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School board discusses trimester system, mill levy

Middle and high schools would drop semester system
Montezuma-Cortez High School Principal Jason Wayman presents a plan to divide the academic year into trimesters, replacing the current semester plan.

The Montezuma-Cortez school board on Tuesday decided to consider a mill levy for the November ballot and discussed replacing the semester system with a trimester system in the high school and middle school.

A mill levy was approved as a discussion item, with details to be decided at the Re-1 Board of Education’s meeting in April. The board discussed focusing on teacher salaries and a possible sunset on the taxation.

On Nov. 7, voters rejected Ballot Measure 3B, the district’s plan to raise property taxes, by a vote of 55 percent to 45 percent.

Measure 3B asked voters whether the board should be authorized to raise and spend additional property tax revenues by 4.96 mills a year, about $2.7 million for collection in 2018, and by whatever amounts the tax increase generated each following year. It stated that the revenue was to be deposited in the district’s general fund for purposes approved by the board, including buses, technology and salaries. Almost 80 percent of the $2.7 million had been assigned to staff salaries.

Some voters expressed concerns that spending would be difficult to track and would not be limited to buses, salaries and technology. Others said they were concerned that the levy had no expiration date.

A plan to replace semester system

Montezuma-Cortez High School Principal Jason Wayman proposed the trimester system to the board on Tuesday, saying that the schedule would give students the flexibility to change their chosen career path.

Under the pathways system, incoming students would choose one of several four-year tracks to prepare for careers.

“There is more flexibility when a student choses a pathway and then changes their mind,” Wayman said. “Kids require 23 credits to graduate, and right now we are only offering 24 in actual classes, and it is very tight for our kids to explore different pathways.”

Board President Sherri Wright was concerned about the plan’s longer class times.

Noah Rainer, student representative to the board, said she favors trimesters, but has heard concerns from students.

“Right now, I’m taking several advanced placement courses, and I run out of time all the time at the end of my classes. I have to rush and get done with an AP chemistry lab 10 minutes before I should have been done with it because I didn’t have time in the classroom,” she said. “The majority of the juniors are terrified if we get this system, they still need six credits and because every class they are taking is the entire year.”

Wayman said the honors program will work with students to make sure they have the credits to graduate and that the extra time is purposeful.

“It is built in that you could have time to meet up with your teacher once per week,” Wayman said. He also noted that the classes are only about 10 minutes longer than in the current semester system.

Cortez Middle School Principal Kate Ott said CMS also would also use the trimester system, and she would meet with elementary students and their parents to ensure they understood the new 21C system for 2018-2019.

The middle school is expanding elements of the 21C program starting next year. The program includes making better use of existing technology for all students and “looping,” which means that seventh- and eighth-graders would have the same teachers for two years instead of changing each year.

“This will also allow the school to increase support for struggling learners and create more support for incoming sixth-graders,” Superintendent Lori Haukeness said in a column in January.

Other discussions

The Re-1 School Board approved a survey on student safety to be sent to staff and parents to help the district decide how to move forward.The board tabled a discussion about adding policies recommended by the Claire Davis Act. The 2015 Colorado law allows lawsuits in cases of violence but limits them $350,000 per victim when there are serious injuries or deaths.After discussion, board members agreed that each would review a few of the 22 policies and present their findings at the April board meeting.

Owner’s representative Jim Ketter told the board that abatement at the retired Montezuma-Cortez High School was due to be completed in May, and demolition before August or at the end of summer.The board also discussed the March 14 walkout, which coincided with a national movement and honored students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and at Aztec (New Mexico) High School.Haukeness and Wright had questions for Wayman, saying that they had received calls from parents.

“There were four young ladies that came to me and asked if they could host it,” Wayman told the board. “They knew what the original protest was, and they didn’t want to be involved in that. They wanted to honor the victims and bring light to the fact they wanted more security in our building.”

Rainer commented that she thought the event helped unite students in respect for the shooting victims. “I think the school would appreciate more events to unify students like that,” she said.

Other action

The Montezuma-Cortez Board of Education on March also:

Unanimously approved the 2018-2019 district calendar.

Tabled the 2018-2019 Manaugh Elementary School calendar.

Unanimously moved the dean of students to elementary assistant principal. This would affect Mesa and Kemper elementaries.

Unanimously passed a supplemental budget item for school improvement of $204,620.

Approved Manaugh’s accreditation plan. Brian Balfour abstained from voting because although he attended the meeting via telephone, he was not present for the work session. Otherwise, the vote was unanimous.

Tabled a change to drug and alcohol testing for bus drivers.

Apr 23, 2018
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