by Gretchen Sporleder Orr
WALSENBURG- In a quiet meeting of the RE-1 Board of Education, Superintendent Dawn Olson presented very good news for the district in a report from the Colorado Department of Education. Two years ago, the district was at the “Turnaround” level. Last year the district moved up to “Priority Improvement” status. Re-1 has shown improvement to the point that this year, the district has moved up again, and is now at the “Accredited with Improvement” level. This means the district is now at the middle level of the state’s five category program. The district’s goal is to continue to improve and reach the next level up, “Accredited,” and then the highest level, “Accredited with Distinction.”
The Colorado Department of Education rankings are based on improved TCAP scores as well as percentage of graduation, work force readiness, and the academic growth of students over time.
“While we should be proud of the improvement,” Olson said, “we don’t want to slip back into the practices that put our improvement plan at risk since we still have two categories of accreditation status ahead.” TCAP test scores are not yet completely evaluated. When done, the district will know where to focus for continued improvement.
One known set of results came from the ACT test scores, which are not related to the Department of Education scoring system. The trend in ACT scores show significant improvement from the previous three years in all subjects; English, math, science and reading. The board also broke session to have a celebratory time where they also welcomed the new teachers, recognized volunteers and employees who were formally introduced to the members of the board.
In other business, the board also heard from three citizen groups. The first to speak to the board was Terri Patrick, of the Family Resource Center and RE-1 school counselor Jonathan James, who gave a follow-up talk on the Personal Responsibility Education Program. This is a voluntary program for students in grades 6-8 dealing with health awareness and risky behavior, and 98% of the students participated. It was interesting to note at the beginning of the program, 45% of the eighth graders said they would graduate. After the program was complete, 85% said they would graduate and go to college. The program was funded only for this current year but has a tentative offer for next year, depending on federal funding.
A group of seniors received permission from the board to be allowed off-campus privileges during the lunch hour.
Dale Lyons presented a report of the effects of a boom or bust economy and the possible effects on a school district. The board will have a conversation with officials from Shell Oil to coordinate school bus routes and times with Shell’s driver schedules.
The principals gave their reports and of significance, the district has 517 students enrolled during the first week. George Purnell, JMHS Principal, also said there will be an open house at the high school on September 5th from 5 to 6:30 pm to meet the teachers. Pat McDonald reported there are two preschool students who are ready for kindergarten and asked if they would be allowed to enter early. They did not meet the birth date requirement, but conversations with teachers and parents indicated they would be ready. Transportation Director Gary Vigil reported his department is carrying 104 passengers over 580 miles, with seven bus routes plus a bus to TSJC for students taking college level courses.
The board has changed its meeting time to 6 pm. In routine business, the board approved special duty assessments for assistant coaches.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward