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MEEKER | The Meeker Board of Education last week approved a $7.2 million budget for the fiscal year 2017-2018. This amount includes a projected budget deficit of about $431,000, which will be taken out of the district’s reserve. It has been projected that this kind of deficit spending could occur for another three years without considerably pressing district cash flow.
The approved budget incorporates a number of significant changes including a 1.5 percent cost of living raise for all district staff, an 8.1 percent increase in the hourly wage for classified (non-educator) employees, half of the new events school bus, the addition of a third sixth grade teacher, a STEP increase for all eligible staff, a 5 percent increase in health benefits for all eligible staff and an expected decrease in substitute expenditures.
Changes on the revenue side include several grants and donations which are not expected this year and a recently announced increase of $60,000 from the Consolidated Application for Title Funds toward Title staff.
The board also took a report from the District Accountability Committee which had surveyed a number of district graduates. The purpose was an attempt to evaluate whether identified changes and priorities in the district schools were meeting the needs as identified by recent graduates. Graduates of the 2012, 2014 and 2016 classes were primarily targeted. Thirty-one former students responded. Of these respondents, more than half identified extra-curricular athletics, career and technical courses, humanities such as foreign languages and creative writing, and concurrent enrollment courses as opportunities they took advantage of at Meeker which best prepared them for life after high school.
Of the 31 individuals, 10 percent felt they were not prepared for their chosen endeavors after high school, 26 percent thought they were somewhat prepared, 45 percent felt prepared, 16 percent felt well prepared, and three percent felt extremely well prepared. Superintendent Chris Selle pointed out to the board that increased rigor seemed to be the most common area identified for needed improvement and said, “I think we have gained momentum in this area over the past couple years.”
Another common area of improvement suggested was personal finance and more time to work on scholarship and college applications. A senior seminar class, perhaps for one semester, which should help with these needs, is already being planned for the coming year.
Selle also commented, “Overall, the results of the survey were positive as they either reflected well on the district or pointed out items on which we have already placed emphasis for improvement.”
On personnel matters, the board approved the addition of Janet Kendall in food services and a list of 20 teacher substitutes and 27 classified substitutes for the 2017-2018 school year. Board members Todd Shults, Kevin Amack and Bob Dorsett were chosen to represent the Meeker District on the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to join three members from the Rangely School District Board.
The new graduation requirements policy, which will apply to class years beginning with this fall’s freshmen, was approved on third and final reading. Policies on school wellness, food services including free and reduced price food, community use of school vehicles, and cooperative educational services were discussed on second reading. The board suggested changes on the use of district vehicles which are intended to make such use a little easier.
The board also reviewed the student handbooks for this next year produced by each of the three schools and the athletic department. The Barone Middle School handbook contained no information on grades or grading. It is expected that this will be corrected.
In his written report, middle school Principal Jim Hanks emphasized the work middle school students had been pursuing over past years to get funding through the Colorado Health Foundation for school playground improvements. Their work resulted in Hanks, along with teachers Teresa Anderson and Kris Casey, submitting a full-blown grant application which the district won last fall and the work is underway. Terry Goedert Construction should have the basketball area completed in July and new playground equipment is to be installed in August by Summit Recreation.
Hanks also referenced the 40-year-old lockers at the middle school to be replaced in July, the stinky refinishing of the gym floor, and the progress being made to set up the new classroom for a third sixth grade teacher, Briana Williams. Hanks expressed enthusiasm that the middle school will also have an interventionist on staff this next year.
Hank’s report also mentioned the need for “maker space” in the middle school. This is a term that’s come up in the district’s facilities master planning as well and was a new term to this reporter. “Maker space,” Hanks explained, is simply laboratory area available to students to apply hands-on learning related to their academic study in the classroom. Technology teacher Zack Clatterbaugh is expected, according to Hanks, to have the most access to new maker space, being created in the old library area, for expanding technology beyond computers.
During the board meeting, Selle briefed the board on continuing changes regarding standardized testing. Colorado appears to be shifting away from as much standardized testing, especially as produced by multi-state contractors, toward tests developed by Colorado educators. An example of this is the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) ending Colorado’s membership in PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers)–a multi-state testing collective that was supposed to allow for easy comparison across states but which has fallen short.
CDE, however, says that they will still use many of the same questions so that the results will be comparable. The State Board of Education directed CDE to find a vendor who would reduce testing time, provide results within 30 days and give Colorado authority over questions and test administration policies.