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El Paso County Colorado District 49

School board challenged on earlier start times

A standing-room only crowd attended the School District 49 board meeting Feb. 21. All board members were present, with board president Dave Stark attending via video conferencing from Germany, as he has for several months.The board approved the following action items:

  • The addition of Applied Math in the Real World, Civil Air Patrol, Honors Chemistry, Introduction to Podcasting, and Beginning Audio Production classes to the curriculum
  • A contract with SimplexGrinnel in the amount of $20,173 for the purchase of clocks for Vista Ridge High School
  • A contract in the amount of $18,293.50 for HVAC changes, added door security and atomic clocks at Vista Ridge High School
  • Amendment #10 to the contract with Nunn Construction Inc. in the amount of $33,967.28 for changes at Vista Ridge High School
  • A revision to the contract with LKA Partners Inc. in the amount of $32,237 for additional architectural services at Vista Ridge High School
  • Change Order #16R with GE Johnson Construction Inc., in the amount of $19,529 for work at Falcon High School
Randy Johnson, director of secondary education, provided the board with information on plans to open an alternative school at the old Falcon Middle School for the 2008-2009 school year. The alternative school will serve about 230 middle and high school students starting with students already enrolled in the West Valley and New Directions programs for at-risk high school age students and expelled students, respectively. The school’s preliminary name is the Patriot Learning Center.Sandy Collins, Vista Ridge High School principal, updated the board on plans for opening Vista Ridge High School in the fall of 2008. The school will have engineering and information technology academies, as well as a biomedical academy, which will be “the only biomedical academy in Colorado,” Collins said. The administration plans to partner with Colorado Technical University so students can graduate with a high school diploma as well as an associate’s degree.Doug Peden, executive director of human resources, asked for clarification of the board’s direction with regard to increasing the length of the school day by 30 minutes. The change would add about 12 days to the school year. Peden said the suggested increase received 61 percent approval in a survey of staff and community members.Board president Dave Stark said the district is about 5 percent below other districts in contact time. Board treasurer Kent Clawson said there is no direct correlation between teacher-student contact time and academic performance. Board secretary Anna Bartha said adding more hours for the sake of adding hours does not mean there will be academic improvement. “I don’t want to add 30 minutes to the work day. I want quality, not quantity,” said board vice president Dave Martin.The board agreed that Peden should provide two-year calendars instead of one-year calendars so the district can improve its planning.Linda Stahnke, executive director of Rocky Mountain Classical Academy, appeared before the board to discuss the academy’s plan to extend its current charter to ninth grade, adding a grade per year through grade 12. “I hope you continue your success at higher grade levels,” Stark said.Stark provided an update on the search for a new superintendent: The district sent the 10 candidates still in the running a series of questions. Their answers were due by Feb. 25. A committee will evaluate the responses and report to the board on March 3.Open forumPenny Martinez spoke on behalf of Rocky Mountain Classical Academy. “I appreciate what you do for our children. I am so blessed to live in a place where we have a choice for children. I have a great deal of admiration for what you do,” she said.Eric Billig also spoke on behalf of Rocky Mountain Classical Academy. “I moved here in the fall of 2006 with five children. To have all five of my children at one campus with the same start time was invaluable, especially when my wife deployed,” Billig said.Mark Shook, chairman of the district’s long-range planning committee, said, “I see the growth that is heading our way. I have four grandchildren and two will go to Rocky Mountain Classical Academy. I want to commend the board for approving Rocky Mountain Classical Academy. It is the highest performing school in the district.”Brian Berg, a member of the Rocky Mountain Classical Academy board, said, “With three charter schools and more coming, charter schools will have a big impact in coming years.” With regard to the search for a new superintendent, Berg said, “I know you are going to do the best thing for the district. The superintendent needs to be supportive of charter schools.”Of the 7 a.m. start time at Sand Creek High School and the 7:10 a.m. start time planned for Vista Ridge High School, Sand Creek High School science teacher Mary Lougee said “I hope and pray that you look at the start times. Research data says kids don’t do well with such early start times. It is still dark in the winter at 7 a.m.”Referring to Stark’s attendance of board meetings via video conferencing, Lougee asked that Stark resign. “I am asking you to resign because you cannot carry out your position from a foreign country, and I ask you to cede the reins to someone else,” Lougee said.Sand Creek teacher Linda Koiter said she is also concerned about the 7 a.m. start time at Sand Creek High School. “Come five days in a row to see what this is doing to our kids,” she said.Parent Paul Fuschich said, “I don’t see where 7 a.m. is a big issue. I drive my daughter to school and have to be at work at 7 a.m.”Parent Alexandra Eichelberger said she is concerned some teachers may leave the district. “I was disappointed to not see any board members at the public forums held three weeks ago. You will have to face the community. I believe in public schools. If it is too hard for you, the beauty of holding a public position is you can resign. It’s about the teachers. It’s about our kids,” Eichelberger said.Stark said the board was advised that board members and staff should not attend the public forums. “We want to have less formal community meetings attended by pairs of board members starting in March and on a quarterly basis,” Stark said.Call for board’s resignationAt School District 49’s board meeting on Feb. 13, Randy Brungardt called for the board to resign.”The board of education has and continues to threaten the jobs of district employees if they speak out against the board or its decisions,” Brundgart said. “This is not going to be tolerated. We request that Mr. Dave Martin, Mr. Dave Stark, Mrs. Amy McClelland, Mrs. Anna Bartha, and Mr. Kent Clawson immediately submit their letters of resignation from the Falcon School District 49 board of education.”According to an article posted at, several speakers “voiced support for the board, but the majority of the speakers expressed concerns about the board’s actions and priorities.”At previous D 49 board meetings, several teachers expressed concern that the educational standards the district is using to select a new superintendent are not high enough.According to a Feb. 14 article in The Gazette, Stark and Martin said they have no intention of stepping down.On Feb. 19, Bartha wrote at “Our board is united in our passion, love and devotion for our students, staff and community.” McClelland wrote the board plans to “hire a quality superintendent who will be focused on helping us continue to accomplish our goals.”Shook also spoke about Brungardt’s call for the board to resign. “In the heat of the moment, we get a little passionate. I believe all sides want what’s best for kids,” Shook said. “Since you have been elected by a majority of the voters and have the responsibility, I want you to carry out your duty and do what’s best for kids. I admire the time you put in. We are going to be the No. 1 district in the Pikes Peak region. Let’s get all the divisive stuff behind us. Let’s lock arms and start moving forward.”Brungardt was a member of the D 49 board until the elections last November in which he placed third among four candidates running for two board seats. Brungardt did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.

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