The Dolores School District RE-4A Board of Education on Sept. 8 discussed finances, teacher vacancies, affordable housing, a drug task force and a grant that could boost student performance.
Superintendent Reece Blincoe’s report highlighted the student body numbers for the 2022-2023 school year. The elementary school has 256 students, and the middle and high school have 359 students, totaling 615 students in Dolores schools.
Blincoe noted that the district has 97 students through transfers and new residents, while 89 students from the 2021-2022 school year withdrew from the school. While 89 students left, the district had a gain of eight students.
The board also discussed teacher vacancies. Blincoe said that because of recent teacher hires and only two open positions, the vacancy rate was about 3%.
According to the board meeting agenda, four teachers recently resigned: Thomas Graves, middle school science; Elisa Olson, middle school counselor; Jennifer Boniface, elementary music; and Kaylee Uptain, infant para.
Recommended for hire were Shannon Householder, elementary para; Brittney Bryan, elementary para; and Taylor Cook, infant para.
Board members expressed concern about the amount of money the district receives per student, compared with the national average.
The board estimated the district receives $10,070.52 per student which is higher than the Colorado average of $8,489, but markedly lower than the national average of $15,120.
To help improve reading skills in elementary school, teachers and parents have teamed up to lead reading groups for the first 45 minutes of the school day. Children are grouped based on reading level, and groups are limited to 10 students to promote individualized and hands-on help.
Teachers and parents have reported positive results and feedback and increased enthusiasm.
The board spoke about illicit drug use in the Four Corners. Fentanyl use has gained traction nationally, and a new form of the drug that looks like candy is causing concern about potential overdoses in school-age children. According to Montezuma County Coroner George Deavers, four deaths have been attributed to fentanyl this year.
Because fentanyl can be hidden in other drugs and can be highly lethal, the board discussed creating a school task force to keep it away from students and schools.
The board also noted that educators and parents should be aware of the threat of suicide and the use of the phrase “back-to-school necklace,” which is slang for a noose and can tip off adults about mental health issues among students.
The town of Dolores presented a potential partnership with the school district to help create affordable housing in an area where housing costs increased as much as 80% from 2019-2021.
The representative from the town of Dolores asked the school board to consider giving either funds or land – such as at 100 N. Fifth St. – to help with the housing project.
In return, presenters said the school would get first right of refusal for teachers who need housing. Ideally, the location of the housing would be within walking or biking distance from the school. Plans include 24 units or town homes to be rented out.
The board passed a motion to apply for a grant that would provide many educational opportunities for students and give the school $20,000 a year for the next four years.
A Multi-tiered System of Support grant, or MTSS grant, provides resources to make sure students are regularly screened to identify where they need help with their studies and tools they need to succeed. The help is personalized for individual students.
The support processes work hand in hand with Get Better Faster curriculum and provide drug education curriculum as well. It also provides resources to aid in student mental and emotional health, while tracking behavior referrals and reported bullying.
A team of parents and teachers would oversee the MTSS program, and a representative from the state would be the regional coordinator.
The MTSS grant also offers helps school districts to work together to promote student educational and emotional outcomes while actively solving issues in the school.
- During the lengthy meeting, the school board also passed motions including a new model to measure superintendent progress and a new board/superintendent working agreement.
- The superintendent has been evaluated on a scale that determines progress and growth in general leadership and effectiveness, instructional leadership and management.
- A building design advisory committee was approved.
- Paid leave was increased from 174 hours to 195.
- The school board also discussed playground renovations and possibly moving the playground to a new location because of continuing problems with mud.
The next Board of Education meeting is Oct. 13 at 6 p.m.