The Dolores School Board held its annual retreat at the Dolores Public Library on Tuesday afternoon.
Randy Black, Colorado Association of School Boards director of member relations, led the discussion.
Board members and Superintendent Scott Cooper began the retreat by discussing the strengths of the board.
Black pointed out that by starting with strengths, the discussion was less likely to get stuck in a “weakness trap.”
Board members Vangi McCoy and Casey McClellan agreed that the board’s attendance at CASB events is a strength in itself.
“By attending CASB every year, we are intentionally investing time and money in board learning,” McCoy said. “I know we can always do more, but I think that is a strength.”
The board agreed that a large part of being a productive and successful board is getting to know one another’s motivations for being on the board.
“I am always thinking of ways to elevate collective wisdom, and the ways you do that is to know the skills, passions and interests (of members of the board) and what people bring to the table,” board vice president Kay Phelps said.
The district’s standardized test scores were also discussed at the retreat.
“I do think the test scores are concerning, and we would all like to see them go up,” board secretary Deanna Truelsen said.
Members revisited the problem of lack of participation in standardized testing.
“We would like to see participation go up, and I definitely think it is a culture,” board president Dee Prock said.
Cooper pointed out that the students needed to understand the importance of the tests to do their best.
Board members agreed that the parents also needed to understand the value of testing because they are the ones making the decision whether or not to opt their child out of testing.
Prock pointed out that the state has taken notice of the numbers of “opt-out” students and is making more information about testing available to students and parents.
Black assured the district board members that “opt-out” rates are high all over Colorado.“Please hear me say, this is not just about you guys, this is literally everywhere,” he said.
Board members also discussed the structure of their regular meetings.
Black told the board the importance of interaction with constituents and proposed the idea of greeting them at the door.
“You are valuing them for coming to your meeting,” Black said. “You don’t sit behind a table until it is time to start the meeting.”
Prock said the best part of the retreat for her was, “understanding that the board meeting is a business meeting, but really truly respect the people who come to be a part.”
This topic led board members to discuss the physical layout of their meetings and consider a different floor-plan for better teamwork and community interaction.
Phelps expressed the need for the board to communicate better with the public.
“The district has been adding to where we see a need for emotional learning and enhancing what we are already doing,” Phelps said. “That should all be articulated to our community. I think we are doing things better than might be communicated to the general public.”
In the last section of the retreat, board members discussed positive changes during their time on the board and the benefits they had gained from the retreat.
Prock pointed out rising graduation rates.
“It is nice that you can feel and watch that over the years because there is so much change,” Prock said. “It just was not like that when my 25-year-old graduated.”
Black reminded board members that facing challenges and highlighting positives is key in operations. “In this era of anxiety, being OK with challenges is essential,” he said.
Cooper expressed his appreciation for the board members’ time and how valuable the conversations were to him as superintendent.
The Dolores School Board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Feb. 8. at 6 p.m.