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Cortez school board hears improvement needed in all schools

The Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 board on Oct. 18 the board was presented Unified Improvement Plan reports from each school.(Screenshot via Zoom)
Schools face challenges of attendance, performance, staffing

At the Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 board meeting on Oct. 18, the board was presented Unified Improvement Plan reports from each school. All UIP reports in the district noted that low attendance as a major concern, along with below-average test scores and struggles in math and reading.

The board also heard pleas to restore at least one student-led club meeting at lunchtime.

School reports reveal weaknesses

Unified Improvement Plan reports are a requirement of the state of Colorado according to the Education Accountability Act of 2009. Every school in the state is required to present a report detailing their school’s performance in certain areas while highlighting goals and aspects that need to be changed and improved.

State assessments were canceled in spring 2020, and state accountability was paused for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years. State accountability has resumed for 2022-2023 with preliminary district ratings. All calculations use only the most recent year of data, multiyear frameworks are not available.

The Montezuma-Cortez High School report showed that incoming freshmen struggled to adapt to high school, and more than 60% were “failing” in math, English and science. Staff plan to add support classes and create a team to help freshmen with the transition.

SAT and PSAT scores were below the state average, and plans are being developed to improve test scores across the board.

Cortez Middle School report showed 80% of students tested below their grade level and 50% needed immediate intervention in math and reading.

Elementary schools Mesa and Kemper shared their goal to improve lesson plans and encourage students to do independent work with grade-level material, while boosting support for math and reading.

At Kemper, the 60% of the third-grade class performed below grade level overall.

Lewis Arriola and Pleasant View are working to improve attendance. During the 2021-2022 school year, 36% of students were absent 10 or more days, and some missed nearly 48 days.

Southwest Open School expressed a need to create better strategies to track scores, along with adding midyear testing to better determine student growth and areas of improvement. It is creating a framework to address the “culture of illiteracy” and help students build their skills in reading.

One of the challenges facing Battle Rock Charter is the number of teacher absences throughout the year. The average teacher absence last school year was 18.8 days.

Kiva Montessori noted it is are chronically understaffed. They also plan on implementing more rigid accountability, saying that school leaders currently do not ensure teachers are delivering high-quality instruction.

Residents ask to reinstate FCA meetings

Some residents addressing the board asked that student-led meetings be reinstated at lunch, specifically the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Lighthouse Baptist Church youth pastor and volunteer coach for Panthers’ varsity football, Reece Alvarez, spoke of the Constitutional right for students to meet, citing the Equal Access Act of 1984.

He said FCA promotes leadership, teamwork and initiative.

“The path of least resistance is seldom, if ever, the right path,” Alvarez said. “We’re not asking you to make the easy choice, we’re asking you to make the right choice.”

“Make the choice in favor of freedom, in favor of the Constitution, and in favor of the students,” Alvarez said.

M-CHS varsity baseball coach Tim Passell and middle school counselor Robyne Cote also supported the FCA meeting. Cote’s son, Chance Cote, a senior at the University of Wyoming, wrote in a letter to the board that “FCA is a safe space for students to engage in camaraderie in a community that strengthens morals and values.”

“I have never felt more part of a family or a community or a team than when I was able to pray with my football team before a game or with my baseball team around the mound after a game,” the letter said.

Mesa Elementary starts Watchdog Dads program

Mesa Elementary introduced a program that allows qualified men 18 and over who pass background checks to be Watchdog Dads at the school. Along with being an extra layer of security, they keep an eye on what students are learning, read books to them, help struggling kids and are involved with students who may have trouble making friends.

The school has 11 watchdog dads and is looking for more to get involved.

Other items
  • The board recognized senior Thayer Plewe for winning the 2022 Colorado Class 3A Individual State Championship in the 3A classification for golf, and introduced new Assistant Superintendent Eddie Ramirez.
  • Approved donations and grants were for $4,000 from the ONWARD! A Legacy Foundation given for field trips K-8 and $7,000 from Supercross champion Eli Tomac for athletics. An electric upgrade for Kemper was also approved for $10,881.47.
  • The board unanimously approved repairing the M-CHS football practice field for $31,500 a process by Innovative Turf Solutions. “Phase mowing” will remove a thin layer of topsoil and level the surface before adding a topsoil sand mix to create a safer playing surface.

Kyle Archibeque said if the process goes well, they could discuss doing the same thing at the stadium next year.

The next school board is Nov. 22 at 6 p.m.