WALSENBURG — In contrast to last meeting’s short and sweet nature, this meeting was chock full of items to discuss and it lasted the better part of the evening. The most eye-opening discussion was when a concerned parent addressed the board about several alleged unresolved incidents of gang-related bullying, cyber bullying, and sexual harassment towards her daughter, culminating in her daughter’s withdrawal from school due to fear for her life. The parent expressed her displeasure at the lack of an effective anti-bullying policy and the lack of supervision on school trips. She also mentioned that there was a history of special needs students being bullied at John Mall and that even though we are a small school in a small county, severe bullying can still occur. Due to the filing of an official legal grievance, she was required to remain vague in her descriptions, but wanted to ensure that the board was made aware of these problems because “You can’t fix a problem you’re not aware of.” Brian and Gretchen Orr also spoke during the Citizens’ Address to the board in support of the parent and on behalf of Senior Pastor at the New Hope Community Church, Alvin D. Wilkerson. They mentioned that one of their sons had experienced similar bullying and a similar lack of action from faculty until the issue was brought up to Principal Pat McDonald who quickly resolved the situation in a prompt and effective manner. Pastor Wilkerson’s letter voiced his concerns over the amount of bullying in the community, and offered assistance through New Hope Community Church’s partnership with the Family Resource Center’s PREP program, which focuses on teaching parents, teachers, and kids about anti-bullying measures and the effects of bullying. During Student Recognition, Ashly Garcia, Shyanne Urdiales, and Tlalli Ordaz, who attended the Colorado Thespian Conference also spoke up as a follow-up to the board’s vote to allow them to attend and the spoke about some of the activities they participated in and opportunities they learned about. At ThesCon they visited several colleges to learn about options for aspiring theatre students, participated in workshops ranging from acting and accent classes to makeup classes. They also learned about scholarship options and are looking to get an International Thespian Society club started in John Mall. There was also room on the agenda for a bit of extra discussion about the new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teacher, Mark Thompson. He brings an extensive and diverse background to the district, from teaching STEM to teaching rock climbing. He says “I’ve had a great welcome… I look forward to being here.” He began work already with John Mall and will work to get STEM curriculum into Peakview. Later, Tanya Gatlin spoke on behalf of John Mall’s brand new Culture Club. The Culture Club has around 30 active members already and now with official board approval plans to move forward with their trip to Santa Fe. Several clubs went on the trip last year, with around 15 students attending, and this year 12 students will be going. The students will have opportunities to do a whole variety of activities including museum and church visits in order to really get an idea of the culture of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Elizabeth Brown spoke on behalf of the Honor Choir and the Honor Band in a request for an overnight trip to Adams State for the “Top of the Nation” honor band and choir event. Participants had to audition, and two choir members- Rebecca Bressan and Huazhen Li, and one band member, Emilio Archuleta, were accepted. The trip was approved, provided a male chaperone is found to accompany the group. The rest of the night ran smoothly, there were a few items to be passed and a few checkups on budget and technology, but it was an otherwise uneventful meeting.
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