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District Announcements
Board of Education Meeting
The Board of Education held a regular meeting Thursday, April 10, at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the Education Service Center. The  REVISED agenda and packet, audio file 1, audio file 2, audio file 3, audio file 4 and audio file 5 are available for download.

At 6 p.m., prior to the regular board meeting, District 49's BOE Directors hosted a "Fantastic 49" spotlight, which featured outstanding students and educators.

The Board of Education will hold a work session Wednesday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the Education Service Center. The agenda and REVISED packet are available for download.

Director contact information is available from BOE page.

The District 49 Board of Education directors want to hear from their community. Ahead of each meeting's action items, up to 10 members of the public are afforded a three-minute opportunity to address the directors about issues of concern or praise. When appropriate, they'll respond following each presentation. In the interest of productivity for the proceedings, no charges or complaints against individuals are allowed. Defamatory or abusive remarks, including profanity, are not tolerated. The open forum is always considered an important part of each board meeting.
School Fights to Save Student's Life
Aden Knar, a third grade student at Falcon Virtual Academy, is in need of a life-saving bone marrow transplant. His school, Falcon Virtual Academy, will host a bone marrow donor drive Saturday, April 19, to help find a match Aden.

Knar, 10, was diagnosed at age 4 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and entered remission in 2008. In November 2013, the Knar family learned that the leukemia had returned, and is now isolated in his bone marrow.
In an outreach of support, Falcon Virtual Academy hosted a bone marrow donor drive in January, and will be hosting another Saturday, April 19, from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at 6113 Constitution Ave., directly west of Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado.
“We wanted to reach out to the family again,” said Jodi Fletcher, assistant principal.

Fletcher explained that more than 250 people participated in the January drive, and she hopes to have similar numbers April 19.
The money from a bake sale at the drive, and a portion of the proceeds raised from a spring formal dance, will be donated to the Knar family.
“My kids are relentless - the high school students want a cause,” said Fletcher, explaining the students’ persistence in helping Knar. The student council is hoping to use some donations to help fix their schoolmates’ favorite recliner.
Aden has gone through intensive chemotherapy, which eradicated 99.5 percent of the cancer in his bone marrow, but he is unable to reach complete remission. The remaining .05 percent is life threatening.
Doctors have recommended a bone marrow transplant take place as soon as possible, as additional chemotherapy will not be a cure. Currently there is no match for Aden in the worldwide registry, and without one, his chance of survival could be less than 20 percent.
“It’s not only good for our school and community, but it saves people’s lives,” said Fletcher. ”That’s the way our school works. When someone is in need, we want to do whatever we can to help them.”

Those wishing to be tested must be between 18-44 years old.
Visit for more information on screening and bone marrow donation.

Town Halls to Identify Capital Planning Priorities
Falcon School District 49 has scheduled several town hall events in April, providing venues for parents, guardians and stakeholders to voice their capital planning priorities. The upcoming zone town halls are a follow-up to recent school-level conversations, which introduced a bond and mill levy proposal from the district's capital planning committee.

As District 49 enters its second round of discussions prior to the November elections, the focus is on customizing the ballot proposal for each zone and school. District, zone and school leaders are scheduled to attend. They'll listen and answer questions. Each meeting will be largely led by contributions from community members.

"We hope to see true conversation," said Peter Hilts, chief education officer, in a message to staff members. "Not just a presentation with 'Q and A,' but a community conversation that clarifies points of agreement, as well as remaining questions and objections to the proposal."

"These are not exclusive or private," said Hilts, addressing community members. "So please invite friends and neighbors—especially if they don’t have children in the district, because we crave input from our larger community. Also, these are not highly structured meetings, so please feel free to arrive and leave anytime that works in your schedule."

The district's capital planning committee, and then the Board of Education, will revise the school finance plan at the end of April. The town hall meetings are an important opportunity for them to learn about the support and reservations in the district's communities.

Scheduled town hall meetings
POWER Zone: Vista Ridge High School, Wednesday, April 9, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Falcon Zone: Falcon High School, Tuesday, April 15, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
iConnect Zone: Central office board room, Wednesday, April 16, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Sand Creek Zone: Sand Creek High School, Thursday, April 17, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
District: Vista Ridge High School, Monday, April 21, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

District 49 BOE Approves Resolutions, Calendar Change, Discusses Survey
The Falcon School District 49 Board of Education voted April 10 on several resolutions.

The directors approved a resolution to oppose multi-year contracts, continued discussions about developing a charter rubric, and announced Teacher Appreciation Week. They also approved a calendar update for Springs Ranch Elementary School.

“This board has not done any multi-year contracts in three years,” said Tammy Harold, BOE president, declaring the current board’s refusal to offer such contracts in the future. “We want to officially make that statement to our community.”

During discussions about the vote on charter school waivers and a resolution, which would affect Valiant Academy’s opening date, the board directed Kim McClelland, iConnect Zone leader, to put together a readiness rubric for approval at the May board meeting.

The opening of Valiant Academy, a project-based learning charter school, is delayed until the 2015-2016 school year, due to concerns with facility and enrollment needs, which will be formally identified in the upcoming rubric and evaluated by the directors in January.

The BOE directors approved a resolution to proclaim May 5-9 as Teacher Appreciation Week.

They approved a revised calendar at Springs Ranch Elementary School. The change revises May 9, a professional development day, into an assessment day.

Peter Hilts, chief education officer, reviewed the results of this year’s Big Rocks Survey during discussion items. The district compiled an extensive list of feedback to improve the survey for the next school year.

Hilts also discussed upcoming town hall meetings about the district’s capital improvement plan. The feedback collected at these meetings will be used at the next capital planning committee meeting, April 22. The committee will then present at the board work session April 23.

Ahead of their meeting, District 49's BOE directors highlighted outstanding educators and students during a "Fantastic 49" event. The board recognized state PTA Reflections winners, two students, followed by Sason Sharify award winner Jay Peltier, track coach and business teacher at Vista Ridge High School.

Meister to Head District 49 Communications
Award-winning chief meteorologist Matt Meister will join Falcon School District 49 as its new communications director.

Meister is scheduled to leave ABC affiliate KRDO-TV to pursue a career in school communications. He'll begin working with the district's communications team in April, according to Peter Hilts, chief education officer.

After his final broadcast with KRDO NewsChannel 13 on May 23, Meister will take on the role as district spokesperson.

"We're looking forward to Matt becoming our director of communications," said Hilts, ahead of a Board of Education work session March 19, when Meister introduced himself to the board directors and attending educators.

"Matt brings a long-standing commitment to the schools of El Paso County," said Hilts. "Under his leadership, our communications team will continue to improve how we engage our community and its stakeholders, as a trustworthy recipient of taxpayer investment."

The public information officer position was retitled this year as communications director, which conforms with other senior leadership roles in the district.

BOE Approves Courses, Calendar Update, Discusses School Finance
The Falcon School District 49 Board of Education approved new high school courses, updated educator evaluations and modified a school calendar, as well as continued discussions on school finance priorities March 13 during its monthly meeting.

Ahead of their meeting, District 49's BOE directors highlighted outstanding educators and students during a "Fantastic 49" event. Horizon Middle School’s Brain Bowl Team 6, the district's first Brain Bowl team to medal in state competitions, competed against the directors in oral quizzes.

The board members heard from educators leading the Sand Creek Model Classroom Project. The professional development tool asks teachers to open their classrooms to other teachers for collaboration about best classroom instructional practices.

The directors approved a new course for the Health Science Academy at Falcon High School. Health and Wellness Through LIfespan, designed for 11th and 12th graders, will teach ways to think independently about developing healthy habits as aspiring healthcare providers.

Vista Ridge High School received approval for courses in medical intervention, or studying disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment, as well as biological engineering, which is aligned with interests in emerging healthcare careers. The school was also approved for a new computer science and software engineering course.

The board approved a proposal to align board policies with Senate Bill 10-191, which involves educator evaluations.

The directors approved a calendar change that transitioned May 9, originally a professional development day, into a regular school day at Sand Creek High School. It reclaims contact hours lost to recent delays and closures caused by inclement weather concerns.

During discussion items, Jack Bay, chief operations officer, reviewed overall operational needs from a capital planning perspective. Bay explained his recent tours with building principals. He said increasing energy efficiency must be a top priority across the district.

Dave Watson, district safety and emergency coordinator, discussed security-related priorities. He explained ways to add new layers, describing structural and entry point changes.

“We’re looking at trying to improve our communications,” said Watson, asking for upgrades in radio systems and intercoms.

Community members shared concerns about the athletic field at Falcon High School, urging the directors to find a way to fund a new synthetic surface as soon as possible.

“This doesn’t just impact the football community – it affects the entire school,” said Darryl Murphy, suggesting the project couldn’t wait for a bond campaign, supports several sports and increases school pride.

After hearing the cost was less than an earlier estimate, Tammy Harold, BOE president, agreed to discuss other funding options for the field.

As the school finance discussions continued, Harold called for a resolution to formally end multi-year contracts, and any related buyouts, in District 49.

Kaiser Permanente Grants to Increase Physical Activity, Wellness
Kaiser Permanente and four Colorado Springs school districts are pleased to announce new funding to help make good health a part of everyday life in schools.

The grants, totaling $400,000, awarded to Academy School District 20, Colorado Springs School District 11, Falcon School District 49 and Harrison School District 2 are a part of Kaiser Permanente’s increased focus on school health known as the Thriving Schools Initiative.

Launched nationally by Kaiser Permanente in February 2013, Thriving Schools engages school communities to champion change by incorporating evidence-based, community health improvement practices.

The four Colorado Springs districts are among 21 school districts in Colorado that have been awarded grants from the Thriving Schools Initiative. To qualify for funding, each school district was asked to submit an application online and provide a detailed strategy for getting staff and students active before, during, and after school hours.

District 49, covering urban and rural areas in northeast Colorado Springs and unincorporated areas of El Paso County, selected three schools for health and wellness projects: Odyssey Elementary School, Evans International Elementary School and Falcon Elementary School of Technology.

"We're looking forward to putting new opportunities in place at our schools that are sustainable over time, and easily accessible to surrounding communities," said Rachel Duerr, District 49 health and wellness coordinator.

"We're always looking for ways to improve the health and wellness of our students, so they're better prepared to learn -- and our staff, so they're better prepared to teach." said Duerr, who's currently collaborating on a project with Melissa Ardolf physical education teacher at Falcon Elementary School of Technology in Peyton.

Using a portion of the grant, they're planning to open a disc golf course by summer break. The elementary school's nine-hole course will offer a new venue for physical education, as well as open doors to activities that integrate several subjects, according to Duerr. District 49 is still in a planning phase but expects to identify more health and wellness projects soon.

“The link between healthy students, reduced absenteeism and stronger academic performance is well documented. Thriving Schools offers us a unique and targeted campaign to work collaboratively with Colorado schools to advance health and improve academic performance,” said Donna Lynne, DrPH, president of Kaiser Permanente Colorado. “In addition, healthier schools cultivate a stronger Colorado workforce for the future.”

Research continues to demonstrate the link between academic achievement and physical activity. Children who are physically active have higher test scores and improved attention in class, decreased absenteeism and improved behavior, decreased stress and improved mood. Also, evidence suggests that healthier students are better learners and physical activity can improve student academic achievement.
Kaiser Permanente currently delivers care to more than 90,000 school-age children and 30,000 teachers and staff who spend the majority of each day on a school campus. The health plan has supported Colorado schools and school districts for more than 25 years to improve healthy eating, physical activity and school climates. These new grant initiatives will deepen and expand such established partnerships and programs as Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Programs, which has reached almost 3 million Coloradans through dynamic, free health education theater performances since 1986. Kaiser Permanente is also a founding funder and continued supporter of LiveWell Colorado’s school-based health initiatives.

Learn more about Thriving Schools at or @thrivingschools on Twitter. Visit to learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s community benefit programs.

District 49 Approves Contract for Charter School
The Falcon School District 49 Board of Education unanimously approved a contract Feb. 13 for Valiant Academy during its monthly meeting.

Valiant Academy will open for the 2014-2015 school year in District 49. Modeled after High Tech High charter schools, it presents a unique educational and operational approach to project-based learning. More information is available at

The academy will open in Colorado Springs for kindergarten through seventh graders during the 2014-2015 school year, according to Kim McClelland, District 49 iConnect Zone innovation leader. It’s scheduled to add a grade level with each subsequent school year.

“I look forward to working with that group of kids that are (focusing on) project-based learning, and helping that niche of our student population,” said Tammy Harold, BOE president, after the directors approved the academy’s addition to District 49’s portfolio of schools.

Ahead of the meeting, District 49's BOE directors hosted their first "Fantastic 49" event, which will continue to highlight outstanding educators and students. They recognized Nicole Sinnott, a fifth grade teacher at Evans International Elementary School, for earning a National Board Certification, considered an effective indicator of teacher quality. Sinnott is certified in early adolescence science.

The board members heard from students involved in the Sand Creek High School InvenTeam. The innovation team gave a presentation about their use of a $9,900 grant from the Lemelson-MIT program. Twenty-two students are working to improve a bio-sand mechanical filter for water sanitation. They’ll present their prototype in June during EurekaFest at MIT in Cambridge, Mass.

During the meeting, the directors approved a resolution to support the capital planning committee, titled “Our Plan to Bring Out the Best in District 49.”  The resolution instructs the committee, along with district and community leaders, to proceed with a public input phase of a capital planning campaign. The phase is meant to refine the plan and its presentation, so that the board can submit an optimized ballot question for voter approval in November.

“We need as much public input as we can get,” said David Moore, BOE vice president.

The directors also approved a policy that allows electronic participation in board meetings. 

During discussion items, Ron Goad, co-chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee, explained that keyboarding skills are becoming exceedingly important with technological advances, including an upcoming increase in electronic assessments. Insufficient keyboarding skills can negatively impact a student’s performance and test scores, said Goad.

