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Cortez school board has vacancy, discusses new data program

The Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 Board of Education. (Screenshot via Zoom)
District also plans to use data dashboard for student performance

The Montezuma-Cortez school board on Tuesday discussed a newly vacant board seat, special education training and a new data platform, among other items on their agenda.

The monthly District Re-1 Board of Education meeting kicked off with a presentation from Lewis-Arriola Elementary’s student council about their food drive, which gathered more than 1,000 food items to donate to the community. They also are working on a toy drive, and the toys accumulated will be given to the Piñon Project before Christmas.

This is the school’s first student council since before the COVID-19 pandemic, and administrators noted it was the students who were vocal about having the council back in session this year.

Superintendent begins search for board member

Superintendent Tom Burris’ report started with the news of board member Stacey Hall’s resignation. According to Colorado Revised Statute 22-31-129(2), the board was required to adopt a resolution filing for Hall’s replacement. The board has 60 days to find a replacement for Hall, and that person will serve until the next biennial election in November 2023.

Burris said he and assistant Debra Ramsey will be in charge of searching for a replacement, and anyone who is interested in the position or has questions may contact Ramsey at 970-564-4187 or email debramsey@cortez.k12.co.us.

In her resignation letter, Hall said, “I have enjoyed my time on the Board, and it has been a great learning experience for me.”

Regarding prior discussions on attendance, Burris informed the board that he has sent two groups of referrals to Colorado Protective Services that will be investigated further.

In preparation for the 2023-2024 school year, Burris noted that they are working on curating lesson plans, data, calendar, student discipline and attendance plans for next year and that it is non-negotiable for there to be common lesson plans that align with state standards to ensure students are receiving the knowledge they need to thrive.

To finish his report, Burris told the board he is bringing special education lawyer Elaina Gallegos to the school around February to train principals, assistant principals and other administrators in special education. He said administrative attendance will be required, and the board could attend.

District to start dashboard for education data

Jim Parr, executive director of Student Academic Services, told the board there is a significant lack of data regarding student learning, how the district is doing with their goals, and which students are struggling and where.

Consequently, the district is adopting a program called Schoolzilla starting in the 2023-2024 school year. According to Parr’s report, Schoolzilla “works as a data warehouse and takes information from PowerSchool, Renaissance (STAR), CMAS, PSAT, SAT, DIBELs and other resources and all the different programs we utilize and creates a ‘dashboard’ for easy access data in one place.”

He also updated the board on the status of an Empower Action for School Improvement grant, which will provide support for schools efforts to get planning strategies, outside resources and even direct help from the Colorado Board of Education if needed.

Parr said he will know what amount the district was awarded in mid-January. The award amount can range from $30,000 to $150,000.

Portable classrooms being built

Kyle Archibeque announced that the portable classrooms approved earlier in the year are being built. The classrooms are expected be ready in late January or early February. To accommodate the portable classrooms, the electrical transformers in Kemper and Mesa elementaries needed to be updated. Kemper’s update is finished, but Mesa’s needs to be done. The cost for the upgrade is $12,717.92 and was approved by the board.

Archibeque noted the mill levy certification shows the district mills increased this year by 0.849 from last year, which is an increase of 3.7%. This will raise taxes approximately $1.33 and commercially around $24.65.

He also provided an update on the Beech Street and CMS HVAC installation and said the middle school was tested for asbestos around the installation site. While the test came back negative, he is meeting with the testing team again to see if there needs to be another round of testing before they begin the installation process.

In case asbestos is found around the HVAC site, he asked the board to allow a contingency fund of $125,000 just in case they need to bring in professionals to remove asbestos if it is found in the second round of testing.

Other Items

The board unanimously approved a donation for the Kemper and Mesa playgrounds for $25,000 from the LOR Foundation.

The next board meeting will take place Tuesday, Jan. 17.