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El Paso County Colorado District 49

School board showdown: Vista Ridge sports vs. new student information system

Two programs were presented at the Falcon School District 49 Board of Education meeting April 28: sports at Vista Ridge High School and a new student information system. The programs pull from unrelated funding sources, but during discussions approval for the SIS was dependent on funding for sports.David Bond, chief information officer, presented the board his recommendation for a new student information system. The current SIS, purchased in 2001, has not kept up with the changing needs of the district, and D 49 is the only district in Colorado still using the system, Bond said.He added that the current SIS is labor intensive, and the D 49 Internet Technology Department can’t provide the district with real-time student data. Because it lacks a Web-based interface, the SIS doesn’t readily transfer data to other programs the district uses, such as “InTouch,” a program available to parents tracking their students’ grades.Parent Tammie Herald agreed and expressed frustration that “InTouch” doesn’t accurately reflect completed assignments. Herald regularly checks her child’s grades online. “I’ll think his grades are fine and suddenly three weeks of tests and assignments appear, and he has a D,” she said.Bond said that a new SIS with a Web-based interface could fix the problems Herald described. A less cumbersome program would free up administration, teachers and staff to focus on students. Reports that currently take staff six weeks to compile could be completed in a matter of days.Grant Schmidt, new D 49 superintendent, agreed that the district needs a new SIS. “In order to move forward as a district, solid infrastructure is important,” Schmidt said.The IT department evaluated three systems and recommended that the district purchase “Infinite Campus,” which comes with a five-year price tag of $730,268 – substantially more than the current system and either of the other systems IT considered.Kent Clawson, board treasurer, questioned the prudence of the additional cost. “I’m hesitant to choose (Infinite Campus) over a program that impacts kids,” he said, citing classroom computers and sports at Vista Ridge.After further discussion, both Clawson and board vice president Dave Martin tabled a vote to fund the new system until they were able to ensure sports programs at Vista Ridge.”I have good news,” Jim Walsh, Vista Ridge construction manager said, as he presented the budget. Walsh said that savings from a variety of projects funded by the 2005 Mill Levy Override have netted a $2.5 million surplus to the Vista Ridge project.Per an annexation agreement with Colorado Springs, $1.7 million is committed to completing sewer and utility lines. Walsh said allocation of the remaining funds was at the board’s discretion.Walsh recommended the board designate $250,000 to buy Vista Ridge uniforms, sports equipment and scoreboards.”I can vote in clear conscience for the new SIS program knowing sports programs are fully funded,” Martin said. Funding for “Infinite Campus” was brought to a vote and passed unanimously.Administrators attending the meeting were relieved the board approved the new system. Parents in the audience weren’t so sure.”I didn’t see enough justification for the higher priced system,” said parent Tom Harold.Other issues brought before the board included:

  • Approval to expand Positive Behavior Support System to Remington Elementary, Falcon Middle School, Sand Creek High School, Vista Ridge High School and the District Preschool Team. PBS focuses on prevention, rather than reaction, to negative behavior. Schools piloting the program have seen a dramatic decline in the number of office referrals, suspensions and expulsions.
  • Revision of the district nondiscrimination/equal opportunity policy: The board authorized a committee comprised of students, parents, staff, administration and community members to review current policies. The committee will make recommendations to ensure respectful treatment of students and staff, align district policy with state and federal statutes and train personnel and students to prevent and report discrimination, should it occur.
  • Consideration of a partially self-funded health insurance plan: Employees would see no change in their benefits, and the new program would save the district money. In years of low claims, the district would keep the excess premiums. When claims exceeded 125 percent of estimated claims for the year, the district would purchase stop-loss insurance to cover expenditures. No action was taken on this item; the board encouraged the insurance committee to continue developing the plan.

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