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Southwest Open School votes in new board member, discusses teacher retention

A new board member joined SWOS on Monday night. (Journal file photo)
The board has been searching for new members to join

At their Monday night board meeting, the Southwest Open School board voted in a new board member, as well as discussing grants, teacher retention and more.

To start the meeting, the board heard from board-member hopeful Amanda Vodicka, who is an academic adviser with Fort Lewis College’s Trio Talent Search. Vodicka explained to the board that she has been working with Trio Talent Search in the district, specifically with Montezuma-Cortes High School and Middle School.

As part of her job as academic adviser, Vodicka works with students who will be first-generation college students. She said her fascination and appreciation for SWOS, including all the positive things she has heard about the school, encouraged her to explore becoming a board member.

“I’d like to learn from SWOS, maybe bring that to other schools,” Vodicka said during the meeting.

Vodicka shared that she would hope to help with community outreach. Later on in the meeting, the board approved adding Vodicka to the board.

Grant discussions were a thoroughly discussed topic, with SWOS Director Casey Simpson sharing that the ESSER Grant, which has been used to pay three staff positions will be coming to an end.

Though the ESSER Grant will no longer be funding these positions, Simpson said he has been able to find grant funding to fund these positions and help stave off the “ESSER cliff.”

“I’m hoping it won’t be overtly impactful,” Simpson said.

The board spoke of the recent parent surveys and survey participation, as well as maintenance and the aging of some of the campus buildings.

They celebrated results from the Teaching and Learning Conditions Colorado Survey, which gave SWOS one of the most positive staff cultures in the county, according to the board.

This survey, which is conducted by the Colorado Department of Education and other educational entities, provides scores to schools and school districts based on various factors such as staff support and teacher retention.

As with other schools in the area, another large portion of the conversation centered around teacher retention, especially because of the affect on students when teachers don’t stay.

Simpson noted multiple staff that had been lost to other area schools in the past, saying that he would like to continue discussing potential incentives to help encourage teachers to stay on at SWOS.

“That instability really hurts students,” he noted.

The upcoming graduation was also discussed with much anticipation, as 20 SWOS students will graduate on Wednesday, May 22 at 6 p.m.

Before action items, Simpson asked board members to mark their calendars for Aug. 2-3, which will be a “welcome back camping gala” at House Creek Campground for staff and students alike.

In action items, the board approved new member Vodicka and approved the staff renewal contract.

The next SWOS board meeting will take place on Monday, June 10 at 5:30 p.m.