“I really appreciate SEAC having this (keyboarding) on their radar,” said Peter Hilts, chief education officer. Hilts joined board directors in tasking administrators to perform an analysis on the issue in each zone to generate informed recommendations.

The board members also discussed their developing cultural contract, which will explain their values and conduct standards. The contract will be discussed further in a future work session.

For videos of regular and special meetings, along with work sessions, visit

District 49 Preschool Roundup, Early Access Opportunities
Families with children getting ready to enter the classroom for the first time can begin preparing for the 2014-2015 school year.
The Falcon School District 49 Early Childhood Center will hold a screening for preschool children age 3, or 3 by Aug.1, and age 4 at Remington Elementary School on Feb. 7, 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. in the school gymnasium. Families will have the opportunity to apply for the early education programs and sign up for the lottery to be held in March.
Parents or guardians must be District 49 residents to qualify for preschool in the district. Bring a current utility bill or lease contract to show residency, along with proof of income and the child’s birth certificate. Additionally, parents may download and complete the developmental health and social questionnaire and Colorado Preschool Program questionnaire at
For additional questions on the early childhood program, contact the preschool office: 719.494.8840.
Additionally, highly gifted students who do not meet the age requirement for enrollment into kindergarten or first grade are able to apply for early access into school. To meet the needs of highly advanced development, early access to educational services may be considered as a special provision.
The decision to accelerate a child can have a profound effect on the child’s academic and social performance, and District 49 adheres to a thorough set of research-based procedures to determine if a child is eligible for early access.
To request an early access application, contact Lorretta Grimaldo, learning services administrative assistant, at 719.494.8957.

District 49 Educator Selected for State Task Force
Leaders from Falcon School District 49 traveled to the statehouse Jan. 30 to join a nonpartisan discussion about options in K-12 education.
Legislators from the Colorado Senate and Colorado House of Representatives have come together in a nonpartisan effort to form a task force of leaders in online education. The task force will address the unique challenges facing online education.

“I feel honored and privileged to serve and represent Falcon School District 49 and the online and blended learning community,” said Kim McClelland, District 49 iConnect Zone leader and and Colorado Digital Board of Cooperative Educational Services executive director.

“This is established to work toward improving the quality of education for all students in Colorado who use online learning as a part or all of the access to learning."

McClelland is one of seven educators from across the state selected to serve on the Colorado Online Education Task Force, created by Sen. Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood), Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango), Rep. Dave Young (D-Greeley) and Rep. Jim Wilson (R-Salida).

Technology and demographics have changed dramatically since the legislature last addressed online education policy seven years ago. Due to the high number of at-risk students in online programs, statistics show that full-time online students consistently performed below their non-online peers in reading and math assessments and that graduation rates for full-time online schools are significantly lower than the statewide rate.

The task force will provide policy proposals as well as legislative recommendations by March 21 to the Senate and House Education committees.

Students to Ring in Chinese New Year
Elementary school students will celebrate the start of a new year by learning about another culture's traditions.
Each school year, students at Springs Ranch Elementary School honor a multicultural holiday or event. On Friday, Jan. 31, at 3 p.m., they will celebrate Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year.

"In the past, we have had rooms set up representing different countries, and we also embraced different holiday traditions from around the world," says Linda Hagedorn, English Language Development teacher at Springs Ranch Elementary School.
The students have been learning about the Lunar Calendar and other traditions that accompany Chinese New Year. Collaborating with buddies from other grade levels, students created projects in celebration of the holiday.
Classroom doors will be covered in red paper, a color symbolizing luck in the Chinese culture. Students and teachers will write messages of good luck on the red doors. Students will lead a parade to close out the school day, and will make crafts, play musical instruments and try out fortune cookies as part of the holiday celebration. The students will also present the projects they created in honor of the Chinese New Year throughout the parade.

District 49 to Host Customized Education Expo
Success looks different for every type of learner. That’s why a group of parents and special education staff members organized District 49’s first-ever customized education expo Jan. 29 at 6:30 p.m.

The district’s Special Education Advisory Committee, made of up parents, staff members and administrators, developed the event to meet the needs of families looking for specific educational resources and supports.
“It’s an opportunity for parents and students to come and see programs that are available within and outside of the district,” said Alicia Stier, District 49 parent and SEAC co-chair.

More than a dozen informational booths will provide information on a variety of topics, from early childhood development to dyslexia to autism. The Resource Exchange, Peak Parent and Assistive Technology are a few of the organizations that will represent resources outside the district.

Peter Hilts, chief education officer, will serve as keynote speaker. He will share his experience with special education and explain his vision for what individualized learning looks like. Hilts will also offer insight on how parents can use the resources they learn about at the expo.

The expo is not limited to families of children who may have special needs, but is open to all parents who want to learn more about the resources and how they may be useful to their child’s educational experience. 

District 49 Customized Education Expo
Wednesday, Jan. 29, 6:30-8 p.m.
Vista Ridge High School
6888 Black Forest Road
Colorado Springs

Students to Remember Challenger Anniversary with Space Mission
Fourth graders at Odyssey Elementary School are preparing to embark on their mission. Tuesday, Jan. 28, students will attempt to rescue a spaceship lost in the solar system. They will exercise math and science skills, interpreting data and solving problems throughout their mission.

Diane Neff¹s fourth grade class, along with other fourth grade classes at Odyssey Elementary School, will use an iPad and a GoToMeeting app to communicate with the Challenger Learning Center. Each student will have a unique job function, such as communications officer or navigation and transmission specialist, on the mission to rescue the lost ship.

"In fourth grade, space is one of our science standards, so this whole mission goes right along with them," said Neff.
Along with the incorporation of math and science skills, the simulation will commemorate the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster: the 28th anniversary of the tragic launch takes place the same day.
"I am planning on talking to the students about where I was when the Challenger tragedy happened," said Neff. The Challenger Learning Center will also discuss with students the importance of the date and the original Space Shuttle Challenger mission.
This is the school¹s fourth year participating in the program.

District 49 BOE Approves Amended Budgets
The Falcon School District 49 Board of Education approved district and charter school amended budgets Jan. 22 during a special meeting.
The board directors have reviewed components of the district’s proposed amended budget at several previous meetings and work sessions. The amended budget incorporates updated student count and cost numbers, managing the remaining portion of the current school year and laying groundwork for the subsequent fiscal year.
Four of the district’s charter schools also submitted proposed amended budgets, addressing any changes in assumptions made in the schools’ original budgets. The district’s fifth charter school, GOAL Academy, did not submit an amended budget.
The approval of the amended budgets meets the state’s deadline of Jan. 31.
The board directors approved a cellular telecommunications contract for voice, data and messaging services with T-Mobile USA, Inc. for the 2014-2015 school year. Following an extensive committee review of proposals, as well as field tests of service components throughout the district, the committee recommended T-Mobile USA, Inc. as the provider.
Complete videos of all District 49 Board of Education meetings, special meetings and work sessions are now available at

School Community Unites to Save Student’s Life
The chances are very, very slim, but tough odds have not deterred one school community from doing what it can to help.
Falcon Virtual Academy will host a bone marrow donor drive on Thursday, Jan. 23, to help find a match for a third grade student with cancer.
Aden Knar, a 10-year-old  student attending Falcon Virtual Academy, needs a life-saving bone marrow transplant. Aden was diagnosed in 2008, at age 4, with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was successfully treated and entered remission. In November, the Knar family learned that the leukemia had returned, and is now isolated in his bone marrow.

