Colorado School Boards urge adoption of school finance act

school_esmeeGilpin Board of Education enjoys a hot game of Relationship Bingo

by Patty Unruh

The Gilpin Board of Education met on Tuesday, October 18, at 7:00 p.m. Board members Craig Holmes, Brook Ramsey, Charlotte Taylor, and Kersten Armstrong were present; Steve Boulter was absent. Superintendent David MacKenzie, Secondary Principal Alexis Donaldson, Elementary Principal Heather Huntoon, and Secretary to the Board Gretchen Sechler were present.

Artist of the Month

Art teacher Curt Halsted quipped, “For the past three years of doing artist of the month, I have tried to avoid nepotism!” With that being said, he introduced his daughter Esmee Halsted.

Esmee’s work was of an animal called a least chipmunk, and Halsted explained that the students have been working on drawing Colorado animals for Earth Day. Esmee’s work will possibly be entered in the PTA Reflections contest next spring.

Congratulations and Celebrations

Students and staff have completed the first quarter, and parent-teacher conferences are this week. Middle school football is finished for the season, and the middle school volleyball team has its final tournament coming up. High school sports are going well. Donaldson thanked all who were involved in this year’s homecoming.

I Feel the Earth Move!

Victoria Stephens and three of her sixth-grade science students gave a lively presentation on what they had been learning about plate tectonics and how plate motion affects surface motion.

The students, Hannah Donaldson, Skyley Ramsey, and Brandon Robinson, led Board members and parents in a quick game of “Relationship Bingo.” Bingo words included terms like “inner core and outer core,” “convergent and divergent boundaries,” and “Pangea” (all continents existing as one mass thousands of years ago). Players had to figure out the relationship between these words and words on their bingo cards. A good time was had by all, and each player received bubble gum at the game’s conclusion.

Consent Items

The Board approved the business manager’s report, check vouchers, financial statement for September 2016, quarterly financial report for the third quarter of 2016, and the human resources report.

Business Manager Terry Scharg reported in her memo that during September the District received a “significant amount of miscellaneous revenue. Of that amount, $13,693 was received from United Healthcare for a health insurance premium rebate pursuant to the Affordable Care Act.”

Scharg is working on revisions for the revised adopted budget to present to the Board by December. She said that staff changes will account for a majority of the expense revisions, and revenue will likely be adjusted downwards based on the October count (shown in the superintendent’s report below).

CASB Fall Conference Report

Board member Taylor gave a report on the 2016 CASB (Colorado Association of School Boards) Fall Delegate Assembly Conference. Taylor had attended the conference as the Board’s representative over the weekend of October 14-15 in Fort Collins.

Taylor advised that one of the presentations was on leadership during a crisis. She cited an example of sexting addressed by the Canon City School District, which received much attention from media locally, statewide, and even from CNN and outside the country. That situation generated much interest at the CASB meeting in how the district developed an on-the-fly plan for dealing with unheard of media reaction. Taylor suggested examining the details of that incident at the Board’s upcoming retreat.

Taylor noted that there had been a big push at the conference to request a change in the School Finance Act. CASB urged the adoption of a new act to address the lack of equity perceived in the current system. She said there had been a spirited discussion regarding piecemeal remedies, which were rejected in favor of a total overhaul of the act.

“The cost-of-living factor benefits districts that have economy of scale and don’t need money as much,” Taylor said. “The cost-of-living factor might be turned over to at-risk funding where there is more need.”

She said the negative factor and funding for 2016-2017 were also discussed. Some districts will be seeing less funding per pupil. If there is a change, Taylor said, Gilpin’s per pupil funding could change to $107.

Elementary Principal’s Report

Huntoon announced that the elementary school had had its first PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Support) celebration. Mad Science presented “Fire and Ice” for the pupils.

First through fifth grade students celebrated their academic growth with an outing to Adventure Golf.

October 14 was an in-service day for the staff. They discussed possibly using the “flooding” method to help struggling students; Huntoon explained that this would involve intense instruction for 30 minutes a day in a mixed grade group to accommodate certain needs.

Three teachers are attending a week-long training in the Orton Gillingham method to enhance skills on teaching reading. On November 8, teachers will attend Love and Logic training, which will tie into PBIS.

Montessori upper elementary students attended the 100 Elk camping trip.

Secondary Principal’s Report

Students in all classrooms are using these prompts to show what they are learning: “Today I am [doing]…” “So I can…” and “I will know I am successful when…” Donaldson said these have been very helpful in guiding instruction. She commended science teacher Stephens for her work in getting the students excited about science.

During the October 14 in-service day, staff presented what they learned at summer conferences. Additionally, teachers Su Henry and Jessica Selseth presented on effective classroom management during professional learning time on October 5.

All middle school teachers will attend a summit on Saturday, November 5, to learn about topics such as problem-based learning, game-based instruction, geo mapping, community service learning, and much more.

Superintendent’s Report

MacKenzie’s October 4 report to the Board advised that the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) had removed accreditation from Gilpin’s secondary school due to lowered participation in state tests. Accordingly, the superintendent submitted an appeal to the CDE on October 17. The appeal process will take a couple of months. The final ruling will take place sometime during November-January. The ruling will show if CDE agrees to Gilpin’s appeal and removes sanctions it imposed for non-participation.

Holmes said, “We’re not alone.” Other districts are experiencing the same situation. Taylor added that a resolution was approved at the CASB conference for lobbying for the use of PSAT and other similar assessments to satisfy state requirements, as parents were less likely to opt their students out of these tests.

The student count is at 435, down 22 from last year, which may affect the District’s per pupil funding. MacKenzie attributed this in part to some large families leaving.

Wind has delayed finishing of the roof painting. The scraping and priming has been done, and there is only a few days of work left. On Wednesday this week, the south parking lot is to be coned off for utilities work. An electrician checked on the Timberline Fire generator that the chief had offered for the school’s use, and unfortunately it is not compatible with the school’s system.

“We have motor failures each time we have a power surge or failure,” MacKenzie said. He is working on addressing this issue.

A progressive safety drill was held last week, which included a lock-out, where the school’s perimeter was secured. This evolved to a lock-down, where the rooms were cleared. On October 18, elementary and secondary students had Safe2Tell assemblies (anonymous reporting of unsafe situations).

MacKenzie had gotten a $3,500 library grant from CDE. It will be used to update collections for the elementary library and purchase topical materials and periodicals for the secondary literacy center.

A CDE transportation audit will be held on October 31; the District’s maintenance and safety records will be examined.

Food Service Director Jane Yerkman gave a presentation to the District Accountability Committee recently. MacKenzie mentioned Yerkman’s achievement of bringing down the transfers needed from the general fund to the food service fund from $71,000 last school year to $57,000 this year. Breakfast sales are up slightly, and “pizza Thursdays” has been introduced and have been a big hit.

Equipment has been breaking down in the 16-year-old kitchen. MacKenzie said, “We may need to start replacing items instead of repairing them.”

The District has been giving presentations at Rotary Club meetings each week in October. MacKenzie has presented on the school’s site improvement plans and academic achievements. Huntoon will address the club on next steps for the elementary school, and the Interact Club (Rotary-sponsored student group) will attend the last meeting in October.

Next Meeting

The next meeting will be on Tuesday, November 1, at 7:00 p.m.

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