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Cortez principals report on school performance, discuss goals for achievement

Kemper Principal Kathleen Nelson speaks to the Board about Kemper’s unified improvement plan at the September meeting. (Screen Capture via Zoom)
Board also discusses upcoming school crisis training

During their Tuesday night school board meeting, the Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 school board discussed many items, including school safety trainings, BOCES, school improvement and more.

Superintendent report

Superintendent Tom Burris said he had a recent coaching session with education reform advocate AJ Crabill after “modifying” his duties with the board.

“He is not only insightful, but he has also experienced many of the obstacles that I am facing,” he said, adding that he was given “very sound advice” about personnel.

“One of the things that is lacking is a clear realization that there are members of our school community that are not tolerant of each other. This has come up a couple of times recently, and I have had to address this behavior,” he said.

He spoke of ESS director Lisa Megel, who has been working on individualized education plans for high school students so they can be included in regular classes.

Burris also said the district has asked the Colorado Board of Education if it can schedule its next board training session – part of the district’s improvement plan – after the board election in November.

He thanked Melissa Bruner and Lori Hale for their help with the financial analysis required to pull out of BOCES.

And he spoke of the Sept. 7 “We Care Fair,” which aims to encourage students to improve their attendance. About 90 people attended along with 30 to 40 students who had missed 30 to 50 days of school in 2022-2023. Piñon Project and other community groups attended too.

“The objective was to stay positive and to encourage students to come to school,” Burris said. “We will be tracking the students who attended and analyzing effectiveness.”

Assistant superintendent’s report

Assistant Superintendent Eddie Ramirez told the board that he has discussed directives surrounding the new COVID-19 variant with County Emergency Coordinator Jim Spratlen and will coordinate responses with Jacklyn Hall, the director of nurses, and Ray Lopez, facilities director on the plan and sanitizing.

He plans to meet with technology director Mark Knox, to coordinate hybrid learning in case students can’t meet fully in-person.

He also announced that the FEMA MGT 417 Crisis Management Course will take place Oct. 24 and Oct. 26 from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the district board room on 400 N. Elm St. The course helps school leaders to partner with law enforcement officers during school-based incidents.

Attendees learn and practice skills through drills and exercises to ensure an effective crisis response. Topics include all-hazards planning, preparedness, vulnerability assessments, all-hazards response, all-hazards recovery and scenario-based opportunities.

They also will train on developing a communications plan Nov. 8.

Student Academic Services

Jim Parr, executive director of Student Academic Services summarized CMAS, PSAT and SAT data and discussed school improvement before principals presented their unified improvement plans.

Because Lewis-Arriola is ranked highly, as a “performance” school, it did not present an improvement plan.

Mesa Principal Robert Layman said Mesa is diving deeper into student data to see where the school can continue to improve. Mesa plans to continue rigorous testing to give students test practice as they attempt to bring performance back to grade level.

He also said Mesa is emphasizing growth and achievement goals in an attempt to continue to improves student performance.

Kemper Principal Kathleen Nelson spoke of the school’s common lesson plans to enhance school practices and collaboration in the school, and to promote rigorous learning.

She and her staff are learning how to make student data “meaningful and strategic” and how to effectively respond to data.

Her teachers have been working on their strengths and weaknesses by pairing with a teacher whose weakness is their strength and vice versa. Fifth grade teachers shadow sixth grade teachers to ensure Kemper fifth graders are prepared for middle school.

Principal Drew Pearson said the middle school was working on instructional coaching support, discipline and teacher growth opportunities, and interventions for struggling students. The middle school is working to improve its English score, and to make students’ time more meaningful.

High school Principal Dr. Jennifer Boniface said goals for the new year focus on emphasizing common curriculum, rewarding good behavior, promoting testing, growing teacher support and improving student and family engagement.

One suggested idea to improve parental engagement would create “watchdog” parents who volunteer to walk the hallways and engage with students during the day.

Boniface also said she hopes to increase communication with parents about student performance.

“They never should be surprised, whether their student is failing or excelling,” she said.

The next Montezuma-Cortez board meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 6 p.m.