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MEEKER — In a series of meetings over a two week span, the Meeker Re-1 School District Board hired a new high school principal and learned Meeker students generally score above state averages on assessment tests.
At a special meeting Monday, board members interviewed two candidates for high school principal.
The first candidate was Jerri A. Hahnenberg, who formerly taught at the Meeker alternative high school. Hahnenberg has been an assistant principal and taught in a variety of classrooms. Hahnenberg currently lives in Grand Junction. She is also an artist.
But the job was offered to the second candidate, George Henderson, a math teacher at Northridge High School in Greeley. Henderson also has been a head coach for several sports.
The day before the school board interviews, both candidates met with several groups of teachers and staff. Recommendations from these interview groups were part of the decision-making process.
“Both people were good candidates,” Evig said Tuesday. “The (interview) groups all had positive things to say. It was a tough choice.”
Each board member asked a set of questions of each candidate. The question are determined in advance so that each candidate has the same opportunity to respond to the same questions.
Both Hahnenberg and Henderson answered with enthusiasm about living and working in Meeker. Both also stressed how important it was for the high school principal to bring the board, the teachers, the staff, and the community into the educational process.
One of the questions asked how the candidates would deal with differing points of view from the various interest groups.
“I would respect all points of view,” Hahnenberg said, adding that “it’s OK not to agree,” but, in the end, “we need to do what’s right” for the students.
Henderson had a similar viewpoint and said of the different groups that he would “hear ‘em out” and then make his decisions.
Similarly, when asked about communicating with the public and other groups, Henderson said that getting out into the community was important. He cited his work as a little league football coach as one of the opportunities he has in meeting community members in a non-school setting.
Both candidates stressed their affection for small communities. Hahnenberg reminded board members of her time in Meeker, and Henderson noted that he grew up in Fort Lupton and his wife grew up in the Alamosa area.
At another special meeting Thursday, Aug. 7, the board approved a new coaching contract for Hallie Blunt. She will coach girls’ high school basketball.
Meeker students beat state averages
Board members also heard good news about state testing scores at their Aug. 5 meeting.
Superintendant Dan Evig reported that the “raw” scores of the recently-released Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) and ACT scores, Meeker students did well when compared to other districts around the state.
Evig said there were a few weak spots in the scores, but, overall, Meeker kids did well.
CSAP tests, which occur over several days, are required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act administered in Colorado by the state’s Department of Education (CDE). CSAP is supposed to measure how well students are learning material from the Colorado Model Content Standards — what all Colorado public school students should learn. CSAP tests mathematics, reading and writing and science in grades three through 10.
Similarly, ACT is a national college admissions exam that tests students’ abilities in the same subjects. Some colleges require either SAT or ACT scores for admission, while some require both.
One factor in Meeker test scores is that the schools have small class sizes compared to larger school districts which means that a few kids can affect the whole grade level average. The state does not “weight” scores to take that difference into account.
Evig said that Meeker has an advantage over many other districts because the school board and community have made the commitment to reduce class sizes so that students and teachers can have more interaction and better learning.
CSAP breaks scores into four categories: unsatisfactory, partially proficient, proficient and advanced. Meeker students often scored high when “proficient” and “advanced” categories are combined.
For instance, in the 2008 school year, 64 percent of the third-grade students scored proficient and advanced in writing, compared to a statewide average of just 50 percent.
Similarly, 79 percent of third-graders scored proficient and advanced compared to 70 percent across the state overall. Other grades had similar results.
Evig noted that fifth-grade and high school math scores have begun to falter. However, elementary school Principal Jason Hightower reminded the board last year’s fourth-graders scored 12 points above the state average when, previously, they had scored seven points below the average.