District 49
El Paso County Colorado District 49

D49 BOE January meeting wrap-up

By Deb Risden

The El Paso County School District 49 Board of Education held its monthly meeting Jan. 11. All BOE members were present. Amy Matisek, internal communications manager, started the Fantastic 49 celebration by honoring the following:

  • Frances Delgado, a school counselor at Patriot High School, earned recognition as a National Certified School Counselor after meeting education, examination and ethical requirements. She is one of 23 in the state and five in El Paso County to hold the certification.
  • Nelda Dettwiler, registered nurse, PEAK Education Center and Falcon Middle School, for supporting the D4.9k Run-Walk every year by hosting an aid station for participants.
  • Jeffrey Leitzen, building manager, Bennett Ranch Elementary, and Corneliu Muresan, building manager at Odyssey Elementary for their commitment to keeping their school buildings in excellent condition.

Kayla Maldonado, president of the Falcon Education Foundation, presented 23 teachers mini-grants totaling about $25,000 to assist in funding unique projects for students. The foundation also grants scholarships to graduating seniors. The annual fundraiser will be held April 19.

Superintendent’s update

Peter Hilts, superintendent, met with the Student Board of Representatives, where the recent BOE action of encouraging the posting of “In God We Trust” in schools was discussed. He said there were a lot of ideas and dialog, referring to the discussion as “classy civic disagreement and discourse.” Hilts said examiners from the Rocky Mountain Performance Excellence, the regional association of the Baldrige Foundation, recently visited D 49 schools and departments to evaluate the district in multiple areas. The RMPE will provide a report identifying areas of strength and improvement across the school district. The evaluation will guide D 49 in its goal to become a district of distinction and a role model organization.

Student Board of Representatives’ update

Kaylee Wood,Vista Ridge High School, said the English department is doing a good job helping juniors ease into the SAT preparation.

Grace Lupton, Falcon High School, said FHS sports teams are doing well this year and noted that students overall are doing more project work in areas they have an interest in.

Board update

Lori Thompson, president, attended the preparatory meetings for the Baldridge team site visit. She attended the SBOR meeting and said she was impressed with how students shared their different opinions with respect. She toured Odyssey Elementary and saw mutual respect among students, teachers and staff. Thompson said Skyview Middle School and Sand Creek High School were selected as winners in The Gazette’s Best Workplaces for 2023.

Jamilynn D’Avola, vice president, toured most of the district schools with Deb Schmidt, director. D’Avola said she was encouraged by the teacher led, directed instruction that she saw in every school. She pointed out that since visiting the prior year, she saw increased student engagement and feels that has been reflected in increased test scores.

Mike Heil, treasurer, received training to approve district purchases. Heil attended the SBOR meeting. He said, “The students are smart, thoughtful, engaged and passionate. It’s difficult to listen to the noise about how bad D 49 is doing when you get to spend time with these students.”

Marie LaVere-Wright, secretary, recognized the Falcon Zone for 13 staff members who have been nominated for national awards at the upcoming Digital Convergence Conference.

Debra Schmidt, director, toured most of the schools with D’Avola and said she is impressed with seeing the Freedom Walls and American flags. She said students were experiencing direct teaching, although there was a lot of device usage. She said she observed students using printed materials and conversing with others.

Action items

The BOE unanimously approved the following:

  • Updates to policies and procedures as discussed at the Dec. 14 meeting

The following was approved by a majority vote:

  • Proposed position for Falcon Homeschool Academic Program dean

Discussion items

David Trautenberg, chief financial officer, presented a charter school amended budget, including non-audited actuals for prior school years. He said the district has a new charter school accountant who is working on standardizing the charter school reporting formats to ensure accuracy and consistency going forward. Trautenberg said a budget will be prepared and presented to the board before Jan. 31 for approval, However, he anticipates having an amended budget reflecting a consistent reporting format in the next 30 to 45 days. He said the cost of employing a charter school accountant is paid by the charter schools as part of their district service fee.

Trautenberg presented details of the district’s contract renewal with its current legal firm Miller Farmer Carson, LLC. Although rates have increased, the firm has agreed to continue providing D 49 with a fixed monthly and hourly billing rate structure that is about 30% lower than the firm’s standard billing rate.

Verenice Gutierrez, iConnect Zone superintendent, presented Liberty Tree Academy Charter School’s renewal authorization. She said one year ago, district administration renewed LTA’s contract for one year in which they would need to meet six conditions. The school met five out of six conditions as of October 2023. The unmet condition was in total enrollment amounts. Gutierrez said there has been increased enrollment since October. The renewal application has been reviewed by DAAC and administration with a recommendation that the district move into contract renewal phase. The BOE approved moving it forward.

Hilts presented a proposed policy regulation that states donated instructional materials can be accepted or declined by the school’s leadership in consultation with a supervisor or superintendent. At such time materials are donated, they become the property of the district. There was consensus to move the policy forward for vote at the next meeting.

Lanette DePaul, senior executive assistant to the board of education, presented policies and procedures containing minor updates. All except one policy was moved forward for a vote at the next meeting. One policy will be placed on the agenda for discussion.

Zone performance reports

All five zone superintendents gave their respective zone performance reports.

Brian Smith, Falcon Zone superintendent, reported that schools are meeting or exceeding overall in literacy and math. Both areas experienced a high level of growth from last year. Satisfaction, as measured by the Voice of the Workforce, is 7.9 out of 10. A culture and climate survey conducted with parents and students indicates a parent rating of 7.4 and a student rating of 6.7; both scores have increased from the prior year. Smith said some performance issues in math and literacy are from curriculum alignment and the zone is working at all school levels to collaborate on curriculum.

Theresa Ritz, POWER Zone superintendent, said that schools partially meet performance benchmarks in literacy and math. Ritz attributes the math rating to the implementation of a new curriculum. She said one of the schools implemented the curriculum earlier than the others, and their scores indicate they are exceeding in achievement and growth. The employee VoW satisfaction score is 7.9 out of 10; the culture and climate survey indicated a parent score of 7.6 and a student score of 6.8. All categories have increased scores from the prior year.

Dustin Horras, Sand Creek Zone superintendent, said that schools met performance levels in both literacy and math, showing a large increase from the prior year. The employee VoW satisfaction score is 8.1 out of 10. The culture and climate survey indicated a parent score of 7.6 and student score of 6.5. Horras said the zone’s focus is on purposeful planning, prioritizing standards and utilizing core curriculum appropriately. He said they are working on collaboration between schools.

Verenice Gutierrez, iConnect Zone superintendent, said the zone’s literacy performance levels meet benchmarks. She attributes the negative growth in math scores partly to Patriot High School. The school’s participation in testing was high; however, not every student takes math courses. The data for the zone does not include Liberty Tree Academy and Falcon Home School Program. The employee VoW satisfaction score is 7.9 out of 10. The culture and climate survey indicated a score of 8.5 from parents and 6.0 from students.

The zone leaders all report a desire to improve scores and proactively collaborate with all zone superintendents to identify and share best practices.

The next regular meeting of the BOE is Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the Peakview Hall at the Creekside Success Center in Colorado Springs.

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