The Dolores School District RE-4A Board of Education unanimously approved a tuition increase for Teddy Bear Preschool at its regular meeting Thursday night.
Preschool tuition will go up from $34 a day to $37, and the infant/toddler daily rate will go up from $36 to $40. The need for the increase, said preschool director Valiena Rosenkrance, comes with the recent minimum wage increase, along with three new fully credentialed teachers on-site whose credentials require a higher pay.
The educational quality at Teddy Bear made the increase worthwhile, though, Rosenkrance said.
“We are NAEYC-accredited, we’re high-quality and we’re the only district that provides transportation for preschoolers,” she said.
Rosenkrance noted that the tuition was comparable to the Tree House Early Learning Center in neighboring Cortez and would be less than the $50 per day charged in Durango, the highest preschool tuition in the area.
The higher rate for the infant/toddler program was attributed to its lower teacher-student ratio. The preschool teacher-student ratio is 1-to-8, while the ratio at the infant/toddler ratio is 1-to-4.
During the discussion about this item, board members agreed with Rosenkrance’s assessment that Teddy Bear offered a high-quality education. Members highlighted the school’s accreditation with the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which is attained by just 3 percent of preschools nationwide.
Bows, arrow and eventsThe board unanimously approved the allocation of up to $2,500 for Dolores schools to incorporate archery into the physical education curriculum.The decision came after a presentation by physical education teachers Brooke Elder and Gina Hollen, who were seeking matching funds to secure a grant offered jointly by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department and the National Archery in the Schools Program.
Hollen emphasized benefits of archery, including its emphasis on safety. She said that her goal as a high school gym teacher is to expose students to as many activities as possible.
“You don’t have to be a super-strong or athletic person to be able to pull that bow string,” she said.
At the time of the presentation, the teachers had already received the grant and were waiting for the board to approve matching funds. The CPW and NASP grant would supply the district with up to $3,000 to implement NASP curriculum into gym classes.
However, Elder and Hollen didn’t anticipate needing the full $3,000, as they estimated total startup costs of $4,215.50 to purchase bows, a bow rack, arrows, targets, arrow curtain/cable, repair kit, floor quivers, armguards, gloves, score cards, classroom banners and practice string bows.
Once the program is up and running, archery will be taught to students in grades four through 12. Hollen said she hoped to start teaching archery to high school students as soon as possible, while elementary teacher Elder anticipated beginning the program in the fall for her students.
Also during the presentations portion of the night, a trio of teachers and staff members adopted witch garb to advertise the School-a-Rama on Jan. 31 at Dolores Elementary School. The fifth-annual event will be Harry Potter-themed, and will include dinner, academics-oriented activities, presentations and a silent auction.The event also will be preceded by an open house at the new school-based health clinic, starting at 4 p.m.
Budgeting, by the numbersFinance director Doreen Jones presented a draft budget report for the 2018-19 fiscal year, noting that not counting the district’s reservoir, RE-4A was looking at a deficit budget of $565,000.“Every year, we do continue to budget more expenditures than we receive,” she said.
Interim Superintendent Phil Kasper, however, interjected that while the district needs to watch the deficit, it shouldn’t necessarily be seen as negative.
“I do not believe the public wishes us to accumulate money,” he said. The public, he said, wants them to follow through with “carrying out the business of education,” which required spending money.
Kasper also pointed out that the board had approved significant transportation-oriented purchases that weren’t expected to be annual occurrences.
Technology director Mark Baxter presented the board with an IT report on a new copier contract, which will save a substantial amount of money, he said.The current contract, set to expire Jan. 23, costs the district $63,351 a year, he reported. But the total cost of the new contract comes out to $40,803 annually, saving the district a little over $22,500 per year, or nearly $1,900 monthly.
Last year, district copiers used a total 1.25 million sheets of paper, but Baxter said the newly purchased high school Chromebooks reduce paper use.
Big dates ahead?Kasper focused on the work of the 11-person Calendar Committee, while presenting the district accountability report. The committee is working toward putting together a new calendar for the next school year – though he added that they hoped the board would approve a multiyear calendar this time, so they wouldn’t have to undergo this process again for a while.He spotlighted a few possible calendars the committee was considering: one was similar to the traditional schedule currently in place, while the other featured a four-day school week. If the latter were approved, the year would stretch further into summer months to be in compliance with Colorado state regulations regarding the number of school days.
The curriculumCurriculum auditor Lynn Zinn presented an overview of the process she was using to audit the Dolores School District. While she didn’t give specifics on the results of her work, she and her fellow auditor have already reviewed teachers’ curriculum and observed classrooms for a “snapshot” glimpse into the district’s academic programming.The process had been somewhat constrained by her own tight schedule, she said, and she apologized to teachers for the short time frame she had given them to submit “artifacts” from previous lessons.
A few teachers raised the concern that they hadn’t had enough time to select proper artifacts, and that the auditors weren’t seeing an accurate representation of their classes. Zinn, however, stressed that the whole process was a holistic, systemic review and that the artifacts were just one small component of the audit.
A question of grantsThe issue of grants surfaced multiple times throughout the meeting. Kasper said he was uncomfortable with the number of grants brought to the board for approval at the end of the process, particularly as the majority required some sort of matching funds from the school district.“There’s nothing free, there’s no such thing as free money,” he said, adding that he felt the board should be aware of an application from the beginning.
But a little later, something that looked like a “no-strings attached” grant situation came up, when gifted education specialist Connie Copenhaver spoke to the board about a recent Donors Choose grant for $611, which would go toward a Lego MakerSpace.
Interview committee debateComing off the heels of Monday’s special meeting regarding the search for a new superintendent, board members and members of the public – who mostly seemed to be teachers – continued arguing about the makeup of the interview committees.The debate ended up as the most-discussed item of the night, taking up about an hour of the four-hour meeting.
At the heart of the argument was the desire to keep committees small and manageable, while appropriately representing the community, particularly in considering which groups are most appropriate to make the decision. The idea of a “balanced group” was also hotly contested, with some arguing that there should be an equal number of educators versus noneducators, while others said that “balanced” should focus on district staff versus nondistrict personnel.
Ultimately, the board decided on two 12-person committees that would include one paraeducator, one preschool teacher, one elementary teacher, one secondary teacher, one classified staff member, one nonclassroom educator, two parents, two community members, one principal and one student.
The final vote was 4-1, with Vice President Casey McClellan voicing strong dissent, saying he felt there should be more parent representation on the committees.
The committees will be determined by a lottery, with an invitation going out Monday to community members who might be interested in submitting their names.