Dinosaur students, public participation, football coaches discussed at MCSD Board of Education meeting Thursday
Craig — At its work session Thursday afternoon, Moffat County School District Board of Education discussed the issue of how to provide schooling to 10 kindergarten through fifth-grade students in Dinosaur. At its meeting that night, the board voted unanimously to make arrangements with the Rangely School District for the students to attend schools in Rangely, 15 miles from Dinosaur.
By law, MCSD is required to provide educational programming to every student within the district, and MCSD was issued a list of seven options by the Colorado Department of Education for how to provide for students in Dinosaur.
Richard Blakely, mayor of Dinosaur, wants the district to provide a teacher to their community who will reside and teach in Dinosaur, a request he made to MCSD Superintendent Brent Curtice. Blakely told Curtice that he and Dinosaur parents are looking for this solution for only one year, after which they intend to start their own charter school.
Community and church leaders in Dinosaur bought the school building in town from MCSD in 2008 and contracted a charter school known as Hope Online Learning Academy, which left them last winter.
“The bottom line is we are responsible for the kids in Dinosaur,” Curtice said.
Some of the options provided by the CDE included providing a teacher and special needs programming to students in Dinosaur, creating a Memorandum of Understanding with the Rangely School District for students to attend Rangely schools, arrange for students to attend school in Maybell — 53 miles away from Dinosaur — or redraw district boundaries so that Dinosaur would be included in Rio Blanco.
High school students from Dinosaur already have chosen to attend school in Rangely, which is 15 miles from Dinosaur. However, Blakely has made clear that Dinosaur parents do not want to send their elementary students to Rangely.
With a budget that already is strained in the coming school year, MCSD could afford to provide a teacher to Dinosaur students. However, the district also would be required to provide for any special-needs resources required. The actual needs would not be able to be assessed until after schooling was underway.
“It will be quite the special education support out there for quite a bit of the year,” MCSD Director of Student Services Renae Dove said. “I am at the smallest special education staff I’ve ever had for this district.”
The board considered channeling students to Maybell, which would boost numbers enough to re-open the Maybell School for the current school year. Members also considered bringing students to Craig, as the district already has several students who travel as much as 90 miles to schools in Craig each day. However, the board agreed that the best option to get Dinosaur kids into school as quickly as possible would be to arrange for them to attend Rangely’s schools.
“That’s what’s best for the kids is to get them into school and get them rolling now,” board member KC Hume said.
At its work session Thursday, the Moffat County School District Board of Education also discussed the following:
• MCSD Superintendent Curtice presented a multimedia slideshow he designed for kids, staff, teachers and the community to illustrate the four goals of the district
- Reconnect with the community
- Increase student achievement
- Build a three- to five-year financial plan
- Build instructional and ELL coaches
• Curtice outlined his plan to build a senior leadership team composed of several committees in order to invite participation from all sectors of the school system and to build a plan that can be used going into the 2015-16 school year. The team will include a Superintendent Strategic Executive Committee, a Superintendent Community Council, a Superintendent Steering Committee, a Superintendent District Accountability Team and Parent Council and a Superintendent Student Council with middle school and high school representatives.
• As part of the push to boost student achievement, Curtice said his intention was to build a system of best practices to help teachers be more effective and to focus on getting students engaged.
“To be a great school, you have to have great student engagement,” Curtice said. “They have to want to come to school every single day.”
Curtis cited a statistic saying that with a highly effective school and a highly effective teachers, students who enter school at the 50th percentile can leave in the 96th percentile.
“We want to be a school district, not a district of schools,” Curtice said. “We want aligned curriculum across all our school grade levels.”
Following Curtice’s presentation, board member Darrell Camilletti emphasized the importance of listening to the community in order to win their support.
“If you want to engage the community, it needs to be 80 percent listening and 20 percent presenting,” Camilletti said. “I’ve been out in the community a lot in the last month, and I was appalled at the lack of support of the school administration out in the public.”
Regarding the state of MCSD’s finances, Camilletti reported that the district planned to take $7,000 out of its reserves and potentially could need to ask for emergency funding from the state of Colorado.
“If we don’t get our financial situation under control, we are going to be in state funding,” Curtice said.
• During review of the proposed Policy 8344.1, Public Participation at Board Meetings, which provides for 30 minutes of public comment at board meetings, board members discussed how best to provide for public engagement and how to address frustrations in the community.
“I get the feeling that people aren’t coming because they don’t feel the board’s been listening to them,” community member Neil Folks said.
Camilletti requested more time for the regular comment period.
“Give every person a chance to talk,” Camilletti said. “People in this community are frustrated.”
Board member Sue Voloshin addressed the issue by suggesting that the board needs to provide better communication to parents.
“I think there needs to be more communication when a subject comes up,” she said, citing the recent matter of the removal of the woodshop program as an example. “With something significant, there needs to be more notice to the public that this is up for review.”
Camilletti announced that he and others are organizing an effort to start a charter school in Moffat County.
• Regarding Policies 5112 and 5113 concerning Intra-District and Inter-District Choice and Open Enrollment, Curtice announced that the administrative team would recommend changes to the current policy. The changes are intended to address instances in which families have had children that were split between two elementary schools and cases where a child enrolled at one elementary school for several years then was kicked out because of an influx of students within the catchment.
