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Finance Reform Proposal, Technology, BOCES, and other matters

By Patty Unruh

The Board of Education of Gilpin County School met March 18. Present were members Craig Holmes, President, Brook Ramsey, Charlotte Taylor, Kersten Armstrong, and Rusty Hardy, as well as Interim Superintendent Morris Ververs and newly-hired superintendent David McKenzie. Also present were secondary principal Alexis Donaldson and elementary principal Lisa Schell.

  Hardy congratulated and welcomed Dr. McKenzie. Ververs said he had enjoyed working with the Board and staff of the school, and Holmes returned thanks to Ververs for all he had done.

Business Manager’s Report

Business manager Terry Scharg reported that as of February 28, Gilpin School revenues and expenses are in line with budgeted projections. There are a few exceptions, and a supplemental budget will be presented to the Board in May regarding those. The main additional expenses relate to special education costs. Also, student count, food service, and transportation records for the last five years were audited by the Department of Education, and there will be a “minimal” amount due CDE as a result of the audit adjustments. Scharg also reports that on the revenue side a $16,449 rescission has been deducted from the schools’ State Equalization for School Finance Administration.

Impact of School Finance Reform Proposal

Interim Superintendent Morris Ververs presented a summary of the possible impact on Gilpin RE-1 School of Senator Mike Johnston’s school finance reform proposal, which aims to better collect and distribute funds to Colorado schools. The summary gave funding projections in Colorado district by district for 2013-14, comparing the current law with the proposed legislation for total program funding, projected funding, “hold harmless” funding, changes in funding per pupil, and a mill levy increase that would be required to reach total program funding. Hold harmless funding would apply to districts that are projected to lose funding. They would continue to receive state assistance for five years while they decide whether to pursue a local mill levy increase.

Johnston’s proposal would depend on a state-wide vote to approve a tax increase to help fund it. If the ballot measure failed, then the funding formula would not go into effect. It is unknown if the impact on Gilpin School would be helpful or detrimental, as there was some question by the Board members whether the proposed figures the District has received from Senator Johnston’s office were accurate. Holmes noted that the District currently has a mill of 12.4, which will drop to 6.47 once its bond is paid off. Ververs stated that the finance reform could be “really detrimental for us. We need to watch it like a hawk.”

Technology Needs

Technology needs have been under consideration by the Board recently. Independent technology consultant Dr. Dan Maas spent February 28 touring the school facilities and meeting with staff to provide feedback on the school’s technology function. The issues are that the District’s system has been developed inconsistently, and communications between IT staff and the general staff need to be improved. Accordingly, at its meeting the Board examined a draft copy of a regulation on staff use of the Internet and electronic communications regulation. The draft of the regulation states that its intent is to “provide administrators, staff, and other users with a procedure for utilizing the District’s computers, networks, and internet services. All such uses will be focused on supporting student learning outcomes.” The regulation provides for the implementation of a technology committee, whose membership would be designated by the superintendent each year. The draft’s language states that the committee would make decisions on all technology purchases, subject to the superintendent’s approval, and that the committee’s decisions would all be geared toward furthering student achievement goals. Taylor suggested that such a committee should not be a decision-making body, but rather a group that would make recommendations. The regulation will be considered for approval at a later meeting.

Mt. Evans BOCES

Ververs updated progress on the Mt. Evans Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) plan for 2013-2014. He had met previously with the superintendents from Clear Creek and Platte Canyon, and they had agreed that a coordinator needed to be hired to monitor and support on-site services at least once a week at each of the three school districts, specifically for students who have special educational needs. Gilpin has about 28 special education students and another ten or so gifted students, and there are about 250 in the member districts. Lynn Gentry is the acting coordinator and can be transferred into the coordinator’s position.

Ververs said a lot of work and thought has been put into next year’s plan and assured the Board that there are “many neat actions being taken to improve services to the kids, some very positive changes.”

Panic Button

Ververs and Holmes had been researching various panic button systems. They both found that less expensive systems don’t buzz directly into the Sheriff’s Office, and that explains the reason they are less expensive. “There’s a lapse,” Holmes said, “and we want to be direct.” Ververs advised that the firm they have been considering needs to be at the school to do an on-site evaluation before a firmer price is given.

Natural Gas Costs

Ververs had met with Peter Leveton of Independent Natural Gas Distributors regarding that company’s Tiger Natural Gas “transport gas” program. The District currently pays $70,000 to $80,000 per year to transport gas, most of which is for initial construction of the pipeline years ago. The District is making efforts to save money on that expense, and Leveton had previously advised that the District could save about $10,000 per year by switching its gas supplier from Colorado Natural Gas to Tiger. At the recent meeting with Ververs, Leveton had advised that the District needs to accept that there may not be a lot of potential for doing anything about the cost the District spends on gas transportation. Taylor asked about the possibility of contacting the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to register a query or complaint. Ververs said that has already been done, without result. He said, “the [gas] companies appear to have more understanding and clout with the PUC and have convinced them that they need these charges to cover the amount of the pipeline construction.” Holmes noted that Tiger may only be able to supply cheaper gas, because they can’t change the cost of the pipeline. The Board members agreed that the PUC should be called again, since the District has already paid $180,000 on gas transportation.

Principals’ Reports

Secondary principal Alexis Donaldson reported that the teachers are beginning a cycle of peer observations and feedback. The teachers are ready to get in each other’s classrooms she said, for the purpose of improving instruction.

She also said that Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP) testing had been done and thanked the parents and Booster Club for making sure the students were fed before testing.

She congratulated the boys and girls basketball teams for great seasons, and noted that the middle school wrestlers took two first place and two second place medals at their tournament in Kiowa. She also noted a number of upcoming events, including the school’s production of Alice in Wonderland on April 18-19 and the Fine Arts Festival and Spring Concert on May 8.

Elementary principal Lisa Schell also addressed the TCAP testing. When asked what impression the principals had about the success of the tests, Schell said, “I think we’ll see improvement. The teachers have been celebrating growth in reading, and writing achievement is coming along. We are making sure that curriculum aligns to standards.” She said the root cause low student performance has been lack of alignment to standards and stressed the goal of taking care of that alignment. She told the board that the teachers had completed their final two days of training with educational consultant Ava Lanes, helping the teachers to align students to state standards. Lanes will continue to support the staff next school year.

Schell congratulated December S.O.A.R.ing students (Scholarly, Organized, Accepting, and Respectful): Samantha Kapke, Skylar Webb, Jax Wyka, Bradley Robinson, Jim Immordino, Abigail Smith, Dallas LeBeau, Julian Cortez, and Samantha Smith.

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