School Board discusses library, natural gas cost savings needs

New superintendent has first day on job

By Patty Unruh

The Gilpin County Board of Education met April 1. Members present were President Craig Holmes, Brook Ramsey, Charlotte Taylor, Kersten Armstrong, and Rusty Hardy. New superintendent David MacKenzie was also present, after his first day on the job.

Principals’ Contracts

Rusty Hardy moved to add an opening for a certified staff position under new business, and that motion was carried. During discussion, Hardy moved that the Board not renew the contract for elementary principal Lisa Schell, saying it was time to move in a different direction. The Board stated Schell had tenure and they hoped she would stay. The motion was carried.

Hardy also moved that the Board renew the contract for secondary principal Alexis Donaldson. That motion was also carried.

Hardy moved to open a position for a new elementary principal and to open an additional position for someone who would coordinate curriculum, teach part time, help with assessments, and help with Senate Bill 191 evaluations. That position, he said, may be a half a staff position and half a teaching position, and could either be full time or part time. Holmes said, “We’ll call that a ‘staff assessment coordinator’ for now.”

Natural Gas Costs

The Board reviewed correspondence provided by former Interim Superintendent Morris Ververs regarding costs paid for transporting its supply of natural gas. Most of the District’s gas transport expense is for initial construction by Colorado Natural Gas (CNG) of the pipeline that services the school, and the District is making efforts to save money on that cost.

The Board has been concerned that for the past ten years the District has paid CNG more than a fair share of the construction costs of building that line. Ververs had been in contact with the PUC about the matter last fall, without result. At its last meeting in March, Board members agreed that the PUC should be contacted again, which Ververs did, stating that CNG had “not provided any information that would mitigate our perception that we are paying an unfair amount.” The PUC suggested that the District has the option of a formal complaint, as well as civil litigation.

Based on a savings analysis done nearly a year ago by Independent Natural Gas Distributors, if the District switched its gas supplier from Colorado Natural Gas (CNG) to Independent’s Tiger Natural Gas transport gas program, it would save an estimated $10,000 (8.8%) per year. The gas would continue to be delivered by CNG, and CNG would still perform service and maintenance. Tiger would manage all coordination with CNG. CNG would continue to transport the gas and would bill the school for the transportation cost; Tiger would bill the school for the commodity cost.

Secondary School Operating with No Library

Taylor noted that the secondary school has not had a functioning library for the past six to seven years. She said that the middle school and high school students should have access to a library, especially for learning how to locate reference materials when doing research as they prepare for college. She voiced concern that Internet sources are not always reliable.

Hardy recalled that the library was closed under former superintendent Ken Ladouceur, whose reasoning for the closure was that students could go to the Gilpin County Library. Also, Hardy stated, the closure occurred about the same time as a program called the “A-Plus Program” was put into effect. He said the program has an excellent data base but is unavailable in the students’ homes.

Board members discussed that students’ research is mostly done on the Internet now, and that materials in a library would likely be antiquated. Holmes noted that he didn’t disagree with the need for a library, but that colleges have changed a lot in how students do research. He stated he would rather spend money on technology.

MacKenzie added that some schools have done away with their traditional libraries and have brought them back in a different form. He noted that Gilpin has an elementary library and a librarian and asked whether the school could have a K-12 library. He advised that working on such a library would be part of the school’s technology plan.

Cursive Writing

Taylor also asked whether the school is still teaching cursive writing. McKenzie explained that students learn penmanship in third grade, using a program called “Handwriting without Tears.” Taylor felt it was important for students to be able to write in cursive and to read it. Ramsey said that all the kids type on computers now, but a time when knowledge of cursive is important is in reading it on the TCAP tests. Hardy noted that a lot of schools no longer teach the skill and that it is probably something that can’t be learned in just one year.

Taylor said it would be a shame if students were unable to read the Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence, and other important historical documents in their original handwriting. Hardy stated that those documents could be scanned into a computer and the font changed from cursive into a manuscript type, to which Taylor responded, smiling, “You have no soul!” to laughter from the other Board members. Holmes concluded that it was something to check into.

Superintendent’s Report

McKenzie reported on his first day. He said he began by greeting parents and children as they arrived at school, after which he got somewhat organized. He spent the afternoon visiting four of the elementary and four of the secondary classrooms and noticed that the students were working hard. He also attended a Montessori parent meeting. “It was a good day, I think,” he said.

Congratulations and Celebrations

Hardy congratulated Superintendent MacKenzie on his first day at the school. Holmes added congratulations to middle school student Dante Nadeau for qualifying to go to the State championships in wrestling.

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