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El Paso County Colorado District 49

February BOE meeting wrap-up

All members of the El Paso County Colorado School District 49 Board of Education were present for the regular meeting in February, except for John Koster, who was absent with prior notice. Lorelai Westerlund, a student at the Pikes Peak Early College, and Colton McCormack, a student at the Springs Studio for Academic Excellence, also attended as members of the student board of representatives.Before the regular meeting, the BOE held a ìFantastic 49î and recognized the following: Frances Delgado, counselor from Patriot High School, for promoting positivity and kindness throughout the school; Pam Traylor, attendance secretary from Evans International Elementary School, for her part in transitioning from E-learning to in-person learning; Sˆndra Rymer, discovery professor at the Academy for Literacy, Learning and Innovation Excellence, who turned personal challenges into life lessons; and Linda Rogers, business teacher at Horizon Middle School, for helping to address equity in education.Board updateJohn Graham, president, recognized the Samaritanís Feet Project for providing new shoes to 180 students at Odyssey Elementary School and Horizon middle for being nominated for the 2021 Best of Colorado Springs award in the middle school category.He also recognized Angelica Marquez, family engagement community liaison from Evan elementary, for being a finalist for the ìNexstar Woman of the Yearî award, which honors influential women across the nation who have had an impact on public policy, social progress and the quality of life.Chief officersí updatePeter Hilts, chief education officer, acknowledged the Falcon High School girls basketball team for maintaining their undefeated record; and Mariah Hoffman, a seventh-grade student at Horizon, for being nominated for the Young Trailblazer award through for her perseverance during COVID-19.Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, said his department has finalized the amended budget for the year and will begin working on next yearís budget at the end of February.Ridgway also addressed the recent discord about a controversial curriculum topic that garnered attention in the media, specifically how the Black Lives Matter movement was presented to a class and the repercussions the teacher faced for not following BOE policy and protocol prior to that presentation.ìThe recent topics are good topics to have good conversation with,î he said. ìBut itís been disappointing the way some of this has been portrayed in the media. Some of this has been intended to be provocative rather than informative, and some media outlets havenít even picked it up at all and that should be a good indication that there is likely more to the story.îPedro Almeida, chief operations officer, said he echoed Ridgwayís sentiments and added that a good, smart and open dialog based on accurate information is the proper way to approach this.Almeida said the nutrition services and transportation departments still have significant personnel shortages and encouraged anyone interested to seek out one of the job opportunities. The district is still about 30 bus drivers short of the fleet size requirements, he said.Open forumVarious students, parents, community members as well as current and former staff members addressed the board: Natalie Dodson, 10th grade student at Sand Creek High School; John Nikolai, homeowner; Karlie Valer, staff member; Jeff Hall, retired special education teacher; Tymm Hoffman, parent; Bronwyn Roland, parent; Sabrina Balister, community member; Chauncy Johnson, community member; Charles Johnson, community member; Ronald B. [last name not provided], parent of students in D 49; Teddi Roberts, homeowner and grandparent of a D 49 student; Regina Lewis, Ph.D, consultant partner with ReginaSpeaking, LLC; and Rebecca Willey, former D 49 student.Each speaker voiced their opinions, concerns and frustrations with and/or approval of the decision the BOE made to reprimand the teacher involved in the Black Lives Matter curriculum controversy.Hilts requested the BOE move a discussion item about the Equity Leadership in D 49 up so he and Louis Fletcher, Ph.D., director of culture and services, could have a chance to respond and share where district leadership is heading with this issue. The board unanimously agreed.Together, Fletcher and Hilts presented an overview of Equity Leadership and noted the formation of the Equity Leadership Advisory Council, which allows the community to have open and honest communication with D 49.In response to the open forum comments, Hilts said one of the reasons for the policy that requires notification of parents for potentially controversial curriculum topics is not so people can opt out of that lesson but so that parents do not have to react to a lesson and feel like the district is trying to impose something upon them without any conversational awareness.ìWe want to be in a place that is courageous, saying the things that must be said and feeling the things that must be felt, but letís be constructive,î Fletcher said. ìLetís get moving in the direction of a place where we live together in more harmony.îAction itemsThe BOE unanimously approved the following:

  • The renewal application for the Power Technical Early College charter agreement
  • The new athletic trainer job description
  • The school family calendars for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years
  • Revisions to these policies: disclosure of information to prospective employers; retirement of staff; instructional staff reduction; student drug and alcohol involvement; and physical intervention and restraint
  • Revised BOE meeting dates for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years and the proposed meetings dates for the 2022-2023 school year
  • A resolution supporting suspension of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success standardized assessment for the spring of 2021
Discussion itemsDave Watson, director of safety and security, updated the board on activities within his department and said the district is almost one year into the armed security program, which currently has six armed officers assigned in the secondary schools.Watson said the district uses a tool called Securly to monitor school communications for Google Docs and student emails with filtering capabilities, and it provided 18,500 alerts of keyword-blocked activity relating to mental health/self-harm concerns, depression and other concerns or school topics. D 49 has been using that program for about two years and intends to implement a district standard for reporting and responding to those alerts, especially after-school hours, he said.Matt Barrett, director of data and performance, provided an annual update on his teamís activities.Hilts provided an update on the Return to Learn plan and said the district is constantly monitoring the data provided by local and state health officials to help guide the decision to bring students back into schools full-time. He noted the stress that short notification of changes to the learning status has put on families, and does not intend to make those decisions the norm.Hilts said he and the other chief officers will use the most recent data to provide a Return to Learn timeline recommendation to the board.The next regular meeting of the BOE is March 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Peakview Hall at the Creekside Success Center in Colorado Springs.

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