El Paso County Colorado District 49

D 49 Board of Education wrap-up

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

Open forum

Jeff Hall, community member, and Ann Easton, former D 49 special education teacher, and both members of D 49’s Cultural Leadership Advisory Council, expressed a complaint that the pledge of allegiance was not said at the opening of the council meetings. Easton feels the pledge should be said before every district meeting. Hall said he feels the CLAC has had no accomplishments nor milestones met in four years. He said it lacked attention and oversight. “CLAC has failed and does not reflect district values,” Hall said. 

Superintendent’s update

Peter Hilts, superintendent, said the district has added a new training module for staff to address prevention and responses to the epidemic of fentanyl poisoning in the community. He recognized the Student Board of Representatives for hosting and moderating a forum for school board candidates. Hilts said new data on the School Performance Framework indicates two schools have performed to the level of distinction: Mountain View Academy and Pikes Peak Early College. The SPF data categorizes schools by four measures: performance, improvement, priority improvement and turnaround. Hilts said 19 D 49 schools are at the performance level and eight schools are at the improvement level and close to meeting performance level. No D 49 is on priority improvement or turnaround. “That is very notable when some in our community are criticizing our averages and comparing to other districts that have lower marks,” Hilts said.

The safety and security team are evaluating third-party private training facilities to enable D 49 security staff to be trained at peace officer standards. The district has contracted with Rupp Security to provide security at large school events to supplement the in-house security team.

Student Board of Representatives’ update

Kaylee Wood, Vista Ridge High School junior, said the culture at her school is improving. She said the teachers and students are happier because the new principal, Tom Payne, listens to teachers. “In previous years, we’ve never seen a principal walking around the halls,” Wood said. “Mr. Payne is in the halls and at the baseball games. He is improving our culture.” She said the school is working hard to improve academically with a focus on math and the addition of new advanced placement courses.

Juliet Olsen, VRHS junior, said she thinks her school is on the right track in changing the culture. “I think that D 49 has done a very good job at not only teaching students curriculum but teaching them to be good people. I’ve realized how important building relationships between staff and students are.”

Board update

John Graham, president, said he visited five different schools where teachers said there are good things happening in D 49, but no one is talking about them. He referenced two examples of students building houses and cooking meals for older adults. “Every one of our schools has something great to talk about. Learn, and you can talk about them, too,” Graham said.

Rick Van Wieren, vice president, attended the Sand Creek High School kickoff event for the school year. He expressed excitement about Hilts’ goal for the district to become accredited with distinction.

Jamilynn D’Avola, treasurer, said she attended the Special Education Advisory Council and District Accountability Advisory Committee meetings. She said the DAAC indicated an interest in involvement in discussions on the new pay schedules being developed.

Action items

The BOE unanimously approved the following:

  • Oct. 24 is the official date for the Impact Aid survey, which collects information on students connected with federal programs, mainly military; D 49 receives federal subsidy based on the enrollments.
  • Resolution for Constitution Day as Sept. 17
  • Medicaid Compliance Assistant position, which is Medicaid funded and does not impact the general fund budget
  • Senior executive assistant job description
  • Nutrition policy changes that reflect federal requirements
  • 2024 graduation date for Vista Ridge, Sand Creek and Falcon high schools will be May 24, 2024, at the Broadmoor World Arena

Discussion items

Marie LaVere-Wright, parent member of the SEAC (special ed advisory), presented a summary of SEAC activities that include a focus on improving parent-school-district communications. LaVere-Wright said focus groups were conducted in February this year to elicit feedback from parents and staff members at all levels. All groups said that services were more inclusionary now and identified areas for improvement, some include classroom supports; highly trained paraprofessionals in classrooms and training for specific disabilities; co-teaching; support for new parents; student access to their neighborhood schools rather than being bussed to others; support for de-escalation and social-emotional and behavior professional development; using student first language rather than disability language; and increased parent and student voice and involvement. LaVere-Wright said that lack of staffing impacts everything, and staff members are exhausted from covering for open positions. The BOE unanimously consented to supporting the program.

Ron Sprinz, director of finance, provided a financial review of the year ending June 2023. The total budget was $138.9 million and D 49 ended the year .07 million dollars under budget as a whole district. Sprinz gave a 2023-2024 enrollment and amended budget update. Enrollment trends are tracked from mid-July through Oct. 1, which is the official student count day. The enrollment counts appear to be trending downward, which could impact the general fund budget.

Policies and procedure were reviewed and moved forward for approval at a future BOE meeting.

The next regular meeting of the BOE is Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the Peakview Hall at the Creekside Success Center in Colorado Springs.

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