Florida Mesa showing progress

Tests show improvement in every class

Improvements in Florida Mesa Elementary School’s academic performance headlined Tuesday night’s meeting of the Durango School District 9-R board meeting.

“Once we get our skill base up, we’re going to fly,” said Lauri Kloepfer, former 9-R executive director of curriculum and instruction, who initially replaced Cindy Smart as the acting principal of Florida Mesa Elementary School in September but has since become permanent.

Kloepfer said tests showed improvements in every class.

“When we finished testing last week, we were really excited to see the data,” Kloepfer said. “Our kindergarten rocks. Now, 67 of our 70 students are at or above reading in kindergarten. While other areas aren’t as strong, we’re already breaking out the data to see who grew.”

Florida Mesa’s progress goes some way toward vindicating Superintendent Daniel Snowberger’s decision to oust Smart and promote Kloepfer – the most controversial in his brief tenure on the job. The change came after the district got news that Florida Mesa had once again fallen from an “improvement” school to “a priority improvement school” according to Colorado Academic Standards. The lower rating is reserved for the state’s lowest 15 percent of schools based on the growth of all students, and it is a rating the school had earned two years ago.

At the time, the district’s public information officer, Julie Popp, said according to state standards, schools should fall between the 40th and 50th percentile in terms of their students’ academic growth in any given academic year. This year, Florida Mesa was in the 41st percentile in reading, the 40th in writing and 37th in math.

Citing teachers’ sustained and focused efforts, more parental involvement, and the support of the superintendent and school board, now, Kloepfer says the school is on track to succeed.

“Fifth-grade class has the most progress to make, fourth grade made the most gains, third is still a concern,” Kloepfer said. “There are about 12 students who we’re really very concerned about for TCAP. Six are new to us, six were our students.

“We’ve done lots of interventions with them, and we’re making progress with about nine of them,” she said. “We’re identifying the problems and really trying to dig deep for each student.”

Board member Joe Colgan said the precision targeting struggling students was bringing “literal meaning to ‘no child left behind.’

“That’s got to get these kids who are having difficulty really energized, excited and engaged in learning,” he said.

In other news, the board voted 6-1 that Durango High School student Emily Schaldach become its ex-officio student board member for an undetermined term.

Board Chairman Jeff Schell also noted that Sunnyside Elementary School recently was awarded the 2012 John Irwin Award, which is given to schools that “exceed” expectations on the three-year school performance framework’s indicator based on academic achievement and “meeting or exceeding” expectations on the indicator related to academic growth gaps.

cmcallister@durangoherald.com