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McKenzie selected as new school superintendent

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County Commissioners agree to fund officer for remainder of school year

by Patty Unruh

The Gilpin County Board of Education met February 19. Board members attending were President Craig Holmes, Brook Ramsey, Charlotte Taylor, and Kersten Armstrong. Rusty Hardy attended via telephone for a portion of the meeting. Interim Superintendent Morris Ververs also attended. The Board began the meeting with public attendance before going into an executive session for the decision on the new superintendent selection. Following the executive session, the public was invited back to hear the decision.

New Superintendent Selected

After a search begun last September, Dr. David McKenzie from the Harrison School District in Colorado Springs was selected as the new superintendent of Gilpin County School. McKenzie and two other candidates met with interview committees on February 15 and 16. The interview committees were composed of parents, school staff, and community members.

McKenzie was chosen because it was decided that of the three finalist candidates, he had the best academic knowledge, best instructional background and training, was the most forward thinking about 21st Century technology, had the best alignment on curriculum, and was the most knowledgeable about Senate Bill 191 (which addresses the way teachers and principals are evaluated in Colorado, with the ultimate goal of accelerating student learning results). The Board approved offering him a three-year contract at $105,000 per year. McKenzie’s starting date for employment will be decided soon.

Superintendent’s Report

Interim Superintendent Ververs reported on a Gilpin County Commissioner’s meeting he attended on February 12 regarding funding of a full-time Gilpin County Sheriff’s deputy for the school. Presently, the school has a full-time deputy on a temporary basis. “The Commissioners agreed to fund the existing structure for the balance of the school year,” Ververs said. “This involves using existing staff and overtime to provide an officer at school during school hours for the balance of the year.” That is a short-range plan. According to Gilpin County Undersheriff Jon Bayne, also present at the Commissioner’s meeting, it would take an additional six months to train staff for a school position. The Commissioners and the Board plan to meet at some point to explore a long-range plan.

Ververs also advised that he had met with the safety committee the prior week about the possibility of installing a “panic button” system at the school. The committee recommended that due to the potential cost of such a system, the school wait until the long-range plan for a sheriff’s deputy has been put in place. Holmes requested that more investigation be done on the cost of the system and that the matter be addressed at the next Board meeting.

The interim superintendent also explained to the Board that he met with the technology committee to address the school’s technology issues, such as communication between technical staff and teaching staff and a potential need for more band width (a measurement of electronic data transfer capacity, i.e., Internet capabilities). A consultant from the Littleton school district will be hired to look over the computer structure, wiring, and other technology elements, and make recommendations on how to better serve the students and teachers. “The bottom line,” Ververs told the Board, “is that we have about $110,000 to $120,000 in technological needs each year, and we are spending $60,000 to $70,000.” His goal is to have a report from the expert by March 4.

Ververs provided information on the Summit for Innovative Education that he attended February 11-12 in order to help the Gilpin District in its goal of meeting Colorado state standards. One of the key themes, he informed the Board, was that student achievement is directly related to Gross National Product and is largely responsible for No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and SB 191.

Ververs noted that a main point of the Summit was that our nation’s future depends on long-run economic growth, which is tied to improved student learning outcomes, and that the only way to improve these outcomes is to improve instruction. The Summit focused on common practices of schools that have gone from poor to good to great.

Winter Legislative Conference

Taylor gave a report on the focus of the Winter Legislative Conference that she recently attended. She noted that the top priority for both the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Association of School Boards was school finance. She explained that Senator Mike Johnston gave a presentation at the conference of his draft of a school finance bill. The bill, still in rough form, proposes expansion of early childhood education, funding for full-time kindergarten, expanding categorical funding, and implementing average daily student counts.

Taylor explained that the conference attendees were warned to expect cuts in federal funding of seven to eight percent.

Financial Status Report

  The Board approved the report of Business Manager Terry Scharg, along with the financial statement and check vouchers for January 2013.

Scharg provided a memo to the Board reporting on the school’s financial status. Scharg advised that as of January 31, 2013, the school has not had any unexpected or extraordinary expenses, and the budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year is on target. She also stated that Governor Hickenlooper’s budget proposal will enable Gilpin County School to anticipate receiving about $50,000 in additional funding for the 2013-14 school year. Scharg noted, “The State is waiting for the March economic forecast, which will be critical in determining our funding for next year.”

Secondary Principal’s Report

  Principal Alexis Donaldson expressed gratitude for the secondary staff’s willingness to make changes to benefit students. The staff has been getting training in clarifying what students need to know, helping students identify what proficiency looks like, giving feedback, self and peer assessment, and using student data to track progress and set goals.

Donaldson also advised that the sixth graders are planning a trip to Estes Park in the spring and will host a spaghetti dinner on February 21 to raise funds for the trip.

Gilpin hosted Instructional Rounds on January 29, where teaching methods are observed and compared. Present were board members from the Front Range BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services), along with principals from other districts and a group of teachers. “We received some great feedback” Donaldson said, “and look forward to using some of the advice that was given to us as we continue to move forward.”

Donaldson reported that the Student Council is working with the VFW and their annual national coloring contest, with the theme “Just Say No” to drugs and alcohol. They will soon begin a three-week “Pennies for Patients” fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to help research a cure for blood cancer in children. Half of the money raised goes to children and their families in Gilpin County who are being treated for cancer.

Elementary Principal’s Report and Congratulations

  Principal Lisa Schell gave observations on a recent meeting with Ava Lane, the educational consultant who has been working with Gilpin staff to help students meet State standards. “Formative assessment is our strength,” she noted, followed by lesson design. Areas of concern include non-fiction writing and student engagement, but the school has made “very good progress in four months.”

Schell congratulated the December S.O.A.R.ing (Scholarly, Organized, Accepting, and Respectful) students: Colton Burlingame, Vincent Garcia, Alexa Brandon, Hannah Donaldson, Alex Rodriguez-Jiminez, Aucklynn Sacco, Damian Sonsino, Drake Hylton, and Devin Shirk.

Schell also commended fifth-grader Mariah Sellon, who started a food drive for the Gilpin Food Bank. With the help of Samantha Smith and other classmates, Sellon collected two big carts full of food to replenish the food bank after the holidays. Sellon was inspired to do this good deed by the Rachel’s Challenge program started at the school a few months ago.

Schell expressed thanks to staff member Sharon Lutes for organizing the science fair, which took place at the school this week.

Fifth-grader Bailey Hobson-Kroll was congratulated for winning first place in this year’s Spelling Bee.

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