New faces in the hallways
by Patty Unruh
The Gilpin County Board of Education held its first regular meeting of the 2016-17 school year on Tuesday, August 16, at 7:00 p.m. All board members were present: Craig Holmes, Brook Ramsey, Charlotte Taylor, Kersten Armstrong, and Steve Boulter. Superintendent David MacKenzie, Secretary to the Board Gretchen Sechler, Secondary Principal Alexis Donaldson, and Elementary Principal Heather Huntoon were also present.
The Board welcomed several new staff members. Craig Ball has been at Gilpin School for several years, but this year is working in a new capacity. He is now teaching the career business class, two tech classes, and yearbook. Ball is also in his third year as the high school’s head football coach. In prior years, he was the middle school football coach and was a paraprofessional full time. As he does not have a teaching license, he was hired under an alternative license and will soon be taking classes at Colorado Christian University to get his teaching degree.
Rachel Hansard is in the traditional preschool program. She received her undergraduate degree in early childhood development from the University of Michigan at Flint. She has her MS degree from the University of Colorado in Denver and has been in education for six years.
Kim Cobb is the school counselor. Cobb received her MS from the University of Colorado in Denver and has been in education for ten years. When the counseling position opened at Gilpin, Cobb “jumped at the opportunity to work in my own community. I have lived here for twenty years,” she said.
Christopher (Topher) Rouse graduated from Montana State University. He spent the past 19 years teaching high school social studies, coaching volleyball, and performing many other roles in Strasburg, Colorado. He comes to Gilpin as the middle school interventionist. Rouse has been married for less than a year and plans to work on his master’s degree in military history.
Jennifer Hylton has worked as a substitute at Gilpin for the past three years. Now, she is a full-time paraprofessional in Katie Yocom’s Montessori pre-K and kindergarten class. Hylton was born and raised in New Orleans and has worked in Colorado since the birth of her son.
The Board approved the July check vouchers, financial statement, and the human resources report. General fund revenue was $211,854, and expenses were $450,347.
Secondary Principal’s Report
Donaldson reported on the Tointon Institute teacher leadership academy that she attended with ten teachers in Vail in June. During three and a half days of training, the group learned about ways to clarify learning in the classroom.
It was $350 per person, Donaldson related. “But we were one of only 12 teams that were accepted out of 85 schools that applied.”
The teachers created learning targets over the summer and presented them to the rest of the staff in August. The three main goals are what students learn, why they are learning it, and “I know I’m successful when …”
Elementary Principal’s Report
Huntoon said she spent the summer planning staff development and building her team. She interviewed the staff last May on what each teacher wanted from her as a leader. She also told them her expectations of them as staff: to be risk takers and to put the kids first. A lot of energy is being focused on the behavioral expectations of PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) and on preparing scoring rubrics for writing, worded so that the children can understand them and evaluate their own writing.
“We need to make it a habit to write across the curriculum,” she said.
She mentioned that the staff held a surprise party to welcome her and that the teachers were very excited to begin the new school year.
Bliss Diamond and her daughter Zsatira entered the meeting at that point. Bliss expressed their desire that Zsatira have independent study time at school to pursue art and music while doing her academics. Their hope is to have Zsatira get into a college to study music or art, and they said she needs to have a portfolio or other materials to present. Zsatira had asked in her music class at Gilpin whether she could work with her own rock band, but was told no. Bliss said she would like to see Zsatira and other students to be permitted to pursue studies outside of the current curriculum restrictions. She expressed thanks for Superintendent MacKenzie and for all the progress of the past three years.
Board member Holmes said the Board would consider her request and discuss it with Principal Donaldson. “We’ll see what we can come up with,” he said.
MacKenzie gave a visual presentation of a Ten-Month Pacing Guide on Journeys (elementary reading program). He had realized that the school did not have any specific curriculum in reading and math that was aligned to standardized tests. When it came time to take tests, the students weren’t familiar with what to do. The Journeys curriculum was selected to correct this.
MacKenzie said he went through the K-5 Journeys book and identified the standards addressed the most often, so that Gilpin’s teachers would know what to emphasize.
“In Journeys, there are 30 lessons at each grade level. If we teach everything we are supposed to teach in K-12, it would take us 20 years,” he said. “So we must make choices.”
He related the goal of providing differentiation in instruction, allowing students to have extra time on a concept or to move ahead according to their needs, and providing rigor at each step.
Clarity of Vision: 2020
MacKenzie addressed the next strategic four-year plan for the District, which he entitled Clarity of Vision: 2020. The goal is to be a school of excellence and a district of destination and distinction. “It’s just ‘what’s next’ as we move the kids forward,” he advised.
One goal is for 90 percent of the grade level students to be at or above grade level, according to STAR testing. Another goal is to have 90 percent of kindergarten through second grade students at or above the state level in NWEA testing. MacKenzie said, “We want a 57 percent median growth percentile, or a little more than a year’s growth each year.”
The high school students will be switching from taking the ACT to taking the SAT test, and MacKenzie said a composite score of 1,000 is the desired goal. He also hopes for a four-year 100 percent completion rate for high school students.
He went on to show several social studies and science test percentages for elementary, middle, and high students showing a trend above the state percentages. Accordingly, he believed that scores in math and language arts, when received, would be at or above the state average. He expressed pride in both teachers and students for their achievement.
Other Progress to Report
Progress was made over the summer on the school facility, including repair of the marquee, replacement of the cement pad outside the atrium entrance and the elementary and district office gutters, and summer cleaning.
Work is ongoing on radio internal and external communication.
There was a large turnout for Back to School Night on August 11 and for elementary parent-teacher conferences on August 15.
The E-rate (discounted telecommunications) of $20,000 that has been earmarked for the wireless network has still not been received. A guest network for wireless is available now on the school’s website.
The Board went into Executive Session at 8:07 p.m. to discuss contract negotiations.
The next regular meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 6, at 7:00 p.m.
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