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RANGELY I The Rangely School Board met Feb. 17 to discuss a possible mill levy override election, state-mandated graduation requirements, school dance dress codes and to hear several updates from Superintendent Matt Scoggins and other administrators.
During his update, Scoggins informed the board of several new district initiatives. The first involves a move to express more staff appreciation. To accomplish this, the district held a staff appreciation lunch last week, when two staff members, Pam Brady and Jean Kenney, were honored for 30 years of service to the district.
Staff members were also treated to skits and musical performances by students. At the lunch, Scoggins announced a new retention bonus designed to honor staff for their longevity of service. The bonuses will be given every five years of employment with an additional $100 per year of service added to the employee’s base salary in those five-year increments.
Scoggins also introduced the board to a new “at risk” program the district will begin at the high school level for the next school year.
The program will occupy a room at the high school and will consist of a staff member assisting students identified as “at-risk” of not graduating to complete their course work via computerized courses. The program will also include credit recovery and GED courses to meet varied needs. Scoggins estimates the program will serve approximately 10 students each year.
The board learned that since the formal student count taken in early October the district has lost 20 students in the kindergarten through 12th grade program. The district is keeping a close eye on the student population, as it directly impacts funding.
The board heard a quick update from RJSHS Principal Dr. Kevin Gates, who answered a few athletics-based questions and told the board that she was very pleased with new assistant principal Crandal Mergelman, who handles most athletic and activities issues and “was doing a great job.”
Scoggins encouraged the board to consider presenting voters with a mill levy override election in the fall.
Scoggins said that this year the board could potentially ask taxpayers for an additional $400,000 in funds.
For a home valued at $200,000, this would equate to an increase in $14.17 per year.
Scoggins told the board that the state has underfunded the district by $2.6 million during the last few years and that if an additional mill levy override was combined with the current recreation district mill levy funding, the additional money would come close to making up for the lost funds.
The single largest cost to the district is staff, and Scoggins argued that staff is also the single biggest indicator of student success.
Additional funding could increase base salaries as well as help fund expected increases in health insurance costs. Scoggins encouraged the board to “let the public decide if this is where the money should go and put the choice in the hands of our voters.”
He said he was not seeking an answer from the board during the meeting, but told the board he just wanted to get them thinking about the possibilities. The board members did not discuss the issue during the meeting.
The board listened to a short presentation by Scoggins regarding new state graduation guidelines. Colorado requirements have changed and it is now up to local boards to either adopt the same requirements or adopt requirements that exceed those of the state.
According to the state, the reasoning for changing the requirements is to create more college-ready students. In 2020 it is expected that 74 percent of Colorado jobs will require education beyond high school.
However not all board members agreed that every student needs a college-ready focus. Board member Kurt Douglas said, “(The students] don’t all need to be college ready because they aren’t all going to college.”
“We want them to be ready for whatever life brings,” Scoggins responded.
Currently, Rangely requires graduating students to have four credits of English and math, three credits in science and social studies, two vocational credits, one credit of fine arts, 1.5 credits of physical education, a half credit of health and five elective credits.
English was of particular concern. Currently, students are required to take English nine and 10, then choose from a variety of other English offerings to gain their final two credits. However the district administration would like to see a required English 11 in order to boost student writing. They are also planning on offering algebra II and a formalized Spanish II.
During the discussion of graduation requirements, the board also heard arguments for the institution of a weighted GPA, which Scoggins said he is highly in favor of.
The idea is that students taking college courses could receive higher than a 4.0 for an “A” grade to reflect the increased challenge of those courses. Board members expressed a need for this change because students currently drop college courses if they think they are going to get a B so that they don’t hurt their grade point average.
Board member Joyce Key was concerned that parents and staff be heavily involved in the process and have a voice during the discussion.
The board and Scoggins had a lengthy discussion regarding the new dress code created specifically for school dances,
The dress code was adopted by the board at a current meeting and presented to students.
However, board member Annette Webber said there were several parents who were concerned not about the final outcome and adopted dress code, but about the process of adoption. They felt students should have been more involved in creation of the code.
The board also approved a research project from Colorado Northwestern Community College. The CNCC Dental Hygiene School was seeking permission to study Parkview Elementary School students who come to the dental hygiene clinic for teeth cleanings. Elementary students, with parent permission, are annually bused from the school to CNCC for free dental cleanings. The program allows the dental hygiene students to get practice with children and the students to access free dental care. The approved study would allow the clinic to further investigate the brushing habits and effectiveness of the kids.
The school board has tentatively scheduled a special meeting for March 4 to further discuss some of these issues.