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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Notes from the D 49 February Board Meeting

The Feb. 2 school board meeting, held at Meridian Ranch Elementary, began with board of education president Dave Martin stating that all agenda changes must be in by the Wednesday prior to the scheduled meeting. Martin said he meets with school superintendent Dr. Steven Hull every Wednesday and would like to finalize the agenda at that time. The other four board members agreed.First on the agenda was a demonstration by the Colorado Springs jump rope team. Twenty-nine students will participate in the Junior Olympics this summer in Sacramento, Calif.Eric Paugh, principal of Meridian Ranch Elementary, presented the mission and the school’s vision. Paugh described several school programs, including professional learning communities, focused learning, individual literacy and enrichment programs in an effort to ensure that every student is receiving the best education possible. He also praised the teachers and staff for their hard work, and emphasized the many monthly volunteer hours working with students outside traditional school hours.Hull stated that all of the $80.5 million approved by the voters last November will be spent as promised – on school construction projects that were listed on the ballot. Hull then described two sources of additional monies that the district will receive, which could increase the coffers by as much as $8 million. Interest earned on the $80.5 million over the next two years could generate $1.8 million, he said. The other revenue would come from county taxes collected on annual vehicle sales and registrations – estimated at $500,000 a year.Hull recommended to the board that part of the money be used to lower the individual tax burden for D 49 residents and $6 million for future construction. He also proposed that $175,000 be used for construction management to keep current and future construction projects on schedule and within budget. Hull also stated the interest money can be used for anything the board approves.Hull also reported that the district wants to bring back all day kindergarten in at least one class per elementary school for the 2006-07 school year. Evans Elementary School is looking at the possibility of bringing the International Baccalaureate program to its school. Falcon Elementary School is investigating the idea of becoming a technology focused school. After research is completed, public input will be invited on the school proposals.Henry Weitwiesner, director of construction management and long-range planning, reported that all school construction projects are under budget and ahead of schedule.Action Items:The first action item was the “Bond Series 2002 Refunding Parameters Resolution.” Because of market conditions, it is estimated the district will save $75,000 per year for the outstanding terms of the bonds. The refunding would reduce the mill levy rate in the bond redemption fund. The savings to Falcon taxpayers is about $1.2 million. All BOE members approved the resolution.The next item approved was a policy to define property acreage sufficient for future school sites.The final action item was the approval of Fund 46, which was created to manage the mill levy override funds and to ensure that all dollars are spent on construction projects.Open Forum:Paul Strodtman expressed concern regarding the proposed expulsion policy. The proposal calls for students who have been suspended to receive a 50-percent penalty on all assignments missed during their suspension. Strodtman encouraged the board to disapprove it. Calling the policy counter productive, he stated that the kids’ grades should be penalized, but not at a 50-percent grade reduction. Steve Jaszai also disapproved the expulsion policy.Brian Nuberg voiced concern regarding high school No. 3. The area is comprised of five-acre home sites, and many of those will border the new high school. Nuberg has lived there since 1963, and mentioned there was no school district representative at a meeting of his neighbors, developers and the city of Colorado Springs in December. Nuberg was concerned regarding construction noise, dust, drainage and student conduct. He cited newspaper reports of angry neighbors of Sand Creek High School, and said their community would appreciate being a part of the process. Hull proposed a meeting between Weitwiesner and the community.Informational items:Strategic Resources West, which has been contracted by the district to aid in planning future growth, presented on the Geological Information System. The GIS mapping gives a demographic overviews of future developments. It is predicted, for example, that Banning Lewis Ranch will build out with more than 6,600 elementary students.Discussion items:Hull emphasized the importance of his proposed leadership organization improvements. “Using ‘best practices’ is not rocket science,” Hull said. Citing the 25-to-30 percent of students who struggle in school and the rapid growth of the district, he underscored the need for administrative control to ensure that all students succeed. “We need coordination of functions and a clear focus on our goals to maximize efficiency,” Hull said. “If you do nothing, you end up with islands of excellence. I want every school to be great.” Hull also talked about the failures of reactive management.Board member Anna Bartha expressed concern regarding the proposed $115,000 salary for the chief operation officer. “While I agree with much of the proposal, I’m not convinced that a COO is necessary,” Bartha said. She stated that teacher pay raises should be discussed first. Bartha also stated that she and other board members could help Hull with lobbying at the state level, attending local county commissioner meetings as district representatives and other essential duties in order to allow him additional time to handle the day-to-day district operations.Board president Dave Martin stated that the COO salary equates to $6 per month per employee and should not be a factor in the board’s decision. Board member David Stark asked Hull to write a job description for the COO for evaluation, and Hull agreed.The next board meeting will be March 2 at the Woodman Road central administration office.

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