 40% was allocated to charter schools using a per-pupil formula. She said proposed use of ESSER funds were submitted to the Colorado Department of Education for approval. Funds have been spent for intervention and instructional coaching of staff to support math and reading; additional teachers; tutoring; STAR 360; professional development for staff to address learning loss; after school programs, substitute teacher support; and educational technology. Bixler said the district is currently evaluating alternative funding sources for programs and activities that continue to be of value for student success. A full list of how funding has been used can be found on D 49’s website, D.49.org/covid funding.

Bixler provided an annual update of the district’s Title I, II, III and IV federally funded programs. Title I funds are allocated for improving academic achievement of the disadvantaged. D 49 has eight Title I schools. She said funds have been used to pay for family engagement liaisons, professional learning, support for homeless students, paraprofessionals, instructional coaches, tutoring, after-school programs and technology resources. Title II funds are used to prepare, train and recruit high quality educators and leaders to improve student achievement. Title III funds are for English language learners and are used for family community liaisons, family engagement, books in native languages, adult English as a second language courses and parent academy classes. Title IV funds are used for student support and academic enrichment and include activities promoting a safe and healthy school environment, educational technology and college level textbooks for low-income students. Bixler said there is an annual review process conducted by the CDE along with ongoing monitoring and data collection throughout the year. She said a needs assessment is conducted each spring that incorporates stakeholder input followed by plans and budgets generated for the following school year.

Lynette DePaul, senior executive assistant to the board of education, presented policies for review that included minor changes regarding financial stability, payroll procedures and student fees.

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

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