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Dolores school board discusses attendance and hears from debate society

The Dolores school board met on Thursday. (Journal file photo)
Attendance has drastically improved over the last few months

The Dolores RE-4A Board of Education on Thursday heard from a former board member about the district’s liability in cases of bullying and discussed improved school attendance and the possibility of peer reviews.

The board received an update from a representative of the Dolores Debate Society, which participated at the state competition in the team’s debut year.

Celebration reports

The Dolores Debate Society started the meeting with an update on the team’s first year, which was capped by their performance at the state competition Feb. 2-3 at Niwot High School.

Champions were crowned in Congressional Debate, Creative Storytelling, Dramatic Interpretation, Duo Interpretation, Extemporaneous Speaking, Humor Interpretation, Impromptu Speaking, Informative Speaking, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, One-on-One Value Debate, Original Oratory, Poetry Interpretation, Program Oral and Public Forum.

Darwin Cooper and Dillon Brengle competed in Congressional Debate, and Jayden Gorsuch and Julianne Vega competed in Duo Interpretation.

In Congressional Debate, a caucus of 12 to 18 students creates a mock congress in which they create: legislation, amendments, resolutions and elect a presiding officer over the House. They are judged on their ability to get things passed and to persuade their constituents to side with them.

Cooper place sixth out of more than 40 competitors. Brengle was the first to have legislation considered and passed at state.

In the Duo Interpretation section, each performer must portray multiple characters and may choose between the options of the solo interpretation styles.

The team expressed their excitement at how they did at state, with one saying that is was “something I will carry with me forever.”

Residents address the board

Former board member Lenetta Shull addressed the board regarding bullying.

Shull reminded those attending that she decided not to rerun for the board because she wanted to write and help with legislation.

After hearing stories about bullying in local schools, which even included her granddaughter, Shull said she looked through laws and policies regarding bullying.

She cited the Claire Davis School Safety Act, CRS 24-10-1067, which was passed in 2015. This law was passed after the fatal shooting that happened at Arapahoe High School in 2015.

According to the law, parents are permitted to sue if a school doesn’t take the steps to provide “reasonable care” to protect faculty, staff and students from potential violence and bullying. The law defines the crimes of violence as murder, first-degree assault or felony sexual assault.

Before Shull could go on, her time to speak was up.

Board reports

In board reports, member Clay Tallmadge and Superintendent Reece Blincoe discussed the most recent BOCES meeting and updates regarding the Montezuma-Cortez school district’s status with San Juan BOCES.

According to Tallmadge, the Montezuma-Cortez school district is disputing the BOCES and Colorado Department of Education’s decision to prevent the district from pulling out of BOCES.

Toward the end of 2023, the CDE said they would not permit Montezuma-Cortez from leaving BOCES because it would negatively affect the other districts in the organization.

While they acknowledged that Montezuma-Cortez was capable of successfully becoming their own administrative unit, but that they didn’t prove that BOCES could survive without their financial assistance.

CDE will make a decision within 60 days.

Attendance update

The board and Blincoe received a report on attendance, noting that last fall attendance was 29% chronically absent (missing 10% more of school days) and that as of Thursday, the chronically absent rate was down to 13%, which they credited to the district’s updated policies on attendance, which include sitting down with and calling parents when a student has been absent for a certain amount of days.

Peer reviews

After tabling the discussion at a previous meeting, the board discussed joining a peer review panel, which would have district teachers peer review other schools in the district and allowing teachers from other districts to peer review the Dolores district.

According to information provided to the board by the committee, the accountability program would work to help participating districts with their curriculum and instruction, leadership and vision as well as learning climate.

The teachers would participate in two surveys per year.