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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Public Education in Colorado – a bit of history

Public education in Colorado came about in the 1860s and it’s now 2005. Did you ever wonder what it was like in the beginning?In 1861, when Colorado was still a territory, legislation addressing public schools came into existence. The first legislation created the position of a territorial superintendent of schools, provided for the election of a county superintendent of schools and the right for people to petition a county superintendent for an election to create tax supported school districts.In 1876, Colorado achieved statehood. The political ideology that shaped our state was based on Jeffersonian idea of government, and this in turn shaped public education in the state. To be a Jeffersonian meant you favored a free education and you believed a literate and informed populace was essential to the vitality of our representative form of government, to name just two. (To read more on this, the Colorado Department of Education has made available “A Report on Colorado School District Organization” as a PDF download from this time it was possible for parents of 10 or more children to petition the county superintendent of schools for the formation of a new school district. The early history of Falcon School District reflects this as a number of districts that existed then are now a part of our own district’s history. (A brief history of Falcon School District is in the Sep/Oct 04 Edition of the Falcon Flyer at districts in Colorado numbered 685 by 1886 and 2,105 by 1935. Over a 30-year period ending in 1965, consolidations reduced the number of school districts to 181. Over the next 30-year period ending in 1995, there were five fewer districts. Today, there are total of 178 school districts in the state – 11 within El Paso County. Four districts extend into other counties beyond El Paso and two others that extend into El Paso County are not considered school districts of the county.The increase in the number of school districts between 1995 and today is due to the dissolution of two school districts into four new districts. Through 1991, no legal mechanism existed to dissolve or split a district. In 1992, legislation made it possible for school districts to dissolve or reorganize (split). The process for dissolving or reorganizing (splitting) a district is lengthy and time consuming, and it requires a citizenry willing to undertake the task. (To read more on this, CDE has made available “Manual of Procedures for School Organization Act of 1992 as Amended” as a PDF download from do you perceive our school district and the role you play in it? School districts belong to the community they serve. What about your role in our community? The vitality of our community depends on all of us. How others perceive our community depends on our level of involvement. In many respects, our schools are the reflection of our community. I see is a community whose identity and prominence among other communities is changing and it’s uncomfortable with what is happening. How do we embrace and manage change?No single person in our district owns the issues facing our schools – we all do.When you hear other communities hold in high esteem their district and its public schools, have you ever wondered why we don’t have the same positive things to say about our community, our district and our schools? Looking back, I see similarities between what I experienced during my first few years in the military when Jimmy Carter was president and our present day community. The malaise that permeated our society, our military, and the message that the United States was no longer the leader it once was in the world was demoralizing, to say the least, and in some respects it echoes what I hear today in our community.I still recall how the malaise disappeared virtually overnight when Ronald Reagan became president. However, it wasn’t overnight that things changed, but the perception of how we viewed ourselves and in turn how others saw us made it possible for things to get better. I look forward to this change happening in our community, but it won’t be through the actions of a single person, it will be through the actions of all of us.

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