District 49
El Paso County Colorado District 49

D49 BOE February meeting wrap-up

By Deb Risden

The El Paso County School District 49 Board of Education held its monthly meeting Feb. 8. All BOE members were present. Amy Matisek, internal communications manager, started the Fantastic 49 celebration by honoring the following:

  • The reading interventionist paraeducator team at Odyssey Elementary School — Christine Makowsky, Lena Martinez and Melissa Reger — for helping students push through their challenges to become successful readers.
  • Peyton Keigher, fifth-grade teacher at Meridian Ranch Elementary School, for building strong relationships with her students and incorporating their interests to foster academic achievement
  • Kathy Schmidt, Horizon Middle School, career and technical education teacher, for inspiring students with activities such as the Cyber Patriots Club, which provides competitive opportunities; she also organized a science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) event.
  • Aly Nicholson, Sand Creek High School assistant principal, for being a role model for students inside and outside of school. Students view her as a trusted adult, mentor and counselor.
  • Stella Garcia, paraeducator in the transportation department, for her efforts in providing special education students with individual attention to help them stay focused on their school day and appreciate their individual gifts

Superintendent’s update

Peter Hilts, superintendent, attended an evaluation of the Falcon High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Hilts said the FHS JROTC earned a place in the highest band of possible scores. Hilts attended the wellness summit at Vista Ridge High School with 150 staff members throughout the district. The summit included a keynote speaker and breakout sessions. Guests from other school districts attended.

Student Board of Representatives’ update

Sadie Sierer, Vista Ridge High School student, said the SBOR is working on resolutions intended to help students from Pikes Peak Early College experience the graduation they want. Sierer said the SBOR would like to have more representation from middle and elementary school students on the board.

Board update

Lori Thompson, president, attended the District Accountability Advisory Committee meeting where Dave Watson, safety and security director, briefed the group on D 49 safety and security. Thompson said the BOE’s annual planning summit took place, resulting in the development of both short and long term goals. The summit provided training for board members. Thompson attended the SBOR meeting and informed the group about the annual planning summit, and she participated in discussions to find effective ways to minimize cell phone screen time.

Jamilynn D’Avola, vice president, attended the National School Choice Fair in Colorado Springs. She said hundreds of families attended the fair that highlighted many area schools, including private, public, online, career and technical and charter schools. D’Avola said D 49 had the most representatives at the fair.

Mike Heil, treasurer, attended the El Paso Council PTA reflections award ceremony where some D 49 students won awards for their original works of art. Categories included dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography and visual arts. Heil encouraged each BOE member to adopt a high school in the district. He said he would like to adopt Sand Creek High School. “It helps me crystalize my knowledge of what’s going on at the district level and to get on-the-ground information.”

Action items

The BOE unanimously approved the following:

  • D 49 2024-2025 school family calendar and preliminarily approved the 2025-2026 calendar
  • Safety and health compliance assistant job description
  • Multiple new courses for Vista Ridge High School: Drone Theory & Design/Remote Pilot Certification, Design Seminar, Holocaust & Genocide Literature
  • New and revised student activity fees
  • BOE meeting dates for 2024-2025 and preliminary dates for 2025-2026

The BOE approved with a majority vote:

  • Letter in support of Purple Star School legislation
  • New Course for VRHS – Beginner/Advanced Leadership

Discussion items

Brian Smith, Falcon Zone superintendent, presented information about a Peer Partners course at FHS designed for senior students to help special needs students in the classroom setting. Smith said students will earn one-half credit, and completing the course will provide important experience if they are going into careers in education. The BOE moved it forward for a vote at the next regular meeting.

Ron Sprinz, director of finance, presented a preliminary budget for the 2024-2025 school year. Although the governor has proposed a possible 6.6% increase in funding, D 49 will budget an estimated 4.8%. He said they will start working with zone leaders and principals once final per-pupil rates are established. Sprinz said this is the last year for COVID-19 funding support. Job positions paid for by those funds will need to be moved to the general fund.

Spencer McCabe, budget manager, presented a financial review as of fourth quarter 2023 showing that spending patterns are on track with the forecast. McCabe pointed out that the fund balance went from $17 million down to $3.5 million by the end of calendar year 2023 because school districts do not get funded by the state until March. BOE director Marie LaVere-Wright said it is common for school districts to borrow from the state to pay expenses and pay it back when funding is allocated. She said that 16 years ago, D 49 became one of a few districts in the state able to self-fund. She said D 49 is financially healthy and handles public funds well.

The next regular meeting of the BOE is March 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the Peakview Hall at the Creekside Success Center in Colorado Springs.

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