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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Working hard and working together – our educational journey

Even though cold air and fresh snow reminds us that we are in the middle of winter, the spring semester is in full swing in District 49. We are in one of our longer stretches of learning during the academic year. Our students and schools continue to seize opportunities, earn recognition and continue a steady march toward becoming the best district to learn, work and lead.Falcon High Schoolís three-year innovation plan expires in May. Our community has already modeled what a meaningful and successful partnership should look like. Significant numbers of parents, students and teachers have suggested specific improvements that would make standards based grading at the school more effective.Creating a new innovation proposal for Falcon High School is a journey that requires even more community collaboration to best serve all of our FHS students. There are multiple opportunities for you to participate and share your ideas and input over the next two months. All recommendations will be under consideration, as the Falcon High School community develops an innovation proposal to become effective in the fall of 2015.

  • Feb. 17: Initial meeting at Falcon High School at 6 p.m.
  • Feb. 23-27: Public comment period
  • March 5: Second meeting at Falcon High School – 6 p.m.
  • March 9-12: Public comment period
  • March 18: Information packet with a new innovation plan proposal delivered to D 49 board
  • March 25: D 49 board work session (BOE may direct changes to innovation plan)
  • March 26-April 3: BOE feedback adjustments
  • April 9: D 49 Board of Education meeting; vote on new FHS innovation plan
Over the past nine months, Colorado districts have learned about a new approach to graduation based on mastery of standards, rather than seat time accumulating credits. This change is a profound shift in how we support students and plan their path to success. Rather than waiting on direction from state experts, leaders in District 49 began meeting over a year ago to develop the system we call 49 Pathways. State regulations already require schools to create an individualized career and academic plan (ICAP) for every student, but we decided to go beyond the state minimums and build an integrated system that supports students no matter what destination they may pursue.We formed a dedicated task force ó the Pathbuilders ó to lead the effort. To ensure that ICAPs inform our curriculum, assessment and school improvement programs, we asked Amber Whetstine, our executive director of Learning Services, to join the team. To complement Ms. Whetstineís expertise, we added Zach Craddock, our executive director of Individualized Education, who is adapting ICAP across our programs for Special Education, English Language Development and Gifted and Talented services. Since many of our studentsí pathways will include career and technical preparation, Nikki Lester, our director of Career and Technical Education, became an essential member of the team. With the growing importance of concurrent enrollment as an accelerated pathway, we created a new leadership position; and welcomed Mary Perez, our inaugural director of Concurrent Enrollment to join the Pathbuilders. Finally, since the scope and importance of this initiative demands constant and excellent communications, we recruited Matt Meister away from a career in broadcast meteorology to become our director of communications and the chief messenger of 49 Pathways.I often observe that we have one of the finest leadership teams in Colorado. Our central administrative core is smaller than comparable districts, but they make up for size with extraordinary quality. The programs they lead were recently featured in Education Week, a national publication that promoted District 49 as one of the ìTop 25 Districts to Visitî around the country. Along with national affirmation, the State Board of Education has honored your District 49 Pathbuilders team with an Award of Excellence for district-wide ICAP implementation. As one of only three districts to win this award, all of us who make up District 49 should be proud and grateful to have such stellar leadership. Last month, a series of information nights were held where our secondary students and families learned about the great options for great students in District 49. If you visit, you can read more about our leading program.While we are enthusiastic about our award-winning plans for secondary students, this is also a season of meaningful success and progress for our youngest learners. After making primary literacy our highest priority across the elementary level; parents, teachers and especially students have taken the challenge to demonstrate reading games like never before. Instead of relying on once-a-year scores like TCAP or PARCC, our teachers are emphasizing short and mid-term assessments to track and adjust reading progress. As many parents of elementary students learned at parent-teacher conferences, the emphasis on literacy is paying off. While state testing is changing around us, our internal measures are showing significant improvement in both growth and achievement. Along with literacy camps during fall, spring and summer breaks, District 49 has made a heavy investment in specialists and specialized training to fulfill our commitment to primary literacy for every student.Days are getting gradually longer. We are getting just enough warm days to remind us that the new life of spring isnít far away. We are in a season of rededication to the things we value in District 49. As I reflect on the privilege of serving you, it is natural to be dedicated to delivering success for every student. We are grateful that you trust us with your children; and we commit to repaying that trust by giving our very best to everyone.

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