The Montezuma-Cortez District Re-1 school board on Tuesday discussed topics including the results from the district’s safety survey, suspensions resulting from a recent student get-together, the high school’s dropout rate, board member Josiah Forkner’s resignation, and a mill levy for 2018.
Survey focuses on securityThe board, which publicly received the results of the safety survey on Tuesday, focused its discussion on whether schools should try to improve security by arming staff or adding security officers or metal detectors.
The district sent 2,335 surveys to parents (one for each student), and 591 were returned, or a 25.3 percent response, according to the district. Lewis-Arriola Elementary School had the highest return rate, at 85 percent, and Montezuma-Cortez High School had the lowest, at 12 percent.
The most respondents commented on questions about arming and training staff and installing metal detectors, the district said.
Responding to the question about whether respondents felt that “arming properly trained school staff with a firearm will make the school(s) safer,” 57 percent replied “yes,” and 43 percent replied “no.”
But when staff members were asked how likely they were to “move forward with the extensive training and evaluations required in order to carry a firearm in a school setting,” 48 staff members responded “very likely,” and 78 staff members responded “very unlikely.”
The board also passed, on first reading, policies and revisions from the CASB recommendedClaire Davis Act, which refers to safety protocols ranging from disciplinary action to nutritious food choices.
School board members discussed seeking grants for a school resource officer and other security measures in response to the survey, and agreed to continue the discussion at May’s board meeting.
Josiah Forkner’s resignation acceptedThe board unanimously accepted the resignation of school board member Forkner, who was director of District D. The board officially declared that the District D seat was vacant and it has 90 days to fill it. Board members set a deadline for letters from interested parties for their May 15 board meeting.
Forkner, who also was director of Montezuma County Social Services, resigned in late March amid a preliminary investigation by the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s office. Forkner and DA Will Furse refused to comment further. Members of the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners – Keenan Ertel, James Lambert and Larry Don Suckla – also refused to comment, based on the advice of county attorney John Baxter.
On Tuesday, school board secretary Kara Suckla lamented Forkner’s resignation.
“I think he was a great asset to our board,” Suckla said. “I hate to accept it.”
Forkner was elected in November to District D, a largely Native American district. When he announced his resignation from the school board and Social Services, he said that he was looking for a job outside the area.
Update on improvement plansThe Re-1 school board on Tuesday heard Unified Improvement Plans from each school except Manaugh Elementary School and Cortez Middle School. The Colorado Department of Education has placed Manaugh and the middle school in turnaround status, and the schools presented improvement plans earlier this year.
Each school in the district is required to have a 90-day plan as part of their UIP, to be revisited every 90 days.
Lewis-Arriola Elementary School’s plan included revisiting its mission statement to become a more community-based school.Kemper Elementary Principal Jamie Haukeness said Kemper’s priority remains student achievement and safety.Montezuma-Cortez High School Principal Jason Wayman reported that the current dropout rate at M-CHS is 6 percent, half of what it was when he took the position, but above the state average.Carol Mehesy, director of School Improvement and Grants, reported on the district’s UIP.“We are still performing below state standards in math and ELA in elementary and middle school,” she said. “We are really looking to improve achievement hopefully by 5 percent per year.”
Parents challenge student suspensionsTwo Montezuma-Cortez High School parents on Tuesday challenged recent suspensions.
Jennifer Wood and Janice Christiansen said they believed their children were unfairly punished after an pre-graduation celebration on April 10 at Bradfield Bridge in Dolores County that involved dozens of students, some of whom allegedly were drinking alcohol.
The suspensions were based on a violation of school policy about activities and athletics, said Re-1 Superintendent Lori Haukeness, that were spelled out in the school handbook.
Wood said that her daughter lost a total of 53 percent of CHSAA activities. “Her choir performance was last Wednesday, and that was taken immediately,” she said. “By what was stated in the handbook, her activity had already been taken away and should have been allowed to compete in the track meet over the weekend.”
Lori Haukeness responded that every student is entitled to a free and appropriate education, but that athletics and activities are privileged activities.
“Students earn those privileges,” Lori Haukeness said, “and students can have those privileges taken away, as was the case.”
She said the penalty amounts to 20 percent of each CHSAA-sanctioned sport or activity.
On Thursday, Bert Borgmann, assistant commissioner at the Colorado High School Activities Association, told The Journal that CHSAA does not determine sanctions for students who violate policies.
“That is really a decision by the school,” Borgmann said in a telephone call with The Journal. “CHSAA does not have any specific training rules with that; those are things that are set up by the school as part of their eligibility.”
The Dolores County Sheriff has declined to release details about the matter.
Update on school demolitionThe board heard from Jim Ketter about the demolition of the retired Montezuma-Cortez High School, on West Seventh Street.“Things are still proceeding on schedule,” he said. “Colorado Hazard Control is currently about 60 percent complete with their abatement work. We are looking for final completion at some point mid-summer and looking forward to clearing out that space for the city and their new park.”
Questions about school calendarsPresident Sherri Wright told the board the trimester had been approved with the calendar before Wayman presented it to the board in March.
Wayman noted that the trimester schedule, which replaced the semester system, applies to the entire district and that the change was relatively minor. “The school has been six-period days with an advisory period for six years,” he said.
Lori Haukeness told the board that the leadership team was committed to the trimester schedule for at least three years.
The board unanimously passed the 2018-2019 Manaugh school calendar. Manaugh students will start one week earlier than the rest of the district, on Aug. 13. Manaugh is considered a low-performance school by the state Department of Education and is in “turnaround” status.“I am OK with starting a week earlier even if it helps one child,” said board vice president Sheri Noyes.
Update on plans for a mill levyThe board on Tuesday gave Lori Haukeness an unofficial nod of approval to move forward with a ballot question about a mill levy this year.
Board members discussed the lack of voter support in 2017 and whether they should add a “sunset” and a safety plan to language about the tax.
Wright led the discussion.
“We also need to figure out what we are going to do if we do it again, and it does not pass,” Wright said. “Folks, we cannot operate if we do not have a mill levy. What are we going to do? Are we going to close a school? Are we going to stop athletics? Are we going to stop transporting kids? What are we going to do?”
On Nov. 7, voters rejected Ballot Measure 3B by a vote of 55 percent to 45 percent.
Measure 3B asked voters whether the board should be authorized to raise and spend additional property tax revenues by 4.96 mills a year, about $2.7 million for collection in 2018, and by whatever amounts the tax increase generated each following year. The revenue was to be deposited in the district’s general fund for purposes approved by the board, including buses, technology and salaries. Almost 80 percent of the revenue had been assigned to staff salaries.
In other action, the board on Tuesday unanimously passed the consent calendar, the 2018-2019 Board of Education meeting schedule, a supplemental budget item for $22,500 and three capital reserve fund items totaling $53,597.42.
The Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 District School Board adjourned at 10:26 p.m. The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is May 15 at 7 p.m.