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El Paso County Colorado District 49

D 49 BOE meeting November wrap-up

The El Paso County School District 49 Board of Education held its monthly meeting Nov. 10. All members were in attendance. Amy Matisek, internal communications manager, started the Fantastic 49 celebration by honoring the following:

  • Victoria Henderson, school liaison program manager, Peterson Air Force Base, for her support of military-connected students by providing counselors, assistance with making life transitions and helping fund science, technology, engineering and math programs
  • Three educators for their work with the Department of Defense science, technology, engineering, arts and math grant: Brett Coddington, Remington Elementary School library; Jen Newberg, Skyview Middle School teacher, instructional coach and star lab planetarium expert; and Kristen Billingsley, Springs Ranch Elementary school teacher
  • Twenty-seven teachers who were awarded a total of $25,000 in mini-grants from the Falcon Education Foundation
Chief executive officerís updateIn honor of Veteranís Day, Peter Hilts, chief executive officer, talked about the districtís participation with the military. Each of the larger district high schools hosts a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps†program, which is unique in the Pikes Peak region for a multiple high school district. Falcon High School is home to the districtís Space Force JROTC program. D 49 has a student-to-student program that provides support to students of military families. Military family life counselors work with students. Hilts said, ìThose are social-emotional supports because the challenges of being part of a military family where deployments and more recently combat might impact your childhood or your adolescence, those sometimes require specialized care, specialized attention and support. We provide those supports through relationships with our (military) bases and our various communities here in Colorado Springs.î He said the district supports the Exceptional Family Member Program, which provides service members and their families access to networks of services they might need. Hilts said D 49 is nationally recognized for these programs.Hilts said the school tours and focus groups as part of the Voice of the Workforce program will be wrapping up in January. Results will be evaluated and key themes presented at the annual planning summit in 2023.Student board of representativesí updateDylan Cary, Vista Ridge High School student, said the Vista Ridge band placed second in a competition and marched in the Veteranís Day Parade on Fort Carson with their ROTC. He said the Thespian Societyís more than 50 members are preparing for a competition at the Thespian Conference taking place in Denver. Their choir placed third in a recent competition.Amelia Garcia, Falcon High School student, said Vista Ridge High School hosted a cheerleading competition for 5A traditional and took first place. Sand Creek High School earned first place in the 4A traditional competition and Falcon High School took home second place.Board updateJohn Graham, president, attended the Colorado Association of School Boards meeting. He visited several schools and met with teachers, attempting to elicit participation at board meetings. He said he encouraged them to stand up and use their voices. There will be an upcoming board evaluation that gets emailed followed by a survey concerning the districtís future organization structure. The survey will be sent out in December to an undisclosed distribution list. Graham said the boardís primary focus is on student success and classroom support, meaning teachers, paraeducators, principals and parents. ìThose are our priorities. And improving culture, which includes improving pay. If we do not model the behavior on the board that is expected of our employees, we cannot expect to have a culture that is worth working for,î he said. He is taking people on tours of schools.Lori Thompson, secretary, encouraged people to pick up a copy of the Discover D 49 Magazine that includes articles about student successes.Jamilynn DíAvola, treasurer, said the Vista Ridge High School football team is in the state playoffs. She encouraged staff, teachers and parents to attend board meetings and suggested that school leadership not schedule meetings during board meeting times so that more could attend.Action itemsThe BOE unanimously approved the following:
  • Revisions to intra-district and inter-district choice/open enrollment policy
  • Policy prohibiting principles of critical race theory in instruction
  • Commitment to district transparency
  • Pikes Peak Board of Cooperative Educational Services contract approved, providing access to state mandated special education services
The BOE approved the following by majority vote:
  • Reclassification of work sessions to special meetings, allowing the board to vote on time sensitive matters
Discussion itemsBruce Brown, facility project manager, provided an update. Sand Creek High School changed the west wall of the science room to a medical careers lab with six stations. A 30-year-old nutrition freezer and cooler at the central office was replaced. Bennett Ranch Elementary is 46% complete. It is on schedule and on budget with no major challenges. The transportation center project is 12% complete. The stormwater permitting process is complete. The construction schedule is changing but the project is on budget.David Nancarrow, director of communications, said the department is competitive in its use of social media channels and exceeding goals in stories told and original content developed. The department is close to launching a podcast with Hilts as the host. The first two episodes are expected to air before the end of this calendar year. Other work includes a visibility campaign to promote D 49 as a district of choice. The third issue of Discover D 49 Magazine was published on Oct. 23. The next edition is planned for April.Hilts provided a post-election review of issues impacting school funding. A new state budget was produced before the election that included increased funding per pupil. Since the proposed budget was published, a reduced state tax rate, a measure for affordable housing and funding for free student meals were passed. Hilts said once the details of the free student meal funding program are communicated, the cost versus benefit can be evaluated.Thompson and Van Wieren discussed proposed changes to the board member code of conduct policy, adding the following:
  • If a board director is notified of a violation, it must be in written form.
  • If a board director receives a notification of a violation, the director will have an opportunity to have a written response noted as a matter of record. A majority of the board provided consensus to move the proposed policy changes to a future meeting for vote.
Hilts provided an executive summary on costs associated with social-emotional learning/character and cultural education. The average annual cost for programs over the past five years is $130,533. He explained that some programs are funded through grants such as Department of Defense Education Activity and some are paid by Title II funds.The next regular meeting of the BOE is Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the Peakview Hall at the Creekside Success Center in Colorado Springs.

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