In an outreach of support, Falcon Virtual Academy will be hosting a bone marrow donor drive Jan. 23 from 2:30- 6:30 p.m. at 6113 Constitution Avenue, directly west of Care and Share.
“We can make a difference not only to Aden, but those around the world,” said Jodi Fletcher, assistant principal, of the donor drive.
Fletcher said she knew the school, which has a focus on family and community involvement, would rally when Aden’s family shared an update on his condition. The event evolved quickly, and everyone at the school is working to set up the donor drive and get the word out.

“We're that school that says ‘why can’t we?’ instead of ‘we can’t,’” she said.

Aden has gone through intensive chemotherapy, which eradicated 99 percent of the cancer in his bone marrow, but he is unable to reach complete remission, with the .05 percent remaining being very dangerous.
Doctors have recommended a bone marrow transplant to take place as soon as possible, as additional chemotherapy will not be a cure. Currently there is no match for Aden in the worldwide registry, and without one, his chances of survival could be less than 20 percent.
“The Falcon Virtual Academy has been an outstanding partner,” said Mike Knar, Aden’s father.

Community members who are interested in a donor compatibility test must be between 18-44 years old.

CDE: State Enrollment Up, District 49 Fastest Growing
The Colorado Department of Education announced Jan. 14 a surge in public school pupil counts. The statewide preschool through 12th-grade pupil count for the 2013-2014 school year increased by 13,438 over the previous year, bringing the state public school student total to 876,999.

Of the districts with more than 100 students, Falcon School District 49 is experiencing the state's largest number of student gains and largest percentage increase. During the 2013-2014 school year, educators in District 49 will reach nearly 19,000 students, now as part of Colorado's 14th largest school district. The district gained 3,402 students, representing a 22-percent increase from 2012-2013.

In the Colorado Springs area, well over 90 percent of annual growth is occurring in District 49. According to county records, there are more than 20,000 lots in the inventory of the school district's boundaries, which could double the current pupil count.

Denver Public Schools has the second largest number of student gains, adding 2,666 students, a 3.2-percent increase.

The statewide change represents an increase of 1.6 percent, slightly higher than the growth rate in the 2012-2013 school year, which was 1.1 percent. In 2008-2009, Colorado public school enrollment surged 2 percent, the largest statewide increase in the past 10 years.

The 15 largest districts in Colorado, represent 68 percent of the total statewide enrollment, include: Denver Public Schools, which educates 86,043 students; Jefferson County Public Schools, 85,983; Douglas County School District, 66,230; Cherry Creek School District 5, 54,226; Adams 12 Five Star Schools, 42,230; Aurora Public Schools, 40,877; Boulder Valley School District, 30,546; St. Vrain Valley School District, 30,195; Poudre School District, 28,439; Colorado Springs School District 11, 28,404; Academy School District 20, 24,481; Mesa County Valley School District 51, 21,894; Greeley-Evans School District 6, 20,450; Falcon School District 49, 18,880; and Pueblo City School District 60, 17,990.

3 CyberPatriot Teams in District 49 Head to Semifinals
Three teams of students in Falcon School District 49 will compete this month in the national CyberPatriot semifinals.

Two teams from Falcon High School and one from Vista Ridge High School earned the opportunity to compete in the online semifinals Jan. 17-19, as part of 50 teams from across the United States, representing 22 high schools.

CyberPatriot is the largest U.S. high school defense competition, providing hands-on exposure to the foundations of cyber security, according to Thomas Russell, information technology teacher at Falcon High School. More than 900 teams competed this school year.

“I think no other district in Colorado has made such an impact of teaching cyber and information security fundamentals,” says Russell, who coaches the CyberPatriot teams from Falcon High School.

The CyberPatriot programs are growing at Vista Ridge High School and Falcon High School. It’s the second year of competitions for Falcon High School, where the program has expanded from one to eight teams, and the first year the school sent two teams to the semifinals.

During the semifinals, the top 50 teams compete for six hours straight, covering network security, digital forensics and networking. The top 12 remaining teams will advance to the finals in Washington D.C.

District 49 Board Approves Improvement Plans
The Falcon School District 49 Board of Education unanimously approved school and district unified improvement plans Jan. 9 during its regular monthly meeting.

The plans identify key areas of improvement at the school and district levels, mapping out strategies to address those areas. The directors first reviewed the plans at their December meeting. UIPs guide time, resources and support to advance student achievement and growth. The plans will now be submitted to the Colorado Department of Education.
The directors also recognized Keziah Williamson, a 12th grader at Sand Creek High School, for her runner-up finish during a high school theater competition held in Denver by the Colorado State Thespian Society. Williamson performed her competition piece for board and community members.
Long-time Falcon High School supporter and volunteer, Glenna Rohr, was honored for her dedication and commitment to the district. She served for more than 20 years on the booster club. Rohr died in a car accident Dec. 12.
The board directors approved community members appointed to serve on the district accountability advisory committee. The DAAC provides a parental and community involvement program related to student achievement, budget and safety.
The directors received an update from board legal counsel on their legal obligations, new legislation, matters of ethics, conflict of interest and board norms and protocol as established by policy. The legal guidance is part of routine training to improve the board directors’ understanding of their roles and interactions with other district leaders.
The board members discussed two upcoming contracts, one for current voice over IP services and one for cellular telecommunications services. Each contract went through an extensive committee review process prior to any administrative recommendations made to the board. Both contracts are scheduled for action at a special meeting Jan. 22.
The directors also discussed a new policy involving board members’ participation in board meetings electronically. A policy addressing any legal implications and identifying appropriate circumstances and technologies for electronic participation will be considered for action at the February meeting.
Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, provided an update on the amended budget process. The amended budget incorporates updated student count and cost numbers, managing the remaining portion of the current school year and laying groundwork for the subsequent fiscal year. An amended budget proposal is scheduled for action at a special meeting Jan. 22.
The directors entered into an executive session discuss a personnel matter. No action is taken during executive session.

