By Deb Risden
The El Paso County School District 49 Board of Education held its monthly meeting Nov. 9. All BOE members were present. Amy Matisek, internal communications manager, started the Fantastic 49 celebration honoring the following:
- Central Registration staff — Heidi Evans, Suzanne Clift and Stefanie Trollope – for understanding the unique needs and requirements surrounding a military-connected move and helping students and families with a smooth transition to D 49.
- Inspiration View Elementary leaders — Jessica Cole, Alison Kiselich and Leslie Chase — for launching Anchored4Life, a student leadership program for teaching lessons on resiliency and change to support military-connected students and the entire student body.
- Karen Hobson, community member and volunteer, for her support of Evans Elementary through serving on student and district accountability committees and encouraging the startup of a parent teacher association.
- Lauren Stuart, Sand Creek Zone community liaison, for leading the Student Board of Representatives, launching a zone resource center and playing a key role on district committees.
- Robert Sparks, general education router in the Transportation Department, for going above and beyond to serve a family in the Falcon Zone that needed transportation services and assistance in their native language.
- Falcon Middle School students Isabella Carrasco and Nicholas Kamysz and D 49 bus driver Brittany Diamanti for their quick action in handling a situation involving a student experiencing a seizure. All three were commended for taking appropriate action and exhibiting grace under pressure.
Peter Hilts, superintendent, welcomed newly elected BOE members Marie LaVere-Wright, Debra Schmidt and Mike Heil. He expressed appreciation for all who worked on the school ballot measure for increasing teacher pay. He said the district learned from the election. He said there is a misunderstanding among some staff and community members that teachers will not receive a raise in pay. “We have given raises every year for the last 13 except one and we will give a raise again this year,” Hilts said. “We believe the MLO was the best path but not the only path.” Hilts said results from the Voice of the Workforce survey and listening sessions will be completed in December with key themes summarized in January 2024.
Student Board of Representatives’ update
Juliet Olsen, Vista Ridge High School junior, said she and other students on the SBOR appreciate working with the current board and look forward to working with the next board. She said they are passionate about the public school system and making students the best they can be. She said the SBOR recognizes the importance of SEL (social emotional learning) in D 49 schools.
John Graham, president, said he toured several schools. “They are doing a great job of analyzing data to see where they can increase student achievement and outcomes.” Graham stressed that academic achievement will take commitment from teachers, administrators, support staff, parents and community members. Graham attended the recent SBOR meeting and commented on how he is impressed by the student leaders in D 49. Graham said he met with D 49 charter school presidents to address their concerns and has prepared a written response. He said the charter schools are partners in the district; 60% of the district students attend charter school or Education reEnvisioned Board of Cooperative Education Services home school enrichment programs.
Rick Van Wieren, vice president, expressed his desire for the next BOE and the district to work together in a positive way on the goals, focusing on accomplishment, particularly the goal of becoming Accredited with Distinction, as well as focus on mental health and school culture.
Lori Thompson, secretary, noted the recent loss of a D 49 student to fentanyl and said the district should continue to do their best to educate students, protect them; she encouraged the support of the SBOR in those efforts.
The BOE unanimously approved the following:
- New job description for social worker intern
- New course proposal: Health Science Capstone with QMAP and Phlebotomy Internship
- Cultural Leadership Advisory Council dissolved
- Policy IKF, civics education, with minor revisions
- Revisions to policy KEC providing clarity and efficiency for future challenges to instructional materials
- Superintendent evaluation metrics revised to align with monitoring academic performance and the goal to become Accredited with Distinction
- Resolution for American Education Week, Nov. 13-17
- Ongoing BOE policy and procedure review ensuring district compliance with current laws and regulations and alignment with practices that best service the district
Kurt Skinner, deputy director of American Legion’s Colorado Boys State Program, provided information about a partnership the American Legion Boys and Girls State Programs developed with schools to provide students a week-long, hands-on program in learning civics and self-government. High school seniors who are selected participate in activities such as setting up political parties, forming caucuses and selecting a mayor, city council members and county commissioners. They learn how to campaign for political office at the state level and operate all three branches of government. There are no GPA requirements. The program is funded by the American Legion and the Daniels Fund.
Ken Witt, executive director of Education reEnvisioned Board of Cooperative Education Services, provided a summary of the organization’s vision and activities. Witt said the organization has increased focus in the past two years on in-home school enrichment programs. D 49, Montezuma-Cortez and Pikes Peak State College are members with a total enrollment of about 7,000 students. ERBOCES provides innovative outdoor programs, as well as art, dyslexia, literacy and core curriculum programs for home schooled, online and students attending brick and mortar schools.
Amy Sanchez-Martinez, principal, Sand Creek High School requested consideration for upper-level Mandarin Chinese courses. She said there are currently 150 students enrolled in Mandarin Chinese I and 19 in Mandarin Chinese II. The new courses will provide a path for these students beyond the first two years. The request for additional courses was moved forward for a vote at the next BOE meeting.
Sanchez-Martinez proposed that D 49 consider adding a public safety and criminal justice curriculum pathway to meet student interest in the career field. She said there are 90 students who have identified interest in this pathway. The budget impact for adding coursework is one full-time equivalent. Hilts said offering this program will likely increase enrollment, which will pay for the staff change. “We won’t be adding this at the expense of something else,” Hilts said. The request for adding the public safety and criminal justice career pathway was moved forward for a vote at the next BOE meeting.
Bruce Brown, facility project manager, provided an operations performance update. He said the Vista Ridge High School addition is in process with the foundation being installed and walls going up in the next four to six weeks. The transportation center is in process and Sand Creek High School tennis courts are complete. The Horizon Middle School addition design is 90% complete. The plan includes building a 26,167-square-foot addition that will replace three modulars. It includes an auxiliary gym, weight room, band room, choir/orchestra room and 12 classrooms. Construction begins March 2024 with a scheduled completion of winter 2025.
Graham reviewed the post-election scheduling for new BOE members. It is anticipated the abstract of votes will be received by El Paso County by Nov. 29. A special meeting to swear in new board members will take place in early December.
The next regular meeting of the BOE is Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the Peakview Hall at the Creekside Success Center in Colorado Springs.