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El Paso County Colorado District 49

School district 49 board provides superintendent search update – and more

Falcon School District 49’s board met March 13 in regular session. Board president Dave Stark, treasurer Kent Clawson and director Amy McClelland were present. Board vice president Dave Martin and secretary Anna Bartha were traveling on board business.Falcon Elementary School makes progressFalcon Elementary School Principal Nancy Valdez opened the meeting with a presentation about her school. “Our students have made some of the most significant gains on CSAP (Colorado Student Assessment Program) in the district,” Valdez said.Valdez attributed the improvement to technology, such as Smart Board; and timely interventions and teacher development through the Positive Behavior Support System. She also credited the positive behavior system for the 72-percent reduction in suspensions at Falcon Elementary School.Superintendent search updateRobert VanCleave, vice president of the Woodmore Group Inc., the executive search firm hired by the district, gave an update on the search for a new superintendent. VanCleave said 10 candidates were sent a set of six questions.The candidates were allowed two weeks to answer the questions, which probed the candidates’ experience with socio-economic factors in their districts, current academic performances compared with other districts in their area, historical drop-out rates and character development efforts.Two of the candidates declined to answer, VanCleave said.The remaining eight candidates were assigned individual letters (A through H) so they would remain anonymous to the hiring committee – a six-member committee evenly divided between parents of traditional and charter school students and D 49 staff.Committee members then ranked each answer, and based on the findings of all committee members the candidates were ranked overall. One of the candidates was eliminated.”The intent is to be certain we are judging persons as objectively as we can,” VanCleave said. “We don’t want to come to the end of this project with a sense of favoritism and subjectivity.”Stark said that Bartha and Martin also were conducting onsite interviews with people in the candidates’ communities. He said he hopes the board will make a final decision before spring break. If not, the decision will be announced in April.Parent Tom Harold, who served on the committee that ranked the candidates, cautioned the board to adhere to board policy. “If you’re not meeting with every candidate in the same manner, if you have excluded anybody from the shortlist; you have effectively created a finalist list, which should have been announced to the public,” Harold said.”I have checked with a lawyer and the lawyer agrees with me. I would be very, very careful on how you proceed from this point forward. More openness – more communication with this community is only going to reap rewards for you and for this school district.”Elaine Olsen, teacher and co-president of the Falcon Teachers Education Association, said it is illogical for the board to protect the names of the candidates now that D 49 board members are doing onsite interviews. “Don’t you think the school is going to know when you come on site that their person is looking for a job? So, why is it we don’t know who they are?” Olsen asked.Mary Lougee, teacher and co-president of the FTEA, asked if candidates’ rÈsumÈs and answers would be made public. “I’m not the expert,” Stark said. “Everything that is supposed to be a public record I want to be available.”Skyview overcrowdingThe agenda included a plan to relieve overcrowding at Skyview Middle School. The long-range planning committee recommended moving an eight-room pod from Sand Creek High School to Skyview and expanding Skyview’s cafeteria from 1,398 square feet to 2,066 square feet, allowing the school to schedule one lunch period per grade.”I am disappointed to have to come here on the fly and defend a major component of my school,” said Mike Collins, principal at Sand Creek High School. Collin said if the pod is moved, the math department will have to be sprinkled among separate modulars.”This is a department that will take on a new curriculum this year and will have four new teachers,” he said. “Come talk to us before you start moving major components around.”Parent Tammy Harold said she was disappointed that the long-range planning committee had not consulted teacher-parent organizations at Sand Creek and Skyview.”If you want to keep active parents and teachers in those groups, you need to value our opinion and take the time – and maybe it takes an extra week – but ask us and ask the community when there are big issues like that happening,” Harold said.The board decided to delay its decision on moving the pod, pending more information on how moving the pod will affect Sand Creek. Also, the board will review the effects that the new charter school, Imagine, has on enrollment at Skyview.Laptop ireSeveral people spoke to the board about the planned purchase of laptops for board members.Jackie Vialapando said she makes sacrifices because she has a daughter who wants to go to college. Teachers and nurses make sacrifices, too, when they buy supplies out of their own pockets, she said. “I expect the same from the school board. You are going to get laptops for $2,500 [each],” Vialpando said. “We have kids that don’t have access to a computer. I want to urge with everything in me that this money needs to go to the kids. And that’s what we expected when we elected you.”Lougee said her school computer runs Microsoft 2000, and she has trouble reading e-mails from her students because the software is not up to date. “When kids get advanced technology, the public says ‘wow, that is awesome.’ When teachers get technology, the public says, ‘that’s a good thing.’ No one is going to say ‘wow’ when you guys are all using top-of-the line laptops,” Lougee said. “In fact, they are going to think something else.”Tom Harold said the student-to-computer ratio for the state is 4.2 students per computer. “In our district three or four years ago, it was about 15 students. We are now about 12 students,” Harold said. “We have made a little bit of improvement, but we are still far behind the state. For a board that I hear all the time [say] ‘we’re all about students, we’re all about the kids, we’re all about student achievement;’ you’re not, if you’re thinking about buying laptops for yourselves.”Parent Alexandra Eichelberger said when the students go to the library at Sand Creek to do research, half the students just sit there because they don’t have enough computers. “How can teachers teach if we don’t give them the tools? How do we expect our children to succeed if we do not give them the tools? Please reconsider putting yourself first,” Eichelberger said. “Put all of our kids first before your own needs.”Stark defended purchasing the laptops. “So far, the IT department has saved tens if not hundreds, maybe even over a million dollars,” Stark said. “It’s not our job to do tech solutions. That’s the IT department. [Dave Bond, chief information officer] is here this evening, so Jackie or anybody who wants to understand about how he has continued to save the district money, he’s more than glad to explain it to you.”Tammy Harold said she had spoken with Bond. “I understand the district has saved a lot with the new IT department and the things they’ve done,” she said. “Just because you have saved money, doesn’t mean you can spend it on laptops when kids don’t have the resources they need to do their schoolwork and research projects.”Some kids do not have computers at home. They only get them at school. Until there is a working computer in every classroom and the 10-year-old computers at Sand Creek are updated, I am begging you not to buy laptops, especially at this price, until you can provide for the kids.”E-mail black holeSeveral speakers during the open forum segment complained about sending e-mails to board members and not getting any responses.Eichelberger said she sent an e-mail to all the board members Feb. 29. “The only one that really answered me was Kent [Clawson]. It would be really nice if you guys would not just disregard my e-mails,” Eichelberger said.”Your response rate is pathetic on e-mails,” Tom Harold said. “I sent an e-mail and I got one response. Nobody else bothered to respond. My wife has sent an e-mail, neighbors have sent an e-mail, members from our community group have sent e-mails. Nobody gets a response. If you cannot respond to our e-mails, leave the job. Leave it to somebody else to do it.”McClelland said she had not received one of the e-mails that was sent to all board members and that her e-mail was not working. “My home phone number is available at the district’s Web site. People are more than welcome to call me,” she said.”I understand that we have your number, but we want a written, trackable copy of a response,” Tom Harold said. “We don’t want a phone call because I don’t think you want us taping phone calls. We would like your written response.”School uniformsSuperintendent Dr. Nancy Wright said several months ago Bartha asked the administration to gather information on school uniforms. Becky Carter, director of elementary learning services, prepared a report. Because Bartha was not present, the board decided to hear Carter’s presentation at a later meeting.Board approvalsThe board approved the following action items:

  • The opening of an account at Farmers State Bank for the Dane Balcon Scholarship: Balcon graduated from Sand Creek High School in 2006 and died while serving in Iraq. The family has received more than $10,000 in donations and has given the money to the district to be used for a yearly Dane Balcon scholarship.
  • An amendment to the Nunn Construction Inc. contract for changes at Vista Ridge High School in the amount of $28,661.53
  • An annexation agreement with the city of Colorado Springs for Vista Ridge High School: Annexation costs include road construction and utilities for Black Forest Road in the amount of $995,456, water and wastewater fees of $794,354 and land development fees of $349,964, for a total of $2,139,774 to date. The estimate for 2007 for obligated road and utility work is $1.6 million. The district may recover some of the money in the future as the surrounding area develops, said Henry Reitweisner, director of planning and construction.
  • The adoption of Harcourt Language! and Daily Language Instruction for K-5 at an initial cost of $211,013.10
  • The disposal of an obsolete 24 x 60 modular from old Falcon Middle School
  • A resolution to establish passing periods as educational time to meet Colorado Department of Education requirements

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