District 49 Schools to Take Trust, Compassion Challenge
Hundreds of students from Falcon School District 49 will break from their daily studies in January for trust-building games and activities.
About 125 students are expected to participate Jan. 9 during a Challenge Day program at Vista Ridge High School. During two days at Patriot Learning Center, more than 200 students will rally for the compassion challenge: middle school, Jan. 17; high school, Jan. 31.
Challenge Day is an award-winning, all-day program designed to improve school environments through positive reinforcement, anti-bullying messages and student-powered action. It combines efforts of teens and adults, including teachers and parents.
A step beyond traditional anti-bullying efforts, the goal is to build empathy and ignite a movement of compassion in the district's schools, according to Nicole Paxton, Patriot Learning Center assistant principal.
"It's about bullying awareness, and being the person to make a difference," said Paxton. "It helps students realize that they may not be the only person going through something difficult… there is help available."
District 49 students, teachers, counselors and parents will break down barriers to school and community understandings and acceptance. During the workshop, participants will discover tools for conflict resolution and teamwork, while sparking a desire for positive change.
Vista Ridge High School's Challenge Day on Jan. 9 starts at 7:30 a.m. with its large group activities, and finishes at 2:40 p.m. Patriot Learning Center’s activities take place 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., both days, Jan. 17 and 31.
Challenge Day is a Concord, Calif.-based nonprofit organization that provides programs for students in grades 7-12. Since 1987, it has reached more than 1 million youth across North America, according to the official website at

Mayor to Honor District 49 Engineering Students for MIT Award
Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach will honor engineering students Jan. 9 at Sand Creek High School in Falcon School District 49.
The 25-student team from Sand Creek High School in Colorado Springs is the first-ever from Colorado to receive a Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam award, according to Leigh Estabrooks, invention education officer for the Lemelson-MIT program.
InvenTeams are groups of high school students, teachers and mentors who receive grants up to $10,000 to invent technological solutions to real-world problems.
The 11th and 12th graders of District 49 are using their $9,900 award to create a bio-sand mechanical water filtration invention, according to Todd Matia, Project Lead The Way instructor at Sand Creek High School.
Their system uses natural resources frequently found in developing countries. The team’s bio-sand filters are made of layers of sand and gravel with different coarseness that allow water to pass through, while capturing parasites and bacteria in the process.
“Our team is made up of 25 fantastic students,” Matia said. “I’m blown away by the work they’re doing on this project.”
Starting at 10:15 a.m., Bach will congratulate the high school's engineering team, who will be surrounded by their families, fellow engineering students, Board of Education directors and district leadership.

District 49 Board Focuses on Unified Improvement Plan
Falcon School District 49 Board of Education directors discussed a plan for district-wide improvement Dec. 12 during their regular meeting.
The unified improvement plan guides specific action steps as district leaders and educators work toward continuous improvement in students’ achievement and growth. Amber Whetstine, executive director of learning services, presented key improvement strategies to address root causes in the greatest areas for improvement.
The three areas of focus involve aligning curriculum with the new Colorado Academic Standards, identifying resources to support individualized learning to differentiate instruction specifically for students not making adequate growth and consistently implementing professional development. The directors requested quarterly updates on UIP progress as the plan is implemented.
The board directors approved a waiver to the charter school application window, adjusting the application cycle to no longer coincide with the beginning of a new school year. The change provides charter school applicants more time to prepare for a new school opening, with the application deadline between Aug. 1 and Oct. 1and a decision within 90 days.
The directors approved calendars for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years. In order to provide consistency for families and staff, the calendars have few changes from the current school year. Adjustments have been made to align calendars across innovation zones. However, testing windows are approximate, as students will participate in new state and nationwide assessments in the 2014-15 school year, so modifications could be made based on state or national testing changes.
Additionally, the board directors approved a change to the Sand Creek High School calendar for 2014, changing Feb. 7 from an instructional day to a professional development day to provide mid-year training to align progress made in the first semester with educational strategies for the second semester.
The board approved the annual mill levy rate, which is set by the Colorado Department of Education, and approved a reclassification of the maintenance technician II, heating ventilation, air conditioning position.
The directors approved a procedure for policy review with the aim of improving the district’s policy management system, ensuring policies and procedures are reviewed on a regular basis by the appropriate individual or department.
Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, provided a budget update as part of the planning process for the district’s amended budget, incorporating updated student count and cost numbers. The amended budget manages the remaining portion of the current school year and lays groundwork for the subsequent fiscal year.
The directors held an executive session to discuss a personnel matter and subsequently approved administration's recommendation to pursue dismissal of the employee.

District 49 to Host Preschool Roundup
District 49 Early Childhood Center staff members will host preschool roundup Feb. 7 at Remington Elementary School from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. 
The roundup provides an opportunity to submit preschool enrollment and Colorado Preschool Program applications, as well as complete developmental screenings for the 2014-2015 school year. It's open to children aged 3 (or 3 by Aug. 1) and 4. Families must be residents of District 49 to qualify for the preschool program.

Preschool is offered in all nine of the district’s elementary schools. Curriculum is linked to the Colorado Academic Standards, and is research-based and individualized to student needs. A list of required registration documents is available from the Preschool Information page.
District 49 Preschool Roundup
Friday, Feb. 7
8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Remington Elementary School in Colorado Springs

For more information, contact the Early Childhood Education office at 719.494.8840.

Choice Enrollment to Open in District 49
Families throughout the Pikes Peak region are invited to explore the robust portfolio of distinct and exceptional schools in Falcon School District 49.
Choice Enrollment allows families to enroll students based on individualized programming, learning options and curriculum elements, providing educational opportunities that may be available outside a family’s neighborhood school. 
District 49’s Choice Enrollment for the 2014-15 school year is open Dec. 9 to Feb. 28. This opportunity is available to District 49 residents and non-residents and is limited by space availability. The Choice Enrollment application will be available beginning Dec. 6 from the Choice Enrollment page at Families can complete the process online and will be notified of student placements in early April.
District 49 strives to provide individualized educational experiences to launch every student toward success. The district hosts 23 distinct schools and programs, including three innovation zones of preK-12-aligned curriculum, online and alternative programming and homeschool enrichment.
Home to more than 19,000 students, District 49 is one of the fastest growing school districts in the state, offering a K-12 International Baccalaureate program, career-focused health sciences and finance academies, science, technology, engineering and math labs at all grade levels and online blended learning.

Falcon Education Foundation Awards $17,000
Elementary school students will apply inspirational engineering skills to better understand energy, middle school students will use innovative technologies to become junior gemologists, and high school students will creatively explore marine life.

The Falcon Education Foundation is making those projects possible, along with many others, in Falcon School District 49.

The Falcon Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises funds to support unique educational opportunities beyond regular  budget limits. It will award 22 grants, totaling more than $17,000 in funding, for projects that are inspirational, innovative and creative.

“We invite educators to think outside the box, to get students excited about learning,” said Marion Meyer, Falcon Education Foundation president. “We had a lot of outstanding grant applications and it’s an honor to provide the funds to make these projects happen in the classroom.”

The foundation will award grant winners during the District 49 Board of Education meeting Nov. 14, at 6:30 p.m., in the board room at 10850 E. Woodmen Road in Peyton.

