Haukeness: Building on the past to move RE-1 into the future

Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 4:48 PM

The new year always provides me with an opportunity to reflect on the previous year and look forward to the upcoming year’s opportunities and challenges.

I feel personally blessed to be able to lead our school district and to work in a community where we all can come together around what is best for our children. I want to share some of the district priorities for these next few months and invite your feedback and ideas.

The district board, leadership, teachers and staff are engaged in a strategic planning process to create a three-year strategic plan. This plan will clearly outline our goals for student achievement and will guide district and school decision-making on how we spend our time and resources to best benefit our students.

Before we began the strategic planning, the board and I asked the community what you valued about our community and our district and where we could improve. We heard from more than 100 people, and that input was invaluable in helping the board identify priorities. We are also building upon our existing district and school improvement plans, since we have many strategies that are already working.

The board will hold a second retreat to solidify the draft plan. Once that is available, we will ask for another round of input and feedback from the community. The board and district are also facing challenges in this upcoming year ranging from limited funding to ensuring we are able to attract and retain the best teachers for our students. The funding we receive from local taxpayers and the state is not keeping pace with the rising costs of salaries and the need to replace aging buses and repair aging buildings.

Last fall, we heard from many of you that you had deeper questions about how our district is funded and where we are currently spending our money. I am pleased to announce that we have created a “Citizen’s Guide to the Budget,” to answer your questions and provide more information on our district budget and how schools are funded in Colorado. The Guide will be available on our website and linked through our Facebook page starting Feb. 1.

After you read it, I invite you to attend a school board meeting or contact me with ideas as we begin the difficult conversations about how to best align our limited resources with our district priorities and strategic plan.

Cortez Middle School is expanding the key elements of its successful 21C program to the whole school starting next year. These successful strategies will include better use of our existing technology to support learning for all students and “looping,” which means that seventh and eighth graders will have the same teachers for two years instead of changing every year. This will also allow the school to increase support for struggling learners and create more support for incoming sixth graders. CMS administrators are facilitating parent meetings to explain more about the plan and address concerns.

Manaugh Elementary is implementing its new school plan, developed with teachers and parents last year. School and district representatives will be going to Denver to present this plan to the State Board of Education as part of their Pathways accreditation.

Finally, January is School Board Appreciation Month and I want to thank our board for their service this past year. School board members are your elected representatives who serve on a voluntary basis to provide guidance and oversight to our district and ensure we are doing our best to meet the needs of our students.

A full list of board members, with their bios, is posted on our district home page. Feel free to reach out to any of them with ideas or suggestions, or just to say thanks.

Lori Haukeness is superintendent of Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1. She can be contacted by email at Re-1’s regular education column appears on the fourth Friday of every month.