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11/28/2013 Revamped school board gets up to speed on various issues

At the November 11 school board meeting, the new directors jumped right into school governance. Outgoing President Randy Woods swore in the new members and the board elected its new officers, with Brenda Gaide as board President, Monty Lee as Vice-President and Jill Rowland as the secretary and treasurer. Though the agenda included directors to be assigned to committees, the Board agreed to determine appointments at the December meeting, giving new board members time to decide what committees they’d like to serve on.

Approval of personnel hires was also deferred to the next meeting since the three new board members needed time to review them.

Then, the Excellence in Education committee, represented by Lori Short, gave its report. Describing the "Got-It" program as "a shining star," Short noted that the group was gearing up for the Wet Mountain Valley Community Foundation’s "Spirit Campaign," described as "the big fundraiser of the year." She encourages residents to donate $25, if not more, to help support the Excellence in Education programs.

In her Accountability report, Alisha Taylor indicated the committee has reviewed the safety crisis and response procedure and have determined it a good plan. It also reviewed the evaluation process of teachers and went over evaluation ideas with the Superintendent.

On the agenda, Tara Raye, director of Magic Moments, presented her program to the board, which assists in the education of elementary school kids.

In her report, elementary school principal Holly Anderson described how grade school faculty have focused assessing the literacy of students. She indicated a new law has gone into effect, the "Read Act," or Reading to Ensure Academic Development, which targets the literacy of kids up to the 3rd grade. She noted, "research shows if children are not reading grade level by grade 3, they will be behind in their next classes. If there is a significant gap between kids reading and performance scores, teachers will intervene and write a reading plan for the individual student. The reading plan will pull in parents to identify what reading needs to be done at home and at school."

Anderson also discussed the "Burst program," paid for by Title 1. It provides ten days of instruction, followed by a small assessment and, based on assessment, another ten days of instruction is given to the student. She said, "We are constantly checking to make sure and if pedagogy doesn’t work, then we change for the individual student. We have to make a difference and move our kids forward.

In her report, middle and high school principal Barbara Jones noted recent parent/teacher meetings involved more participation, which she credits to the conferences being advertised on the new sign. Also, Jones said an anonymous donation provided funds to bring a motivational speaker, Tom Henderson, to the school. He spoke to an assembly of students, grades 6 through 12, on October 29. Jones described it an impressive presentation on powerful personal relationships that held the kids’ attention.

Jones further reported that in November 18 seniors participated in a pilot project of Colorado Measure of Academic Success (CMAS), a social studies and science test.

In his report, Superintendent Chris Selle announced the student count in November sat at 414. That number changed the district to an 8-man football team (from a 11-man team). Selle indicated that change will allow the Bobcats to be more competitive and play schools with similar number of populations as Custer County. He believes the change will also make the football field more safe for students.

Selle also discussed the non-passage of state ballot Amendment 66. He noted the governor mandated 2.6 percent increase for public education, at a total of $200 million. Though with $50,000 slated for the Custer County school district, Selle pointed out the state projection on enrollment was higher than actual student numbers; therefore, Selle is not sure if the mandated increase will equate more money for the school.

On school safety and crisis response, Selle also said a full scale simulation plan will take place in April 2014.

Selle pointed out that the federal E-rate reimbursement of $29,000 for school telephone and internet use had been rejected; Selle is appealing that decision.

Discussing teacher evaluations, Selle stated that 50 percent of teacher evaluations are based on measures of student learning, which requires student assessment. Selle stressed the need for teacher and board feedback in framing these evaluations.

The superintendent also noted he received the state standards on graduation. The district can adopt its own standards as long as they exceed state requirements. However, Selle usually accepts what the state requires due to funding.

At the end of the meeting, new board member Davis made several suggestions on how to reconfigure the board administration. For instance, she requested more opportunities for public involvement and handouts provided to the audience on all agenda items.

In discussion, the board agreed to visit these issues once its members have attended the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) conference held in Colorado Springs December 5-8.

– Cyn Williams