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Cortez school board hosts moderated meeting, hears from Kemper students

Superintendent Tom Burris moderated February’s school board meeting to be used in training and community education purposes. (Bailey Duran/Special to the Journal)
The meeting was moderated to inform the community on why the board operates the way that it does

At its monthly board meeting Feb. 21, the Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 school board shared a little public education of its own. Instead of conducting the meeting as normal, Superintendent Tom Burris moderated the meeting and explained each action done by the Board as it came up on the agenda.

The moderated meeting was videotaped to be used for training purposes, but Burris said he hoped it also would help those in attendance and others in the community to understand why “we do what we do.”

The meeting covered projects done by some of Kemper Elementary’s gifted and talented fifth-grade students and gave updates for a few of the schools and the district’s transportation department.

Kemper’s Gifted and Talented

Two Kemper fifth-grade students presented their essays, which were ranked in the top three for the Cortez Elks Lodge essay contest. The students in the top three all came from Kemper Elementary. The essay prompt was, “What is your American dream?”

The first student, Olivia, read her essay, and explained how her American dream is to be a doctor so that she could help others become healthier and achieve their American dream. “It’s not about financial gain for me; it’s about loving and helping others,” she said in her essay.

The second student, Kanyin, told the board in her essay that her American dream is to become a published author, and she hoped her books made others happy and impacted their lives. “If you work hard and try your best, that dream can come true,” Kanyin said.

Following the essay reading, Charlene Buffington, Kemper’s teacher of the fifth-grade gifted and talented students, had six of her students present their passion projects to the board. Olivia and Kanyin presented their projects along with four of their other classmates.

The projects ranged from space to the NBA, the origin of the names of colors, the number of flowers in the world and how two snowflakes are never alike.

Board reports

The board welcomed new member Lyndreth Wall to his first official board meeting as a member, and discussed the impact of the special-education training that took place this month. All principals and administrators were required to attend, and the board attended part of the training as well.

Board member Cody Wells said the training was “incredible” and noted he hopes that it would become an annual thing for the district. Board President Sherri Noyes echoed Wells, saying she was disappointed she hadn’t been able to attend the entirety of the training.

Noyes also spoke of the turnout at the basketball team’s senior night, saying she was happy to see school and community pride in the school’s sports coming back.

Wall informed the board that the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is in the planning stage for a new council, and he invited the school board to participate in the planning to add perspectives on education in the area.

Superintendent’s report

Superintendent Burris spoke on the success of the attendance committee thus far, and said that on March 7, 22nd Judicial District Judge Will Furse would join the committee.

He also presented a gift to Director of Finance Kyle Archibeque, who was attending his last meeting as the finance director. “I hate losing you,” Burris said to Archibeque, and spent a few minutes thanking him for his service to the district and for what he had done during his time as the director of finance.

Finance report

In his final finance report, Archibeque updated the board on the portable classrooms that are under construction, saying the classrooms would be finished sooner than expected, allowing them to be installed sometime this summer.

He provided an update on the HVAC, boiler and roof replacements set to take place at the Cortez Middle School, and said they hoped those things could be finished as soon as possible.

Construction on the CMS, Kemper and Mesa playgrounds had been given a thumbs-up to be started when it is warmer, and in order to keep striving toward making the district safer, Archibeque said they were considering adding badge card readers at all external doors at the schools. They’ve had a few walk-throughs for this project and are weighing the pros and cons before moving forward.

They are also applying for grants to upgrade camera systems to make sure there aren’t holes in security in the schools along with upgrading staff radios and their programming.

Other action items
  • The board approved the 2023-2024 school calendar and board of education meeting date calendar, and unanimously approved a donation from the LOR Foundation that would provide $22,900 toward M-HS’s new weight room equipment.
  • The board also received multiple capital reserve requests from the district’s transportation director for new equipment. All the equipment requested was approved by the board.

The approved equipment was a transportation air compressor for $13,189.99, a hydraulic lift for $19,557.34, wheel balancer for $14,323.63, transmission lift station for $1,125, two maintenance tractors for $75,281.10 and M-CHS ice melt system for $7,500.

  • After approving the transportation equipment, the board held an executive session to discuss Burris’s contract, and following the executive session, the board unanimously approved extending his contract for another year.

The board praised Burris for his impact on the district. Wells said Burris was “instrumental” in the district’s improvement.

The next board meeting will be March 28 at 6 p.m.