The following 19 teachers, administrators and support staff were awarded Falcon Education Foundation grants to provide 22 unique projects this school year:
  1. Katie Poulsen, Evans International Elementary School: $855 for Operation Energy
  2. Brooke Austermiller, Ridgeview Elementary School: $905 for We Like to Move It, Move It
  3. Brian Hepperle,  Springs Ranch Elementary School: $200 for Mirroring and Wireless Displays
  4. Laurie Hildebrand, Stetson Elementary School: $528 for Apple of my iPad
  5. Erin McGovern, Stetson Elementary School: $756 for Math Matters; $1,000 for Bringing Literacy to Life
  6. Matt Monfre, Stetson Elementary School: $766 for Zoom Zoom Healthy Highway
  7. Tim Scheck, Falcon Middle School: $660 for Printing the Future
  8. Dana Orton, Falcon Middle School: $996 for Glass Fusing and Slumping
  9. Shari Arnot, Falcon Middle School: $937 for Kindle Firebird Love of Reading
  10. Rachel Connell, Horizon Middle School: $1,000 for Latin Dance Club
  11. Pamela Holloman, Skyview Middle School: $479 for Noise No More
  12. Thomas Russell, Falcon High School: $740 for Student Engagement and Mentoring in Technology Program
  13. Josh Wixom, Falcon Virtual Academy: $1,000 for Marine Aquarium
  14. Lori Hall, Falcon Virtual Academy: $910 for Junior Gemologists
  15. Paul Austin, Patriot Learning Center: $1,150 for Sewing with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; $945 for Wooden Robot Arm; $700 for Losing Your Marbles
  16. Ray Bell, Sand Creek High School: $1,000 for Artist in Residence, Orchestra
  17. Brandon Ager, Vista Ridge High School: $315 for VR Mural Club
  18. Deanna Waldron, Rocky Mountain Classical Academy: $815 for Knights of the Water Table
  19. Gene Hammond, District 49 transportation department: $990 for Painting with Purpose

Students to Host Turkey Feast for Seniors, Firefighters
Students from Patriot Learning Center will host a turkey dinner Nov. 15 for their community’s senior citizens and firefighters.

For six years, Patriot Learning Center’s middle school students have cooked a turkey feast as a learners’ community service project ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

During their 6th annual event, roughly 60 students will welcome participants for the Falcon Fire Department and Falcon Senior Services, a nonprofit organization supporting Falcon area residents aged 60 and over.

Dozens of area senior citizens will be paired with a student. They’ll gather around tables to get to know each other, while enjoying the meal and conversations.

“There are a lot of seniors who don’t have family here,” said math teacher Jenny Olson, who’s coordinating the event, “so this is an important holiday tradition for them. They love coming together with our kids.”

“A lot of our kids don’t have grandparents close by, so that’s an added benefit for them,” said Olson, one of several teachers volunteering to help cook the 10 turkeys and two hams. The school’s culinary arts teacher is showing a class how to cook a couple of the turkeys, too.

Patriot Learning Center received the turkeys as donations by local businesses. The students' parents are preparing the usual side dishes.

“For many of our kids, by far, this is their favorite day of the year,” said Olson.

The feast starts at 11:30 a.m. in the school’s gymnasium.

District 49 BOE to Award Innovation at November Meeting
The Falcon School District 49 Board of Education will recognize this year’s Falcon Education Foundation grant winners Nov. 14 during its regular monthly meeting at 10805 E. Woodmen Road in Peyton.
The November meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Education Service Center. During board updates, more than $17,000 in grants will be awarded to educators, administrators and support staff for innovative and inspirational projects, allowing progress beyond budget limits.
The directors will vote on modifications to several board policies related to retirement plans and staff grievances. They’ll also vote on two community members for the District Accountability Advisory Committee, which helps measure academic and safety successes.
The board directors will vote on a job description for an executive director of individualized education position, an item discussed during their October work session.
During informational items, Mike Pickering, POWER Zone innovation leader, will share implementation progress and measurable outcomes of the zone’s action plan. Pickering will highlight four key components: evaluation-driven educator effectiveness; open access to viable curriculum involving blended and online components; relational framework related to collaboration and community involvement; and what the zone calls its POWER of Possibility, advancing micro-innovations to support student and community needs.

Jack Bay, chief operations officer, will discuss a proposed district energy resource management plan to intentionally coordinate energy use. The plan considers environmental and economic objectives to optimize efficiency while meeting district needs.

BOE Election Update

Falcon School District 49's Board of Education had three director positions on the Nov. 5 election ballot in El Paso County.
 Six candidates ran for the three director positions: John Graham, David H. Moore, Kevin Butcher, Chris Bombria, Henry Allen Jr. and Tammy Harold. 

District 49 leaders extend a sincere thanks to all candidates who ran, all who campaigned in support of a candidate and all 9,500 individuals who voted in the 2013 Board of Education director race. According to the final unofficial results, Harold, Butcher and Moore secured seats on the school board, joining Marie LaVere-Wright and Chuck Irons.

“We look forward to swearing in our directors and collaborating with the new board as we support every student in District 49,” said Peter Hilts, chief education officer. The district also extends thanks to departing board members Chris Wright and Henry Allen for their service to the students of District 49.

The statewide defeat of Amendment 66 will start a new round of discussions about education funding and equity. District 49 leaders are eager to contribute to that conversation, emphasizing fairness, local control and efficient stewardship.

“We commit to stable leadership from our board and administration, so District 49 can continue to grow with our community,” said Hilts.

Pending county verification of election results, new directors will be sworn in prior to the board work session on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 10850 E. Woodmen Road in Peyton. Additional details will be posted soon at

Honoring Heroes Across District 49 on Veterans Day
Students, staff and community members in Falcon School District 49 will recognize the men and women who have served in the U.S. military in honor of Veterans Day. All events are held on Monday, Nov. 11, unless otherwise noted. Community members are invited to attend.

Springs Ranch Elementary School, 
located at 4350 Centerville Drive in Colorado Springs, will host the fifth grade musical “American Voices” at 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Meridian Ranch Elementary School,
 located at 10480 Rainbow Bridge Drive in Peyton, will host an all-school assembly at 8:45 a.m., including a performance from the choir and guest speakers.

Falcon Elementary School,
 located at 12050 Falcon Highway in Peyton, has invited students and parents to submit photos to be displayed on the Our Heroes Wall on Nov. 11. Additionally, students were asked to submit names of family members currently serving in the military and cards written by students will be sent to those family members. On Tuesday, Nov. 12, Falcon Elementary School will host the annual Heroes Breakfast from 7:50-8:30 a.m.  Students and their families will have the opportunity to eat breakfast with active military members of the community.
Ridgeview Elementary School, located at 6573 Shimmering Creek Drive in Colorado Springs, will host two assemblies: 1:30-2:15 p.m. for preschool through second grade students and 2:30-3:15 p.m. for third through fifth grade students. Each assembly will include the presentation of colors by the Boy Scouts color guard, a choir performance and a slideshow presentation.  Tribute photos and stories will be on display throughout the building.
Woodmen Hills Elementary School, located at 8308 Del Rio Road in Peyton, will have two assemblies featuring fourth graders performing for third through fifth grade students at 2:15 p.m. and kindergarten through second grade students at 3:10 p.m. In between the afternoon assemblies, veterans will be invited on an American Walk through the building, where each stop has a specific theme. On Tuesday, Nov. 12 Woodmen Hills Elementary School fourth graders will perform their Veterans Day celebration for parents and the community at 6:30 p.m.
Stetson Elementary School, located at 4910 Jedediah Smith Road in Colorado Springs, will hold two assemblies on Nov. 11 that will include a dedication of an American flag that was flown in Afghanistan, a salute to all the Armed Forces and a time to honor all those who have served and those who are in attendance at the assemblies.  Students in third through fifth grades will attend at 8:45 a.m. and students in Pre-K through second grades will attend at 9:20 a.m.

