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Cortez school board swears in new members and celebrates attendance rates

Rhonda Tracy swearing in as a new board member. (Screen capture/Montezuma-Cortez School District)
Sheri Noyes was voted to remain as president and Ed Rice was voted in as vice president

At their Tuesday night board meeting, the Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 school district swore in four new members to the board, provided updates on district initiatives and accepted a board member resignation.

At the beginning of the meeting, the M-CHS drama program presented to the board about their trip to Denver for a Thespian Conference Dec. 7-10.

Theater Director Nicholaus Sandner and students Lily Sandner and Cruz Hernandez spoke about the event, saying they will take 40 students up to Denver, 30 of which will be competing in competitions at the event.

The board also celebrated Kemper’s recent U.S. News and World Report rating that place it in the top 40% in the state, ranking as number 151 out of nearly 800 schools.

They also announced and accepted member Jeanette Hart’s resignation from the board.

Superintendent’s report

In Superintendent Tom Burris’ report, he thanked the outgoing members for their service to the board and expressed excitement to work with the new board elected in November.

“I just want to say thank you to all of you,” Burris said. “You’re the board I came in with.”

Burris told board members that he hopes to set a date for a board training with AJ Crabill, who has conducted previous trainings with the district. He also noted they would discuss a date for strategic planning and to “discuss the direction of the previous board as we move forward.”

Portable classrooms are now running at Mesa Elementary after months of work, and Burris said there is a “needed sense of relief” after the final approval.

He also informed the board and attendees about the district’s quest to become their own administrative unit and part ways with BOCES, saying that decision should come at the end of the week.

During a previous executive session, Burris shared that he met with the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council to talk about changes for Indigenous high school students. Tribal Chairman Manuel Heart wasn’t in attendance, but Burris said he spoke on the phone with him afterward.

“He expressed concern that the tribal students who graduate do not have the skills to get into college,” Burris said. “He said that he ‘supports’ my direction with improving education at the high school.”

Burris’s report ended with the attendance report showing that all district schools still have attendance above 90%.

“The principals are dong a great job motivating kids,” he said.

Exceptional Student Services Report

Exceptional Student Services Director Lisa Megal spoke of areas of focus for Special Education students and gifted and talented students, as well as areas of consideration and investigation.

IEPs have been finished for all students in the SPED program, and they will be able to attend regular classes with their peers, according to Burris.

With that information in mind, Megal presented areas of focus for the schools and district including consistency in IEP meeting processes, progress monitoring, appropriate assessment and identification, increasing opportunities for inclusion, professional development and specialized programming and opportunities.

Other areas of consideration she brought to attention were tiered interventions, second language learners and the impact of language and services, preparing students for life after graduation, staffing needs, academic assessment and graduation requirements and pathways.

New board members

At the end of the meeting, new board members Rafe O’Brien, Leland Collins, Mike Lynch and Rhonda Tracy were sworn into their new positions by Montezuma County Judge JenniLynn Lawrence.

O’Brien replaced Cody Wells in District A, Collins replaced Lyndreth Wall in District D, Lynch replaced Layne Frazier in District G, and Rhonda Tracy beat out Jonathan James “JJ” Lewis to replace Sherri Wright in District C.

After the new members were sworn in, the board nominated members for president and vice president. After the nominations and votes, Sheri Noyes was voted to remain as president, and Ed Rice was voted vice president.

Tracy was named treasurer and O’Brien, secretary.

The next Montezuma-Cortez school board meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.