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Montezuma-Cortez school board OKs improvement plan

Private organization will partner with district
The Montezuma-Cortez High School chamber choir performed three songs at the beginning of Tuesday’s school board meeting to thank board members. This month is School Board Appreciation Month.

A private Denver charity organization will partner with the Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 School District to help address school needs, Superintendent Lori Haukeness announced at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The Nathan Yip Foundation works to improve rural schools in Colorado and China in a sustainable way, Haukeness said.

“I think it will be an impactful partnership for the next several years,” she said.

Board members approved a $5,000 supplemental budget item from the foundation. The money will fund a trip for Cortez administrators to the foundation’s headquarters in Denver. Local officials will take tours of current Yip Foundation partner schools to see how the organization works, Haukeness said. They will also attend the foundation’s Chinese New Year event later this month, where they will be featured as a new foundation partner, she said.

The partnership comes at a crucial time for the district, as officials address the state’s requirements for school improvement. The board approved an accreditation pathways plan at the meeting, which is required by the state.

The plan includes continuing work with the University of Virginia’s school turnaround program for a third year. The third phase of the program will incorporate Cortez Middle School and Montezuma-Cortez High School and will focus on sustainability, according to Haukeness.

In March, local officials will present the district pathways plan to the state board of education, which will vote on whether to approve it, Haukeness said. Re-1 may be eligible for a Colorado Department of Education grant to help fund the pathways plan, Haukeness said. District officials can apply for the grant in March, she said.

Also Tuesday, school board members accepted a $102,000 federal Pathways Early Action Grant that will help fund the third year of the University of Virginia program at the district’s elementary schools. The grant was awarded last year, but it was inadvertently left off of the district’s 2017 final budget that was presented to the board in December, Haukeness said.

The board also accepted a $400,000 multidistrict federal grant between Dove Creek, Cortez, Dolores, Mancos and Pagosa Springs school districts. More information would be provided about the grant at a future board meeting, Haukeness said. They also accepted a $2,500 grant from Kinder Morgan, which will provide more computers at M-CHS.

Board members also approved the charter and purchased services agreement with Battle Rock school. The charter will run for two years with an option to extend for a third year. One condition for extending the charter is reporting of more transparent and thorough information regarding student testing from Battle Rock.

Jeanette Allen, the district director of curriculum and instruction, reported on student growth data from the Star Assessment test, which were administered districtwide in December.

The Star test is used to monitor students’ academic progress and growth, and the results will be used to update the district’s 90-day instruction plans for the remainder of the school year, Allen said.

For this year, a goal of 55 percent median growth was set for all students, Allen said. That is 5 percent higher than last year and 15 percent higher than two years ago, she said. The normal goal for the Star test is 40 percent growth, but Allen reported that Re-1 students should have more than average growth to catch up academically, so a higher benchmark was set.

In elementary school, students came close to meeting the 55 percent goal in reading and math.

In middle school, reading growth was below the benchmark, with growth scores from 49-53 percent among grade levels. Eighth-graders met the goal in math, but sixth- and seventh-graders fell short.

Freshmen at M-CHS met the goal in both reading and math, but sophomores did not meet the benchmark.

Haukeness said growth data from the Star test is promising and will lead to academic achievement on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, test.

“We have to grow more,” she said.


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