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Dolores school board rejects a four-day school week

A lively board meeting opens up several discussions
Dolores teachers give a presentation in favor of a four-day school week to the standing room-only meeting of the Dolores School District Re-4A school board Thursday evening.

After months of discussion, the Dolores School District Re-4A board passed a five-day calendar, citing lack of evidence of school improvement.

The motion to reject a four-day calendar passed unanimously after a motion was made by board secretary Deanna Truelson.

“I only looked at data from 2017 – not further back,” Truelson said after making her motion. “I did not see any specific data (in support of four-day calendar week). I saw some elementary math scores had improved, but I could not find anything on high school. I would like to see more data from parents. I think we need some education some more data out to parents, and I also would like to see more teacher support.”

A group of teachers presented a plan in favor in front of a group of about 130 people Thursday night.

Teachers cited more time for preparing lessons and a rest time for students. They also pointed out repeatedly that the calendars differentiated by 12 Fridays.

Audience members spoke up numerous times against the revised four-day calendar.

A main argument in favor of a four-day calendar was teacher recruitment and retention.

“I want to acknowledge your concerns as a parent, and I think it is super healthy that we are having this discussion,” high school Spanish teacher Liliana Argento said. “I think we need to take into consideration our competition.”

Second-grade teacher Melody McNeil spoke against a four-day calendar.

McNeil said that longer school day would not help her young students. She was also concerned about lack of flexibility, namely, the inability to go back and re-teach a lesson if needed.

“I want to focus on the number of days in our calendar,” McNeil told the board and audience members. “The math and reading curriculum are based on the fact that we have 180 days of instruction, and already we are having to look at lessons we can cut or combine.”

After passing a five-day calendar, board members discussed the possibility of moving to a four-day week in the future and the need to plan for that.

“In preparation for the probably of going to a four-day calendar,” board president Dee Prock said, “I would like to utilize the resources around the community that are available that are willing to enrich our kids every Friday or every other Friday and make a plan.”

Other action

The board approved the consent calendar with some items tabled because of time constraints.

The approval of School Based Health Clinic contractors was tabled after an audience member raised the issue of an investigation into the clinic’s funding. Superintendent Scott Cooper denied that there was an investigation, but Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation. Cooper the asked Nowlin to “Please come talk to me.”

Nowlin told The Journal on Friday that a citizen had introduced an accusation of criminal activity.

“It is not the clinic itself – it is a process that has been brought to our attention of a complaint by a citizen of some improprieties that may have taken place to get funding,” Nowlin said. “There is an ongoing investigation, and I think it will happen pretty quickly. I think everybody will cooperate.”

The board moved to approve certified staff for 2018-2019 unanimously. However, approval of administrative staff for 2018-2019 was met with audience concerns.After a motion to table the action failed, the board approved the 2018-2019 administrative staff with a vote of 3-2. Truelson and McClellan voted nay.

Many parents, students, staff and community members voiced concerns about administrative staff at the meeting.

Finance director Doreen Jones clarified that staff members included in the action item “Approval of Administrative Staff” did not include some staff audience members were particularly concerned about.

Administrative staff who were approved for 2018-2019 are: technology director Mark Baxter, finance director Doreen Jones, transportation director Larry Funk, nutrition director Chuck Soukup, maintenance director Elfonzo Goad, preschool director Valiena Rosenkrance, secondary principal Jenifer Hufman and elementary principal Gary Livik.

In other action, the board unanimously accepted a bid for a newly updated bus garage for the district.

They accepted transportation director Larry Funk’s recommended bid for a bus garage, made by JLD architecture.

The board adjourned at 10:24 p.m.

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