A highlight of the Delta County Joint School District #50's fourth annual legislative day was the participation of a nine-member teacher panel. The teachers, who represented a range of district primary and secondary schools, responded to a series of questions posed by state and local policy makers.
State lawmakers and legislative candidates, county commissioners and candidates, and several other state and local public policy makers assembled last week at Paonia Junior/Senior High School to hear an update of accomplishments being celebrated by Delta County Joint School District #50. They also heard about challenges the district is facing.
Early enrollment figures indicate the student count in Delta County Joint School District #50 is down across the county. Although the "official" student count will not take place until early October, administrators have been gathering student numbers and comparing them to the October 2017 count.
The Delta Police Department is taking the lead in an effort to offer ALICE training to all employees of Delta County Joint School District. An overview of the program was offered to school board members last week by Chief Luke Fedler, Commander Jesse Cox and Sgt. Jeremy Gay.
The age old adage "it takes a village to raise a child" is demonstrated clearly in Delta when an investment of six weeks over a summer, nets each child participating in a six-week speech camp from six to 12 month advances in their cognitive skills and language skills.
Delta County School District #50 is exploring the possibility of a 2019 ballot question that would generate revenue through a bond or a mill levy override.
Whether the school district borrows money through a bond, or collects more property tax through a mill levy override, it would likely use the additional revenues for two primary purposes -- transportation and school security.
The results of statewide assessments for English language arts, mathematics and science were released by the Colorado Department of Education last week, along with academic growth summary information.
"We really focus on the growth aspect," said assistant superintendent Kurt Clay.
There are still some finishing touches to be done at the new district office at 145 W. 4th Street in Delta, but staff members have settled into their new offices and begun in earnest to prepare for the 2018-19 school year.
The building was purchased from the Bank of Colorado and renovated to turn the teller line into office space.
Since 2009, Delta County schools have been underfunded by over $325 million -- funds that could have been used to replace buses, enhance security and increase salaries.
Statewide, investment in education is lagging -- Colorado ranks 48th nationally in personal income invested in education.
Delta County School District 50J is the recipient of a USDA Farm to School planning grant for the 2018-19 funding cycle. USDA's Farm to School grants fund school districts, state and local agencies, Indian tribal organizations, agricultural producers, and non-profit organizations in their efforts to increase local foods served through child nutrition programs, teach children about food and agriculture through garden and classroom education, and develop schools' and farmers' capacities to participate in farm to school.
Classrooms may be quiet during the summer months, but business is humming at the administrative offices of Delta County Joint School District #50. The district office is poised to move into its new downtown Delta location, staff vacancies are being filled and summer maintenance projects are proceeding at full throttle.
Legislative action at the state capitol has paved the way for 4.6 percent salary increases for Delta County School District employees. As an added benefit, health insurance costs are holding steady and an increase in employee contributions to PERA, the state retirement system, won't take effect until July 2019.
An additional $1.9 million in state funding is headed to Delta County Joint School District #50 for the next fiscal year. State legislators are infusing $150 million statewide to buy down the "negative factor," the difference between the current funding level and that established by Amendment 23.
With the focus on teacher salaries in Colorado and a nine-day, statewide teacher strike in Oklahoma, Delta County Joint School District #50 recently conducted a salary analysis. Results, reported at a school board work session last week, indicate beginning teacher salaries are "light," but the longer teachers stay in the district, the higher their earning power by comparison.
Using one-time state funds provided to rural schools, Delta County Joint School District #50 has augmented its supply of Chromebooks. The school district now owns 2,935 Chromebooks, one for every student in grade 6-12.
Safety has been a top priority of Delta County Joint School District #50, even before the recent school shooting in Florida and the report of a student with a gun at Grand Mesa Choice Academy.
The school district is working on a plan to implement increased security entrances by eventually adding security systems, locked doors and potentially school resource officers.
Delta High School has been rocked by two student deaths in three weeks. The most recent, the result of suicide, prompted school administrators to reach out to law enforcement and to the Center for Mental Health early Sunday.
A school district policy to reduce absenteeism appears to be achieving the desired results -- forming good habits in preschoolers (and their families) and establishing expectations for older students who will soon be joining the work force.
The policy, adopted at the beginning of the school year, limits students to nine absences per semester.
