by Gretchen Orr
WALSENBURG — In what was likely one of the longest sessions of the year for the RE-1 Board of Education, lasting almost three hours, the BOE worked their way through a full agenda which included discussions of the status of Peakview School’s plan to move out of priority improvement, staff resignations, listening to a group of energetic seniors, and the hiring of new staff.
The first item on the agenda concerned options for implementing the district plan to keep Peakview accredited. The BOE meeting was attended by Tomi Amos, a turnaround support manager from the Colorado Department of Education, who presented strategies and options the district can use to improve the quality of education at the school. Peakview is in its fifth year in turnaround status, has shown no decisive gains in academic progress, so is now under scrutiny by the state. Amos said there are four options for Peakview: 1) locally creating an innovation strategy, 2) a management plan implemented by the district and Generation Schools, and monitored by the state, 3) conversion to a charter school or 4) closure. She said the state isn’t in the business of closing down schools, and believes the state’s would recommend option 2, the management plan.
The state’s plan could cost the district $100,000. Amos said the district could apply for a grant after choosing the management plan, but, even if RE-1 gets the grant, would still be on the hook for $15,000.
Amos fielded questions from the board, who asked for an example of a rural district for which state management plans have resulted in improving school performance, and she was unable to provide one. When pressed by board members why the district was being asked to take on a state recommended management plan that has been proven not to work in other rural districts, Amos’ answers were inconclusive.
Superintendent Mike Moore, Peakview Principal Brenda Duran and members of the priority improvement plan will meet with the state on May 10 to present RE-1’s own innovation strategy plan. To date five schools across the state have already presented their plans with no actions taken by the state. The RE1 BOE will make their decision after the plan is presented and considering the availability of grant monies.
In other action, the board approved the senior’s overnight trip to Colorado Springs. Members of the class made a well-thought out presentation in their favor. The class spent countless hours raising money, working activities and maintained academic standards to become a part of the contingency of students making the trip. Also concerning overnight trips, Destination Imagination students from Gardner and Peakview are presenting their projects at state in Denver on April 22 and were granted permission for a two night overnight stay. (see Above)
Concerning staff, the BOE approved contract renewals for principals at the three schools. They also approved a 110-contract extension for retired teacher Donna Galvan, who told the board ‘I just couldn’t stay away.’ Eight teachers resigned at the end of the current school year. Those leaving the district include: JMHS math teacher Dr. Comilla Green, Peakview Jr. High Math teacher Scott Huskins, JMHS English teacher Sean Patrick, and Gardner teachers Erin Hall, Charles Mandermaker, and Katie Campbell. Casey Huff was granted a parental leave of absence for next year. School nurse Tracie Younger is resigning to pursue additional education next year.
Two new teachers were hired for Gardner School, former resident Mark Vialpando as the 7/8th grade teacher and Laura Colgan as an elementary teacher. Cassie James was added to the volunteer list. Gardner TOSA Pam Levie indicated several candidates have already interviewed in anticipation of the known resignations so the district is in a good position to fill all the vacancies.
In other business, Gary Vigil was appointed as interim facilities manager for the district until a full time replacement can be hired. The BOE expelled an eighth grade student for the remainder of the year, with his return contingent upon compliance with board directives.