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MEEKER | During the last couple months, like other taxing districts in the county, the Meeker Board of Education (BOE) has had to approve their requested mill levies for 2017. In order to be able to pay off the elementary school construction bonds more quickly, thus saving taxpayers interest money in the long run and avoiding negative spending on bond payments, the board decided in December that they would increase the bond mill levy by .742 mills, bringing the total school bond mills to 3.611. The total 2017 school district mills then will be 10.046.
The Meeker district started the year with a student count of 740. Attendance at the middle and elementary schools hovered around 94 percent while at the high school attendance has hovered around 93 percent. These percentages are over one to five points better than they were for the 2014-2015 school year thanks to increased administrative support for improved attendance.
District Superintendent Chris Selle also announced, in December, that 88 percent of district students were in compliance with state immunization requirements. Six percent have valid exemptions [making them in compliance]. Selle reported that the district continues to push the nearly 12 percent not in compliance to get their shots. Those not in compliance are subject to suspension or expulsion under state law.
In January, Selle reported that Colorado ranks 41st among the states in per pupil spending, based on 2014 data, the latest available. Colorado’s per student investment is $2,685 per pupil less than the national average.
The approved final 2016-17 budget denotes expenditures over revenues in the amount of $882,387. The school district has maintained extremely strong reserves and realized a budget surplus after 2015-16. This combination allows the district to deficit spend in 2016-17. The board has added expenditures including Chrome books (lightweight, less expensive, smooth operating individual student laptop computers), upgrades to desktop computers, full day kindergarten, a new school bus, track equipment, staff compensation increases, transfers to the capital reserve fund, continuing education funds for staff members, facilities master planning and acquiring a counselor for the middle and elementary schools. The latter may even come on yet this school year if the right person can be found.
The track purchase is to include starting blocks, a discus net, hurdles, high jump and pole-vault equipment necessary to enable Meeker to host full-fledged track meets on the new Robert King Track. Enough funding is available to potentially replace the 20-plus year old scoreboard as well.
The 65 passenger school bus chosen is one with a conventional gasoline engine, to be built to Colorado standards by Blue Bird. The bus, to be ready by May, constitutes a $104,000 investment and will replace a 26 year old bus, according to district transportation director Roy Wedding. The old bus will be sold. Wedding said that one of the district’s old buses was sold a few years back reportedly for use in Guatemala.
Requests for quotes and proposals regarding a facilities master plan for the school district have been sent out to 22 potentially interested parties. Responses to the request are to be in by March 8. The board is in the process of forming a special committee, to include at least one non-school community member, which will interview qualifying respondents beginning April 7.
In December, the board received a clean, “excellent working order, no difficulties” 2015-2016 school district audit from the firm Hays Maggard and Hood, PC of Glenwood Springs. Small improvements were recommended in dealing with approval of purchasing orders, stale checks, and small, inactive balances in building activity accounts.
School district personnel resignations since November include Julie Bowman, Janae Stanworth, and Bailey Atwood as volleyball coaches plus Jessica Stout and Jessica Bayles from food services.
New hires approved have included Amanda Palmer, Laura Koenig, Amy Patterson, Trevor Wasmund, Una Mlakar, Laurie Simonsen, Rodney “Chad” Luce, Kaysyn Chintala and Austin Bradford as substitutes plus J’Leah Richardson in food services. Coaching/special activity approvals have included Jim Amick and Barney LeBlanc as high school volunteer wrestling coaches; Todd Morris as middle school head wrestling coach; and Chris Selle as MS assistant wrestling coach; plus Laurie and Gary Zellers as drama sponsors with Bob Amick as volunteer drama sponsor. Baseball coaches approved are Brian Merrifield, head coach, with Don Blazon and Ron Kelly Crawford, assistant coaches. Track coaches are John Strate, head coach; Kris Casey, Terrence Casias, Brittany Shubnell, assistant coaches; and Ben Quinn, Shane Phelan and Heather Burke, volunteer assistant coaches.
With the help of resources provided by the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Colorado Association of School Executives, the Meeker administration and BOE have been staying in touch with this year’s legislative activities as they might affect the Meeker district. One matter of note is bi-partisan House Bill 1181 which would replace the current Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing with a much shorter, less expensive test of English and math competency for freshmen that is aligned with the Scholastic Aptitude (SAT) test family now used for sophomores and juniors. This replacement test would take two and a half hours to complete vs. the nine hour PARCC, and save the state $650,000 according to advocates.
Federal law requires that students in grades three through eight be tested every year in English and math. States are also required to test students on these subjects at least once in high school. Under the nation’s new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, states may use the ACT (American College Testing) or SAT to meet that requirement.
Colorado Chalkbeat, an education web outfit, reports that Colorado has been an epicenter for a nationwide movement to opt students out of standardized tests. The critics argue that students (and teachers) are forced to spend too much time testing and believe the multi-state testing consortium PARCC is federal overreach. Only 73 percent of ninth graders took the 2016 PARCC test in Colorado.
Colorado lawmakers in 2015 eliminated PARCC testing for 10th graders. The sophomores took the Preliminary SAT, which is part of the SAT family, for the first time last spring as their state-mandated test. The statewide test participation rate for 10th graders jumped by 27 percentage points, to 88 percent.
According to State Representative Paul Lundeen, R- Monument, a prime sponsor of HB 1181, “this bill would make the ninth grade test meaningful. It changes something that many see as a burden into an advantage.”