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El Paso County Colorado District 49

D 49 BOE September meeting

The El Paso County Colorado School District 49 Board of Education held its monthly meeting Sept. 8.Open forumThe main topic of the forum was the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) or SEL.Meron Hoffman, a Vista Ridge High School freshman, spoke in support of social-emotional learning. Hoffman read excerpts from writings of other students and talked about his own experience. ìSeveral times I have been disparaged, belittled and made to feel less than in school because of my skin color. I have been called the ìN wordî in the hallways between classes. How am I supposed to cope with that? Ignore it? Just sit and make it through class? Try and focus on my education and let it slide? Perpetuating the continued hate we see in our country daily now. No, thatís not right. I have had SEL programs help both me and my counselors get through those situations and existing circumstances so then I can focus on my reading, writing and arithmetic. I know, I know, itís super hard to believe an experience you canít relate to, but thatís the beauty of SEL programs. It gives students who have never been impacted by certain things a little chance to understand what I and people like me go through.îLindsey Lee, a parent and a member of two advisory boards, said that board members who ìclaim that CASEL-endorsed programs exist merely to turn kids into social justice warriors rather than support their learning ó you imply that our teachers are delivering instruction that is somehow harmful to our kids. You do so without evidence and without pointing to specific incidents in D 49 schools. Ö The teacher shortage here is very real. What educator in their right mind would want to walk into one of our classrooms with you breathing down their necks to make sure they donít ëgaspí give a lesson to kids on empathy, respect and kindness. Ö This entire debate about SEL is merely another manufactured outrage. I know youíre here to pursue your own future political prospects.îMike Heil, D 49 parent, sent an email to the BOE about fact checking. He said, ìWe need to commit to speaking the truth and checking our facts.î He said that CASEL evaluates and rates programs; and, based on peer review studies, a CASEL-select rating is positive, giving statistically significant results. ìD 49 shouldnít be throwing away things that work. Ö D 49 serves a diverse student body. As a tool to foster a culture in which all students can thrive, transformative SEL is invaluable,î he said.Sabrina Balister requested that the board and district leadership refocus attention on the five core subjects of education.Christine Green, D 49 stakeholder and homeowner, spoke in support of the policy on open forum that allows parents to speak during the first two hours.Marie LaVere-Wright, a parent, congratulated Falcon High School for 287 out of 288 graduating students demonstrating mastery in math and English language arts.CEO updatePeter Hilts, chief executive officer, said the business office has been focused on closing out the previous budget year ending June 30, in preparation for the audit.He said hot weather is challenging the HVAC systems, causing overloads that impact buildings.Hilts said the district received frameworks for all of the schools in the district. When the district is not meeting its expectations, ìWe target resources, we double down on the tempo of training. We sometimes move teachers around to areas where we know we have greater need. We consult instructional experts.î Hilts said D 49 has been awarded a Department of Defense Education Activity grant for world languages. Vista Ridge High School social studies teacher Theresa James is one of seven finalists in Colorado for Teacher of the Year. Hilts said that out of 178 school districts in the past 10 years, D 49 has had the most finalists.Student Board of Representativesí updateAmelia Garcia, Falcon High School student, said that SATs are important and help students ìget prepared for college, even if itís not required.î Garcia said SEL is important in schools. ìFor elementary kids, itís important to teach them these responsibilities,î she said. ìThey need to learn how to share, control their temper, manners and not just learning basic math, reading and writing leading into high school. Colleges are looking for you to be a well-rounded person. Numbers donít just only matter.îAmanda Christensen, a student from the GOAL (Guided Online Academic Learning) Academy, said the student board of representatives has been discussing SEL and are working to draft a resolution in support of SEL. She said, ìThe students feel it is a good thing to include in our school Ö for their development both academically, socially and emotionally.îBoard updateJohn Graham, president, said he has faith in teachers and administrators. He said itís important to look at all the assessment data. ìLetís not criticize our teachers who work hard, extremely hard to educate our children and also to help them through life at pay rates that are underpaid, according to the regional market. Theyíre not here to indoctrinate, theyíre here to educate; and they wouldnít be doing it if they didnít love and care for students.îRick Van Wieren, vice president, said he was pleased to see Colorado Measures of Academic Success literacy scores improving over and above pre-COVID-19 levels. Wieren said he was concerned about math scores and suggested the district consider a math initiative similar to the literacy initiative.Ivy Liu, director, said she attended another school districtís event where the superintendent and board were working to solve the same kinds of issues that D 49 is facing. Liu suggested that D 49 focus on literacy with ìevery single dollar and every single resource that we have, and nothing else.îJamilynn DíAvola, treasurer, said Skyview Middle School has a gay and straight alliance club, and a Rocky Mountain Classical Academy sixth-grade class has a list of studentsí preferred pronouns written on the board. She said schools have rainbow dÈcor in classrooms and in nursesí offices. ìThere are several clubs that are non-academic and could be deemed as inappropriate for our schools and for the students who are attending these schools who have religious views and religious purposes,î DíAvola said.Action itemsThe BOE unanimously approved the following: ï Dual language immersion specialist job ï Revisions to job title and responsibilities for†culturally and linguistically diverse education instructional coach ï Staff Ethics/Conflict of Interest policy revisions ï Online schools and online programs including coaching, mentoring and crisis intervention, etc. outside of scheduled courses will constitute attendance ï Armed security staff on school grounds policy revision clarifying process by which charter schools can implement or request a waiver and replacement policy ï Pioneer Technology and Arts Academy and James Irwin charter schools to conduct an off-cycle review of the expansion and replication charter applications ï A policy that establishes the boardís discretion to approve materials that merit public scrutiny and affirmation ï Graduation dates and times determined to secure Rocky Mountain Vibes Stadium for 2023 graduations†Discussion itemsBruce Brown, facility project manager, provided an update on projects. He said they are awaiting the construction schedule and final pricing for Elevation Middle School, and Bennett Ranch Elementary is on schedule for completion on May 18, 2023. The transportation center construction has begun, with a scheduled completion of July 2023.Ron Sprinz, director of finance, presented the 2021-2022 year-end financial report that will be finalized in preparation for an audit at the end of September. He said the closing discussion with the IRS for the audit that began in February was completed, taking less time than expected with about $67,000 due to the IRS. Sprinz cited Heather Diaz for the ìamazing jobî she did providing the IRS auditors with information. Hilts praised the finance team for all the extra work they did without a full staff.Graham presented a draft of a parentís rights and responsibilities policy. He said, ìThis isnít a policy thatís going to penalize or punish teachers and itís not a policy that is going to penalize or punish parents. Itís so everybody can understand what their role is and to hopefully help things run smoothly.î The policy differentiates between parent and school responsibilities.Graham reviewed four BOE policies. ï Operations Public Participation at Board Meetings is updated to reflect computer sign-up for the public to speak at BOE meetings and a limit of two minutes per speaker. The first five speakers will be reserved for D 49 students, parents or legal guardians of active students; staff; and active members of formal district committees. ï Board member code of conduct spells out acceptable and unacceptable behaviors of the BOE directors during and outside official meetings and how violations of the code are addressed.The next regular meeting of the BOE is Oct.13 at 6:30 p.m. in the Peakview Hall at the Creekside Success Center in Colorado Springs.

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