Remington Elementary School,
 located at 2825 Pony Tracks Drive in Colorado Springs, is hosting a Veterans appreciation luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 7.  Retired and active duty military members have been invited to join students for lunch, wearing their military uniform or fatigues.  Lunch schedules range from 10:50 a.m.- 1:05 p.m.

Skyview Middle School, 
located at 6350 Windom Peak Boulevard in Colorado Springs, will hold three Veterans Day concerts featuring actors, eighth grade band and seventh and eighth grade choirs. The eighth grade concert will begin at 8:15 a.m., seventh grade concert will begin at 10:15 a.m. and the sixth grade concert will begin at 1:15 p.m.

Falcon Middle School,
 located at 9755 Towner Avenue in Peyton, has invited veterans and active duty military to visit classrooms throughout the school day.  An all-school assembly will be held at 2:20 p.m. to recognize veterans, including Falcon Middle School staff members who have served.  The Falcon High School JROTC will present the colors and the band and choir will perform.

Falcon High School, 
located at 10255 Lambert Road in Peyton, will have an all-school assembly to honor veterans including Falcon High School staff who have served.  Students are writing tribute cards, which will be sent to the American Legion for distribution to veterans around the area.

Falcon Virtual Academy,
 located at 6113 Constitution Avenue in Colorado Springs, will host a Saluting America presentation from 4-6 p.m., which will include a tribute contest, service project and other special events students completed as part of the Veterans Day celebration. Specific program details are at
District 49 is one of eight school districts statewide piloting the Saluting America program in partnership with the American Legion. This program educates and instills a strong sense of patriotism in America’s youth, and honors the sacrifices made by our nation’s active military and veterans. Schools have aligned their Veterans Day events and curriculum to coordinate with the statewide program. Find out more at

Middle School Students to Put STEM into Action at CSI Camp
Falcon Middle School students and educators will put science, technology, engineering and math skills to work Nov. 6 during a Crime Scenes Investigation Camp-for-a-Day.
The school’s sixth-eighth grade students will get an inside look at the science behind military and community law enforcement careers during the day-long CSI camp, offered by the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education in partnership with the Military Child Education Coalition.

“Our students will be working with experts in the field of crime scene investigation to learn the fundamentals of solving crimes and take the science of detective work to a whole new level,” said Brian Smith, principal at Falcon Middle School in Falcon School District 49.

During morning activities, they’ll dust for fingerprints, examine a crime scene and study paper chromatography, as they gain first-hand knowledge into STEM careers. After lunch, they’ll listen to a forensic science presentation, learn about facial recognition and then hold a scavenger hunt.

Students will take home a bag of CSI tools, including a workbook, calculator and invisible ink pen.  Participating teachers will receive the curriculum for the day’s activities, mapped to local education standards, as well as a fingerprint scanner. 

Prior to the camp, the school’s educators will receive training with the Colorado Springs Police Department and the Fort Carson K-9 unit, Nov. 5, 3:30-6:30 p.m.

“We are so excited that Falcon Middle School was selected as one of the only middle schools in Colorado to offer this program,” said Smith.
The Caruth Institute, located in Dallas, strives to increase the number and diversity of U.S. students who are interested in and pursuing STEM careers and education, according to Delores Etter, executive director of SMU Caruth Institute.
The institute has developed a number of programs aimed at introducing students to engaging, hands-on activities that build on the STEM content and skills they learn in the classroom.

Crime Scene Investigation Camp-for-a-Day
Falcon Middle School
9755 Towner Ave.
Peyton, CO 80831
Nov. 6
9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

$175,000 Grant Supports Coordinated School Health Model
Falcon School District 49 has been awarded a $175,000 grant to expand health-conscious programming for students, staff and families. The district’s ongoing success with wellness programming in schools earned the recognition and additional dollars.

A collaboration with Peak Vista Community Health Centers to launch the Falcon Peak school-based health center at Falcon Elementary School, community partnerships with Care and Share Food bank and Fuel Up to Play 60, and a dietician intern partnership with Penrose-St. Francis Hospital exemplified how district programming is already supporting school wellness, with prioritization on expanding implementation, according to grantor RMC Health.

The award will fund a new project, Healthy Schools, Successful Students, which will be administered by RMC Health, a non-profit professional development organization with an expertise in school health. It is an expansion of a grant-funded project that District 49 began four years ago.

The RMC Health grant enables the district to expand its wellness policy and adopt The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s coordinated school health model district-wide by supporting the new district-level health and wellness coordinator, Rachel Duerr.

The model focuses on counseling, nutrition services, health services, health education, physical education, safe school environments, community involvement, staff health promotion and psychological and social services.

The four primary goals for Coordinated School Health are to increase health knowledge, attitudes and skills; increase positive health behaviors and health outcomes; improve education outcomes since students who are healthy are more likely to learn than those who are unhealthy; and to improve social outcomes as school health programs can help students contribute positively to their family, school and community.

Students Lead State by Earning MIT Grant
A team of students from Sand Creek High School in Colorado Springs will bring their water purification blueprints to life with a grant from MIT.

The 25-student team from Falcon School District 49 is the first-ever from Colorado to receive a Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam award, according to Leigh Estabrooks, invention education officer for the Lemelson-MIT program.

InvenTeams are groups of high school students, teachers and mentors who receive grants up to $10,000 to invent technological solutions to real-world problems.

Sand Creek High School is one of 15 high schools selected this year from across the United States as an InvenTeam.

The students will use their $9,900 award to create their bio-sand mechanical water filtration invention, said Todd Matia, Project Lead The Way instructor at Sand Creek High School. The system uses natural resources frequently found in developing countries.

“Our team is made up of 25 fantastic students,” Matia said, explaining the team of eleventh and twelfth grade students.. “I’m blown away by the work they’re doing on this project.”

Matia initiated the InvenTeam application process at Sand Creek High School last spring. In June, he visited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus for the training that helps educators guide students through a proposal’s final process.

A panel of judges composed of educators, researchers, staff and alumni from MIT, as well as industry representatives and former Lemelson-MIT award winners, assembled this fall and selected Sand Creek High School as one of this year’s InvenTeam grantees.

The team’s bio-sand filters are made of layers of sand and gravel with different coarseness that allow water to pass through, while capturing parasites and bacteria in the process. After water is passed through the filter, it is 98 percent clean.

During the next eight months, the Sand Creek High School InvenTeam will further develop its bio-sand mechanical filter. The students will showcase a prototype of their invention in June during EurekaFest at MIT in Cambridge, Mass.

