Gilpin students on an upward trend on state tests

LaurenNelson_teacherNew Montessori teacher joins the staff

by Patty Unruh

The Gilpin County Board of Education held its regular meeting on Tuesday, September 6, at 7:00 p.m. Members Craig Holmes, Brook Ramsey, Charlotte Taylor, Kersten Armstrong, and Steve Boulter were all in attendance, along with Superintendent David MacKenzie and Secretary to the Board Gretchen Sechler.

Congratulations and Celebrations

Fall sports are in session. The football team played its first game on Saturday, September 3, against Merino. Holmes commented that Merino has a tough team; Gilpin lost the game 50-0, although they played hard. The Eagle visitors noticed that Merino had many state championship banners decorating their gym.

New Montessori Teacher

Lauren Nelson is the new teacher for Montessori lower elementary, grades one through three. Nelson is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was an importer before becoming a teacher. She holds a master’s degree in elementary education, with an emphasis in bilingual education. She lived in Durango for nearly nine years and spent that time as a Montessori teacher for the Southern Ute Indian tribe in Ignacio.

Nelson has been getting into the school routine and developing rapport with her students. She is working to find the right balance of challenge and excitement for the children. She has enjoyed collaborating with other staff members.

Nelson loves the outdoors and loves challenging herself.

DAC 2016-17 Charges

Mary Sonsino, president of the District Accountability Committee (DAC), attended the meeting to discuss the 2016-17 charges to the DAC by the school board. The charges were the same as for 2015-16. The DAC is charged with monitoring, reviewing, and making recommendations for each of the following: Teacher and Principal Effectiveness Evaluation Model and Process (Senate Bill 191), Unified Improvement Plans for elementary and secondary schools and the District, nutrition and wellness, Gifted and Talented program delivery, and the 2016-17 District budget expenditures.

Sonsino had not yet met with the other DAC members for their input about the charges, but will do so and resubmit to the school board if needed. In the meantime, the Board went ahead and approved the charges as submitted. Taylor noted that the five charges were required.

Spring 2016 Assessments

MacKenzie reported that the trend is for students to do better on state assessments. In 2016, grade 3-9 students who met or exceeded expectations at or above the state average did so in 11 of 18 tests, or 61%. MacKenzie compared that result with 2015, when Gilpin students were at or above the state average in only 7 of 18 tests, or 39%. In the elementary school, third, fourth, and fifth graders were at or above the state average except for fifth grade English Language Arts.

“The trend indicates that the efforts of our instructional initiatives of aligned curriculum, research-based instructional strategies, and frequent progress monitoring are paying off,” MacKenzie said.

Middle school results were not as satisfactory, particularly in math, and MacKenzie said efforts at intervention would be made for the middle school students. He had reviewed the middle school math textbooks and felt that these were great resources and well aligned.

“It’s just a matter of us being more deliberate,” he said. “We’ve had trouble with math in the elementary grades and middle school in the past, and the elementary kids going into middle school were not as well prepared. Now the elementary kids are being better prepared.” He encouraged supporting the math teachers and the students.

For more complete details, see the press release on the improvement in Gilpin students’ test scores in this issue of the Weekly Register-Call.

Superintendent’s Report

MacKenzie reported on progress in several areas.

The current maintenance focus is on making sure the new gym floor is cleaned after each sports contest, so that it may be well maintained for many years to come.

In school safety, monthly Crisis Response Team meetings will begin on September 12 at 9:00 a.m. The Safety Committee will meet on September 21 at 10:00 a.m. with first responder groups.

The District’s audit of its 2015-16 financial records is under way. Colorado Department of Education (CDE) audits of the 2014-15 transportation and 2015-16 student count funding are also in progress. MacKenzie said the District is in the second year of a two-year cycle of CDE coming in to audit the transportation program. They are scheduled to visit on October 31 and audit driver safety, vehicle safety and maintenance, and the transportation files.

MacKenzie met on August 18 with Gilpin Community Center director Kathi Lambert and Assistant Director Jon Cain to discuss elementary activities and transportation.

Chromebook distribution to grades 6-12 and to the third through fifth-grade classrooms is complete. Chromebook carts are available to grades K-2, and computer stations are being installed in grade K-2 classrooms. Older computers have been refurbished to make them “Cloud ready,” MacKenzie said.

Infrastructure replacement and the upgrade of the firewall servers is being worked on. Only $8,000 in work is left to do on this replacement and upgrading. MacKenzie is waiting to hear on approval of the e-rate.

Two years ago, the District upgraded the phone software but kept the hardware. As a last step in technology updates, “at some time down the road” the telephone system will be upgraded to a voice-over IT.

Board member Taylor asked whether the District is able to consider interactive technology for preschool. MacKenzie responded that there are devices that can be used for virtual field trips, and he is hoping to get a set for the elementary students, if not for the preschoolers.

Executive Session

The Board adjourned the public session at 7:28 pm. and went into executive session regarding contract negotiations.

Next Meeting

The next regular meeting will be on Tuesday, September 21, at 7:00 p.m. at the school.

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