Attorney Aaron Clay is beginning his transition to retirement by resigning as legal counsel for Delta County Memorial Hospital and Delta County Joint School District. After conducting separate searches and interviewing prospective replacements, both entities selected Julie Huffman, who joined Clay & Dodson in February 2017.
Delta County Joint School District has joined the Colorado Education Network, a statewide coalition committed to the goal of adequate and equitable funding of public education in Colorado.
According to the resolution, per pupil funding in 50J is $928.60 below pre-recession levels, when adjusted for inflation.
Assessed valuation in Delta County Joint School District #50 dropped substantially in 2017, particularly in the portion of Gunnison County that lies in district boundaries, but the school district mill levy remains steady. The general fund mill levy has been frozen at 22.656 by the state for almost 10 years, according to Jim Ventrello, 50J business manager, and will generate an estimated $7,852,081.
Delta is full of nice people and are generally caring and respectful, but the community -- and its younger residents -- clearly have a drug problem. In the eyes of students from Grand Mesa Choice Academy, Achieve Blended Learning Academy and Vision Charter Academy, students who lack positive after-school activities, have little hope for the future or are simply bored turn to drugs.
"We are listening," school superintendent Caryn Gibson assured high school students last week, as school board members, district leadership and county planners solicited input from a cross-section of students in Hotchkiss, Paonia, Cedaredge and Delta. This is the third year the school district has conducted listening sessions with students, but the first four individual sessions were held. A fifth takes place this Thursday, with students from the district's alternative schools.
Delta County Joint School District #50, and its special counsel, Jon Olafson, have responded to the complaint filed by Cidney Fisk, a 2016 Delta High School graduate. Fisk has filed suit in federal court, accusing DHS teachers, guidance counselors, administrators and school district leadership of retaliation after she spoke out against religious activities during school hours on school property.
If money were no object, Hotchkiss High School students would update technology, bring more options into the classroom, buy new shop tools, and build a path connecting their school to their community. They'd also build a recreation center.
Paonia Junior-Senior High School students believe their school and community are supportive of them. They also want fewer homework assignments, more class options, and more job opportunities.
Ask and ye shall receive. Last week, the Delta County Planning Department and the Delta County School District joined forces and solicited the opinions of Cedaredge High School students in an effort to better direct strategic planning within both entities. Administrative staff from the two agencies got what they asked for -- an earful, from a group of engaged, thoughtful and refreshingly honest kids.
State representatives and senators visiting Delta recently were interested in hearing how Delta County Joint School District #50 is spending the one-time funds authorized by the Colorado State Legislature last spring.
The funds were included in SB17-267, the bill titled "Sustainability of Rural Colorado" that preserved the hospital provider fee.
Despite a decline in overall scores, Delta County Joint School District #50 earned an "accredited" rating on district performance frameworks established by the Colorado Department of Education. The frameworks are provided to school districts annually at the start of the school year.
The school district is preparing to defend teachers, guidance counselors, administrators and itself against accusations of retaliation by a Delta High School graduate.
The lawsuit alleges that school officials retaliated against Cidney Fisk, Class of 2016, when she spoke out against religious activities during school hours on school property. Cidney Fisk, Class of 2016, filed suit in U.S. District Court through her counsel, Jeffrey Springer and Andrew Reid of Springer & Steinberg.
Delta County Joint School District has been awarded a $680,000 Economic Development Administration grant to develop programming for the ENGAGE Center in the old City Market building.
Overall school, district and state level results from the 2017 administration of statewide assessments were shared with the Delta County School Board last week. Individual results have also been disseminated to parents.
Delta County Joint School District #50 is embarking on three major construction projects -- the relocation of the district office from Read to downtown Delta, renovation of the former Chaco building and an addition to Delta Middle School.
The school district is taking steps to address chronic absenteeism -- students who miss nine days a semester or 18 days in a school year.
School administrators will be taking a look at last year's attendance records to determine which students are affected by the newly-revised policy.
The Delta County School Board is taking a close look at 2018 graduation dates in light of feedback from the community. This year, all four graduation ceremonies were scheduled on Sunday, May 21 -- two at 1 p.m. and two at 4 p.m.
Delta County Joint School District #50 has received preliminary notice of a $10 million BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) grant to be used for replacement of the sixth grade wing and the cafeteria at Delta Middle School. Other improvements are geared toward student and staff safety.
