It’s a crucial year for the Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 School District, as officials seek to gain an improved accreditation level from the Colorado Department of Education.
Re-1 has been rated at the “priority improvement” accreditation level for five years. According to Senate Bill 163, passed in 2009, districts can only be at “priority improvement” or “turnaround” level for five years before they must develop a reform plan. The process is referred to as the “accountability clock.”
At their meeting Tuesday, school board members heard that the department of education should announce the latest accreditation results for the district within the next few weeks.
Board members also heard about Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, test scores for the 2015-16 school year.
Students in the district fell short of the state average in every grade level for performance in English language arts, math and science. However, the district reported gains on raising the performance of its struggling students.
Though PARCC participation rates in Re-1 elementary schools were high, more students at higher grade levels opted out of the tests.
Board Member Sherri Wright said it’s not fair for the state board of education to allow parents to opt-out their kids, while holding schools and districts accountable for low scores.
“You can’t compare apples and oranges,” Wright said.
Board President Jack Schuenemeyer said the high opt-out rate hurts the community, too. People looking to relocate might see the district’s low scores and look elsewhere, he said.
The school district’s director of curriculum and instruction, Jeanette Allen, who presented test scores to the board, agreed with board members.
“We don’t have the full picture of our kids with so many opt-outs,” she said.
Kids with higher GPAs are more likely to opt out of the test, Superintendent Lori Haukeness said.
Also Tuesday, board members shot down a policy change that would have allowed board members to enter in to a special meeting with a two-thirds vote, instead of a unanimous vote.
Wright proposed the measure, saying a two-thirds vote was not to divide the board, but to show they were listening to the community.
Board member Pete Montano disagreed, saying a unanimous vote would keep the board clean.
Wright, along with board members Sherri Noyes and Kara Suckla, voted in favor of the change. Montano, Schuenemeyer and board member Eric Whyte voted against. Brian Balfour was absent from the meeting. Since the vote was a tie, the policy will remain unchanged. Under Colorado’s Sunshine law, local public bodies can go into executive session only after two-thirds of the quorum present vote in favor of one.
Also at the meeting, the board discussed a measure that will come before the Colorado Association of School Boards at the group’s fall delegates meeting next month.
Durango 9-R school district has proposed a school finance resolution that would redistribute money for schools across the state, providing more funding for “at-risk” districts and decreasing the amount of money that wealthier districts get from the cost-of-living factor. Smaller, less wealthy districts such as Re-1 would get hundreds of dollars more per student if the resolution became legislation.
The board will take action on the measure at their next meeting Oct. 18.
Wright said the redistribution of funds proposed in the resolution might be controversial, but would be beneficial for the district.
“It’s time to revisit school finance,” she said. “Our youth are our future, and we’re robbing them.”