• An update was given on Policy 1330 regarding the use of school facilities by the community. Board member Joel Browning said there is no consistency in how the facilities are used throughout the district and what fees are charged for their use. The board will continue to study the issue throughout the year and make recommended changes to policy.
• Maybell School operations have been suspended for the 2014-15 academic year because of a low population count. The school requires nine students in order to be fiscally neutral, and as of this month, there were only five students interested in enrolling. Former Maybell teacher Bill Ronis is teaching second-grade at Ridgeview Elementary School.
• MCSD Director of Curriculum and Assessment Amy Ward reviewed Moffat County’s TCAP scores, which were released this month. “Reading is definitely a strength in Moffat County,” Ward said, while math scores appeared less strong.
• East Elementary School was recognized for achieving four years as a Performance school in the Colorado Department of Education’s rating system based on TCAP scores.
• Ridgeview Elementary likewise was recognized for its achievement as a Performance school and for ranking in the top 14 percent of schools in Colorado.
• Ward explained that the TCAP is now extinct and is being replaced by the CMAS, Colorado Measures of Academic Success, which is based on Common Core and still is being developed.
• Marlene Knez gave an update about the new website and explained that their goal is to populate the website with more information that parents need and to feature a Web ppage for every single teacher in the district with class information.
At its first meeting of the 2014-15 school year, the MCSD Board of Education took the following actions:
• Reviewed Policy 8344.1, Public Participation at Board Meetings with members of the community. Besides allotting 30 minutes to a public comment session in monthly board meetings, the policy requires those who wish to speak during the comment to sign up starting a week before the meeting up until five minutes before the meeting commences.
There is a time limit of five minutes per individual speaker, and neither personnel nor student issues can be discussed at the meeting.
Anyone wishing to present to the board must register seven days in advance with the superintendent and provide materials describing the subject of his or her presentation.
• Heard from members of the public regarding a lack of trust and transparency felt by community members following the handling of the football hazing incident that occurred in Evanston, Wyoming, in June.
“A lot of the community and parents are concerned. We just don’t feel like we have gotten answers to things that have happened,” community member Judy Bingham said. “There appears to be a lack of policy, or policy is not followed.”
Other residents in attendance echoed similar concerns, including a lack of accountability in the way the incident was handled and inconsistency.
Camilletti was sympathetic to the public’s concerns, sounding his own disappointment and disapproval with the handling of the incident.
“I’m going to make very certain that the facts get out,” Camilletti said. “The public will be aware of the facts before long.”
Community member Shane Hadley, one of the football coaches who lost his position in the wake of the incident, spoke emotionally about what the football team has meant to him for the past 25 years he’s been coaching.
“I think I should have at least been interviewed,” Hadley said.
Camilletti and several audience members expressed discontent that personnel decisions were made before the finalization of police reports, which still have yet to be released to the public.
• Heard concerns from those in attendance regarding the institution of Common Core.
• Heard from new Athletic Director Mike Mitchell, who presented progress and plans for the school year, including a focus on technique and discipline for football students and on building character for all participants in athletic programs.
“I’m here for the right reason, and I love your children, and I’ll do whatever I can,” Mitchell said after Hadley’s emotional sharing. “I’m here from my heart.”
• Reviewed several programs in the works for MCSD schools, including:
— Board member Tony St. John is working to bring inspirational speaker and anti-bullying advocate Connor Doran to speak at each of the schools.
— The Superintendent Parent Advisory Council held its first monthly meeting in August as part of Curtice’s effort to seek feedback and checks and balances from parents.
• Unanimously passed Policy 8344.1, Public Participation at Board Meetings
• Unanimously passed Policy 4141, Staff Records
• Unanimously passed Policy 5112 Intra-District Choice/Open Enrollment
• Unanimously passed Policy 5113 Inter-District Choice/Open Enrollment
• Unanimously passed Policy 5270 Student Withdrawal from School/Dropouts
• Unanimously agreed to give Executive Director of Finance Tinneal Gerber the authority to renew extension of oil and gas leases with Southwestern Oil Co. for a signing bonus of $400.
• Unanimously agreed to arrange for students from Dinosaur to attend schools in Rangely.
• Discussed a motion to accept personnel recommendations for July and August 2014, to which Camilletti and St. John disagreed.
“I can’t support this at all given how our football coaches were treated and dismissed prior to any investigation,” Camilletti said.
Camilletti made a motion to remove coaches from discussion of the rest of the personnel recommendations, which passed, 4-3, with board members Hume, Tony Peroulis and board President J.B. Chapman voting “no.”
The motion to approve other personnel recommendations excluding football coaches passed unanimously, and the motion to approve personnel recommendations as they pertained to football coaches passed, 4-3, with Camilletti, St. John and Voloshin voting “no.”
I have followed with interest the discussion concerning the potential transfer of the Yampa Elementary School to Memorial Regional Health. Although there are many significant unanswered questions about what Memorial Regional Health plans to do with the Yampa Elementary School, the focus of my letter is on the Yampa Elementary School as a community asset.