Gilpin County School Board wraps up before winter break

Mill levy, revised adopted budget, student presentation

by Patty Unruh

The Gilpin County School Board held its regular meeting on Tuesday, December 11, at 7:00 p.m., the last before the winter break begins on Thursday, December 20. Members present were Craig Holmes, Brook Ramsey, Sarah Swanson, Kersten Armstrong, and Steve Boulter. Superintendent David MacKenzie, Secondary Principal Alexis Donaldson, Business Manager Terry Scharg, and Secretary to the Board Joni Schmidt were also present. Elementary Principal Heather Huntoon was absent.

Congratulations and Celebrations

Last week, between 40 and 60 students were out sick, but children are beginning to return.

Middle and high basketball and wrestling are going well; the middle school girls’ basketball team was undefeated this season and competed in the 5280 tournament on December 10.

For the second year in a row, Gilpin Elementary has won the John Irwin Award. This is given to schools that exceed academic expectations. The elementary school has been accredited with distinction once again.

It’s Delicioso!

Sophomores Damian Sonsino and Jasmine Ahrends from Su Henry’s Spanish II class presented their project on authentic Spanish restaurants. The three-week assignment was part of their project-based learning curriculum. The class researched authentic restaurants in five different Spanish-speaking countries. Damian’s group took Spain, and Jasmine’s group covered Argentina. They were required to call restaurants in the Denver area and do online research on restaurants in those countries.

After doing their research, they named their own restaurant, created menus, and performed skits where they acted the parts of patrons and waiters, placed orders, and conversed in Spanish about their meals. The students set individual and group goals, and completed scoring rubrics.

The only thing needed to make the presentation perfect was samples of food; however, no cooking was involved, nor were field trips made to the restaurants, which apparently cost more than the average student budget.

Public Comment

Scott Murphy addressed comments to the Board regarding the Safe2Tell (confidential safety tip line) presentation that had been held the previous week. He said one of his children felt he had been bullied and didn’t want to come to school any more. Murphy reported the bullying had been done by a teacher.

His student had been pulled in for something occurring at recess early in the school year and was sent to Principal Huntoon. The child apparently seemed confused as to why he was there. He had also been pulled in the week before and reprimanded for something he had not done. Murphy had spoken with Huntoon, who agreed the child knew nothing of the issue.

Murphy believed the matter should have been handled differently and suggested that a district-wide procedure should be developed.

Murphy also commented positively about the school STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) fair. This year’s fair takes place on December 18-20. He has volunteered at the fair for several years.

“I’m such a fan of the STEM fair. I want it promoted more. It doesn’t get the justice it deserves,” he noted.

He was concerned that the fair this year is being held right before the winter break, when many people are leaving for the holidays. He stated that the fair has been held at several different times of the year in the past and lacks a consistent time frame. He felt it would be good to display the winning projects in the school hallways for a while and also have an evening public viewing time with concessions, just as sports events or concerts.

He noted that in the past, each project received three judgings; last year, there were only two judgings per student. Murphy felt perhaps high school students could serve as additional judges. He thought it odd that the fair is not promoted in the middle or high schools.

Board member Holmes said Murphy had brought up some good points and said that the Board would consider them.

MS Wrestling Reinstated

Athletic Director Jeff Schuessler requested that the middle school wrestling extracurricular activity program be reinstated. He said it had been discontinued about three or four years ago because it was thought that the school’s few middle school-aged wrestlers would have more opportunities through the local youth club program. Now, he said, there are 20 interested wrestlers, and these are better suited to compete at the middle school level. These students and their parents have made commitments to such a program.

Schuessler noted several reasons for reinstatement: adding the program at the middle school level will lead to strengthening the high school program; the season would be short, running from mid-February until the end of March and would consist of five or six weekday meets; the cabin could be used for practices; two certified coaches are in place; and there are no other sports for middle school boys during the six weeks of mid-February through March.

Schuessler was uncertain what an activity fee would be. MacKenzie said the financial obligation to reinstate the program would be $3,000. The Board approved the reinstatement.

2019 Mill Levy

The Board certified to the Board of County Commissioners that the 2019 mill levy (for assessment year 2018) shall be 7.605 mills.

