El Paso County Colorado District 49

D 49 frequently asked questions

By John Graham, D 49 Board of Education president

How are D 49 students doing and what graduation events are they participating in? 

This is an exciting conversation happening in our community! I always ask our seniors during this time of year if they are “prepared for adult life?” I strongly believe this is the purpose of public education. When they say “no,” I remind them that adult life is approaching like a freight train! There are many pathways to adult life. Students guided by their parents and guardians as primary, then teachers and counselors, have many choices and individual pathways to prepare themselves for adult life. 

I have had recent discussions with seniors. They reported that they are anxious, yet excited about graduation (as always) and looking forward to the next phase of their lives. Seniors will be finishing their capstone projects and taking finals in the coming weeks. Many are competing for scholarships. Others are preparing for the workforce and military. They will be participating in Senior Breakfast to be “capped” by their parents or someone who inspired them. There is an event for students with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.75 or higher for every semester of their high school careers; there is prom night, and finally the big day of graduation and celebratory events that follow. 

Graduation rates get a little confusing as the Colorado Department of Education calculates graduation rates using a multi-year set of data. D 49-operated school graduation rates (taken from the CDE website for 2022) are four-year — 85.7%; five-year — 91.9%; six-year — 94.3%; and seven-year — 93.4%. This year, we are looking at senior enrollment of 1,220 students from district-operated schools, 153 from eight of nine charter schools; 2,239 seniors from GOAL Academy, 477 from all of our ERBOCES (Education reEnvisioned Board of Cooperative Education Services) schools and homeschool enrichment programs. Students might not be counted for the four-year program and actually graduate in one of the subsequent years for a variety of reasons. 

Colorado graduation is now competency or mastery based.  That means once students achieve the desired skills, they pass the class.  The state also allows students to attend high school until they are 21 years old. Thus, a school can have students graduate after 18 years of age ( the traditional age of most graduates) for several reasons. These reasons can be to attend 12+1 and 12+2. This means that upon reaching 12th grade, their diploma is “on hold” while they attend a first or second year of a community college at the state’s expense. Other reasons are they have not yet made mastery and are continuing to take classes to meet graduation requirements.  Some kids may drop out of a traditional school and then enroll a year or two later in GOAL Academy to finish their diploma or work on a GED. 

What goes on during summer break? 

Teachers have a contract year of 182 days during the regular school year based on the contact hours required by the statute of students. Many take on summer jobs, travel or concentrate on their families during the summer months. Many of our other staff, however, work to catch up on facility and maintenance projects while students are out of the building. Our administration and support staff work year-round and are planning the next year’s schedule, developing learning plans, or fine-tuning action plans to address issues of strategic priority. 

The BOE addresses issues and policies that need to be in place before students are back in the buildings to include the next year’s budget. Summer is a busy time for us, even without the full load of students! We have two sessions of high school summer school to help make up for credits not attained or to allow students to get ahead. We also have “Read Camp” available to elementary students. Read Camp is a limited offering to help improve all levels of readers. We plan for and hold parent and student open houses and orientation toward the beginning of the new school year. 

What is happening in the superintendent search? 

D 49 has selected one finalist for the position of superintendent. This is a process that started last fall with the hiring of a third party to help the Board of Education determine if we had the most optimal structure. We started with three chief officers that fulfilled specific roles within the Office of the Superintendent. We re-evaluated this model: a model of two chief officers and a model of one, known as the superintendent model. 

On Feb. 11, the BOE was presented with all options and moved two forward for a possible vote on Feb 22. After discussion, the BOE unanimously chose the single superintendent model and had unanimous consent to look into a third party to help with the superintendent search. The administration was still in the process of collecting quotes and discussion/action was postponed until March 22. The BOE again voted unanimously, after robust discussion, to retain McPherson and Jacob and accept an abbreviated search as presented to save taxpayer money. This search consisted of a nationwide announcement on the M & J website as well as a public survey to gather the attributes our community was looking for in a superintendent. The BOE met in two executive sessions, one to screen candidate resumes and videos and the second to conduct interviews. Upon completion of the interviews and in a public session following that executive session, Peter Hilts was named the sole finalist by a vote of 4-1. We will hold contract negotiations and vote on approving the contract in May.

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