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El Paso County Colorado District 49

D 49 leadership academy kicks off second year

The start of the new year marked the start of a new Peak Partners Leadership Academy for Falcon School District 49. Matt Barrett, PPLA leader, said the intent of the program is to bring together a cross-section of people living within the D 49 community to work face-to-face with each other.According to the D 49 website, the PPLA is ìan opportunity to learn about being a community leader, and being able to use their leadership skills at work and in their community. Itís an opportunity for an in-depth exploration of District 49ís organization and educational programs, inside and beyond the classroom, and its potential as a leader in public education.î The PPLA was launched last year in D 49.Jennifer Johnson, PPLA leader, said the academy is a board of education initiative aimed at not only bringing members of the community not currently involved with D 49 together, but also to allow them to be heard by the district. ìOur ultimate goal is that we want them engaged in the community,î she said.ìOur mission statement as the best place to learn, work and lead is not just with the people within the walls of the district, but to seep out to the community,î Barrett said. ìWhat kind of partnership can be created between demands on the labor force and the community within the district?îJohnson said the leadership academy consists of both in-class and online sessions. The seven in-class sessions, which take place once a week between Jan. 12 and March 28 include a dinner, presenters and a recap of the previous meeting. The online sessions determine where an individualís strength lies and what each person can bring to the group, she said.Doug Woody, commercial group manager for Bryan Construction Inc. in Colorado Springs, participated in last yearís academy and said he became involved because, although he lives in D 49, his daughters were attending a charter school in Colorado Springs School District 11. ìBoth of my girls started out in D 49 but the challenge we started to find was that the district was growing, the student population was growing, and the student-to-teacher ratio was growing,î he said. ìMy oldest, in particular, was not learning well in that atmosphere. The district also had a lot of issues with their board of education and the superintendent.îWoody said he wanted to get a better idea of how D 49 operated and figure out ways to improve the districtís image, with the goal of improving his community. Being part of the PPLA allowed him that, and also gave him a better understanding of the zones in the Falcon school district and how each zone operates differently, Woody said, adding that the program also allowed for increased transparency for D 49.The online sessions were not available to him last year, but at the time he had suggested an additional leadership component besides the in-class sessions. Knowing that the leadership component had been added this year prompted Woody to recruit a coworker to attend this yearís academy, he said.Barrett said the presentations by D 49 administrators educate the community about the school district. ìIt then opens a dialog for people to give feedback based on what they may have heard from someplace else, to talk about different ideas,î he said. ìWe have already seen changes in the marketing and communications department based on feedback from last yearís academy.îJohnson said the PPLA is a great way to stir the pot of the local businesses. So far, about 65 area businesses have shown interest in the program, and there are about 20 total participants ó individuals and those associated with various businesses. îWe have already started asking businesses what they are looking for as we engage in this,” she said.Barrett said last yearís PPLA was a huge success, with a high level of enthusiasm, interaction and feedback from the businesses involved. ìWe want to replicate that this year,î he said. The online access to leadership skills ìwill bring about a much stronger element of the leadership part of the academy,î Barrett said.To get a firm grasp about what takes place inside the districtís schools, Johnson said the PPLA will hold in-class sessions in an elementary, middle and high school; as well as sessions at the districtís central offices.ìYou can only be as impactful as much as you get involved,î Woody said. ìThings like this provide avenues to better understand the district and get plugged in to make a difference. It provides an opportunity to see where you can fit in with what the districtís needs are.î

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