Revised Adopted Budget

The Board adopted the Revised Adopted Budget (RAB) for the fiscal year July 1, 2018 through June 20, 2019 in the amount of $11,991,529. In an appropriation resolution, the Board resolved that the amounts shown in the RAB be appropriated and budgeted to each fund as specified.

It approved the use of the beginning fund balance for several items in the RAB for 2018-2019 as follows, noting that using the beginning fund balance and reserves will not lead to an ongoing budget deficit:

$3,947,245 in the general fund and food service fund. The District is planning to spend $950,000 of the fund balance/reserves for capital improvements. It is not planning to spend the balance of $2,997,245, and the planned usage for that amount is anticipated to be carryover to the next fiscal year.

$499,490 in the capital projects fund. The District is not planning to spend the balance of $499,490 and is anticipating that it will be carryover to the next fiscal year.

$94,463 in the pupil activity agency fund.

Second Reading of Policies

The Board approved several policies on second reading and approved repealing a few policies as recommended by the Colorado Association of School Boards. MacKenzie advised that the updating of the policy manual is 95 percent complete.

Secondary Principal’s Report

Students and teachers are preparing for midterm exams. PSAT testing results have been received, and sixth through eighth graders did STAR testing on December 11. Results of both tests will be reviewed on January 7th.

The high school cheer squad competed at State last weekend and received 7th place in the 2A bracket.

The high school varsity volleyball team received Academic All-State, and Nicole Adams received Honorable Mention, Mile High League.

Elementary Principal’s Report

Three math teachers went to a math conference that provided them with new ideas and the opportunity to collaborate with other Colorado teachers.

St. James Church provided 12 Thanksgiving baskets.

Superintendent’s Report

MacKenzie said a rural schools grant is being worked on with the “Teacher Genius Hour,” where teachers make proposals to work on lessons and projects to improve direct instruction in their classes. They are following Common Core principals and working voluntarily outside of regular hours, but they are getting additional pay.

Professional Learning Days will be held January 7 and 11 to address bullying and showing teachers how to help students advocate for themselves.

MacKenzie did a walk-through of the school on December 11 with Black Hawk’s new fire chief Christopher Woolley. MacKenzie said a SAFER grant is available for a short time through the Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security. The application must be in by January 5, 2019.

The District 2019 Assessment Schedule has been posted.

The District’s new Subaru was rear-ended last week. No students were in the vehicle, and no one was hurt.

A Request for Proposal for the atrium stairs is due January 24 and is advertised in this week’s Weekly Register-Call. MacKenzie had received a proposal on stadium seating from a structural engineer; after checking references, he decided to try someone else. He believed the project could still be done this summer.

Accountability Clock

MacKenzie brought up the interesting case of Adams County School District 14, an inner-city district that was taken over by the State Board of Education for poor performance. It’s the first case where the State has taken over a district, he said.

According to the Colorado Department of Education’s website, the state’s accountability system, created under 2009 legislation, is “based upon the premise that schools and districts that meet state expectations for student academic performance should hold increased autonomy, whereas those not meeting state expectations will receive increased support and monitoring. Schools and districts not meeting expectations in achievement, growth and postsecondary workforce readiness … are assigned a plan type of Priority Improvement or Turnaround. Per state law, schools and districts cannot retain one of those plan types for five consecutive years before significant action must be taken. This statutory timeline is referred to as the Accountability Clock.”

According to the 2009 law, the State Board can grant innovative status, change the governing board, require a district to hire an external manager, convert to a charter school, or close a school and have it be absorbed into another district, MacKenzie advised. Adams 14 has 90 days to hire an external manager, who would serve as superintendent.

“They are where we were when I first arrived,” MacKenzie pointed out, indicating the importance for Gilpin to maintain a good academic rating.

Board member Holmes found it interesting that half a million dollars will be spent on administrative costs to acquire an external manager for Adams 14, “but none of that money is going into the classroom.”

Executive Session

The Board adjourned the public portion of the meeting at 8:07 p.m. to go into Executive Session regarding personnel matters.

Next Meeting

  The next regular meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 15, at 7:00 p.m.

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