Delta County Joint School District #50 is planning to move its headquarters from Read to the former Bank of Colorado building at the corner of 4th & Palmer in Delta.
The school board voted 4-1 to enter into a lease-purchase agreement with the bank contingent upon a building inspection.
When Colorado voters approved a new minimum wage law in 2016, they probably didn't consider how that could affect the state's school districts. After two work sessions, the Delta County Board of Education continues to grapple with how best to adjust employee pay schedules to meet the $12 per hour minimum wage requirement by January 2020.
Two accidents involving school property are proving costly for Delta County Joint School District, district business manager Jim Ventrello reported last week. Both incidents involved uninsured drivers, forcing the school district to file claims with its insurance provider and pay deductibles of $10,000.
The Colorado Department of Education has released the official accreditation rating for Delta County Joint School District #50. Based on academic achievement and academic growth, school districts are placed in one of five categories:
At the Dec. 6 meeting of the Delta County School District 50J board, board members voted to certify to the BoCC for the counties of Gunnison, Montrose, Delta and Mesa, $8,693,771 in net property tax requirements and an assessment of 22.656 mills necessary for the general school fund.
Last year, a little over $9 million was raised, and at its peak, the district raised almost $11 million at the same mill levy, said district financial officer Jim Ventrello. "So we're seeing a decline."
At the December meeting of the Delta County School District, board members and administrators honored several North Fork school teachers and students and others for their outstanding achievements and dedication.
The meeting was held at Paonia High School and began with Dee Holt's mixed choir singing "The Star Spangled Banner."
When it comes to their education, North Fork area high school students have a lot to say.
About 30 students from Paonia and Hotchkiss high schools and Vision Charter Academy shared some of their thoughts and ideas with Delta County School District 50J administrators, school board and leadership team representatives last week at the Energy Tech Center in Paonia.
The students walking the halls of their high school every day have a unique perspective about facilities, curriculum and expectations for academic, athletic and behavioral performance. It was that unique perspective the school district was seeking when it invited juniors and seniors from Cedaredge and Delta high schools to a student forum.
After hosting community forums in Delta, Cedaredge, Paonia and Hotchkiss, Delta County Joint School District #50 will hear from students in the district this Friday.
Participation in the community forums varied, but overall was lower than hoped for, leading superintendent Caryn Gibson to broach the idea of hosting the community forums every other year, rather than every year. She would still like to hear from students annually.
What opportunities can the Delta County School District offer its students in the next one to three years? What are the district's greatest assets in terms of opportunity? How can the communities be engaged in student education?
Delta County Joint School District is pleased to announce it has received a grant in the amount of $4,000 from the Colorado State Library through the State Grants to Libraries Act. Funds will be used to purchase books for classroom libraries to support the Colorado Academic Standards, which encourage reading by students in a variety of genres and subjects.
Visitors to Paonia might see a quaint and quiet little town with not much going on at first glance, but look a little closer and creativity is everywhere.
A group of about 20 people, including representatives from state and local governments and entities, nonprofits and the arts toured downtown Paonia last Thursday. They all share an interest in "Space to Create."
School district enrollment topped 5,000 this year, an unexpected occurrence given the economic uncertainty in Delta County. In preparing the fiscal year budget, school district administrators anticipated a drop in enrollment of 100.
Delta County Joint School District #50 hosted its second annual legislative visit last week. State Representatives Yeulin Willett, a 1976 Delta High School graduate, and Dan Thurlow attended the event along with the three county commissioners, Delta's mayor and city manager, county administrator Robbie LeValley and Trish Thibido, executive director of Delta County Economic Development.
Fearing the worst, the FY2017 budget for Delta County Joint School District #50 was built around an anticipated drop in enrollment of 100 students.
Early indicators, however, show enrollment is surprisingly steady countywide.
Senior citizens are encouraged to obtain a free lifetime activity pass for school events throughout Delta County. To obtain this pass, seniors are invited to their local schools on the following dates from 9 a.m. to noon:
With the fiscal year beginning July 1, Delta County Joint School District staff members received a two-pronged boost to salaries called a "step and roll."
The "step" entails a bump in the salary schedule for current employees; the "roll" is an adjustment to the salary schedule that moves up starting salaries for beginning teachers, while also supporting existing staff. Between the two, staff members receive an estimated salary increase of 4 percent for 2016-17.
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