EurekaFest, a multi-day celebration, is designed to empower a legacy of inventors through activities that inspire youth, honor role models and encourage creativity and problem solving.

“The inventions that this year’s teams have undertaken focus heavily on improving the safety and wellbeing of those in their communities,” said Estabrooks, explaining that the initiative of the Lemelson-MIT program aims to inspire a new generation of inventors.

“I feel optimistic that the students are seeing issues affecting others around them, and responding quickly with original and useful ideas to technically solve problems,” she said.

District Survey to Measure Culture, Climate
Falcon School District 49 launched its fall climate survey to obtain information concerning student safety and the school community. The anonymous, online survey is open from Oct. 7-Nov. 1. It consists of 19 questions, which take an estimated 15 minutes to complete.

The survey is voluntary for middle and high school students, elementary school students in grades 3-12, and parents. A Spanish translation is available for parents. Students will have opportunities on campus to complete the survey. Parents are encouraged to talk with their students about a survey’s importance.

Community participation is critical in helping district leaders learn more about each school's culture and climate. The results will inform decision making, as District 49 advances its Big Rock, or strategic initiative, of being the best district to learn, work and lead. 
The results of the October climate survey will be reported to district leaders and community members at the District 49 Board of Education meeting Dec. 12, and then published on the district website. Schools will also receive detailed, but anonymous, data to inform programming and support services for next semester.

District 49 BOE Approves Accreditation at Monthly Meeting
The Falcon School District 49 Board of Education approved the district’s state accreditation Oct. 10 during its regular monthly meeting.
The district received its accredited rating from the Colorado Department of Education for meeting statewide attainment in key performance indicators.   
The board directors approved Nov. 18-22 as American Education Week, which will acknowledge commitments to excellent education for every student. This national event celebrates public education.
The directors approved a new set of performance metrics to clarify performance expectations for the district’s chief education officer, chief business officer and chief operations officer. They said the metrics would remain as evolving tools and begin including more qualitative measures.
High school graduation ceremony dates and times are approved for 2014, as well as dates for 2015. Graduation ceremonies will take place May 24 at World Arena with Vista Ridge High School at 9 a.m., Sand Creek High School at 1 p.m. and Falcon High School at 5 p.m.
The board approved appointments to the District Accountability Advisory Committee.
While the charter school application from Valiant Academy was approved and now awaits legal counsel for completion of contracts, The Adventures in Career Academy was denied.  Kim McClelland, iConnect Zone leader underscored that both applications were reviewed with the same fair and transparent process.
The board directors approved the distribution of Impact Aid surveys on Nov. 7. The surveys help determine the number of students connected to federal programs. They set Nov. 22 as the deadline for submission.

The proposal was approved for the district to employ Pikes Peak Regional Building for construction permits and inspections, with exception of electrical and plumbing permits and inspections, as prepared by Jack Bay, chief operations officer.
The directors approved recommendations to change policies covering extracurricular activities, tobacco-free school campuses and guest use of district wireless Internet networks.
Health plan rate changes were approved as recommended by administration.
Sean Dorsey, Sand Creek Zone innovation zone, leader presented initiatives the zone is taking to support teachers, leaders and increase community engagement. Intensive learning teams are including teachers at every school, grade level and content area. Additionally, Sand Creek High School is starting classes for its community, which may cover topics like anti-bullying, college scholarships, personal finance and parent survival skills.
Bay shared a plan for continued education and training in the facilities department. It aims to ensure employees stay current with their competencies and certifications. The department will also offer new leadership training and professional development opportunities.
Videos of board meetings are now available at

Strategic Initiatives Presented at Board Meeting
The Falcon School District 49 Board of Education received a visual depiction of the district’s board-approved strategic plan at its regular meeting Sept. 12. Peter Hilts, chief education officer, shared with directors a video highlighting the district’s five strategic initiatives.

Over the next three to five years, the district will strive to build trust with stakeholders, engage the community, create an environment that is the best in which to learn, work and lead, develop a robust portfolio of exceptional schools, and individualize education to launch every student into success.

District 49 continues growth in student population, and remains the fastest growing school district in the region. Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, provided student count information to board directors as part of planning for the district’s amended budget; student enrollment impacts Colorado school districts’ program funding.

Preliminary enrollment numbers show an increase of 300 students as compared to the previous school year; the official student count for schools statewide takes place in October. District 49 has been one of the fastest growing in the state over the past decade.

An opportunity to refinance district bonds saved the district $170,000 and did not extend the term of repayment on district bonds.

The directors took action to set board meeting dates for 2014 and approved a memorandum of understanding with the American Red Cross, providing facilities and resources in times of emergency.

The board members approved a resolution marking Constitution Day, Sept. 17, in support of better understanding the nation’s history and culture. They also approved community members to serve on the District Accountability Advisory Committee, and revisions to student conduct policies.

The directors approved a process of review for chief officers, setting priorities for effective supervision and evaluation of the chief education officer, chief business officer and chief operations officer positions.

The directors received information on the upcoming Educating Children of Color Summit, which addresses the challenges of children of color and children in poverty through education. The summit is free to students and will be held Jan. 11 at Colorado College. The directors expressed a desire to support the event and its purpose.

Ridgway presented an update on the Colorado Digital Board of Cooperative Services, formed as a partnership to proactively lead online education practices. To efficiently combine resources, the CDBOCES program will add a science, technology, engineering and math component, to help to advance district and state STEM education initiatives.

The district will partner with Colorado Springs School District 11 in the development of the STEM component of the BOCES, in order to enable collaboration and extend the reach of the program.

Amber Whetstine, school improvement coordinator, shared district, zone, school and grade level Transitional Colorado Assessment Program data, highlighting achievements and opportunities for growth. Key highlights included the highest percentage of fourth grade students scoring proficient and advanced in reading in the past six years, and the highest proficient and advanced scores in eight grade writing and science.

Areas for improvement, including special education achievement gaps and gaps in math for African American and Hispanic students, will be incorporated into schools’ unified improvement plans later this year.

The board directors discussed revisions to policies related to extracurricular activity eligibility and to guest users on the district wireless network. Both will be addressed as action items at an upcoming meeting.

Falcon Virtual Academy Earns Design Awards
Falcon Virtual Academy received a Gold Citation for interior renovation and is the cover feature in the Educational Interiors Showcase for the August edition of American School and University magazine.

Falcon Virtual Academy was praised for having a “very creative design solution on a limited budget that managed to provide stimulating spaces that are defined, yet open and free-flowing. Fun place to learn with bold colors.”

The school has received seven regional and national design awards to date.

Find more information in American School and University magazine.

Educator Earns Grant to Expand STEM
Falcon Elementary School teacher Melanie Dolfika was formally recognized Aug. 24 as the 2012-2013 Air Force Association Teacher of the Year during a STEM Rocks event at Peterson Air Force Base.

Acknowledged for her contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in the Pikes Peak region, Dolifka was awarded a $500 scholarship to continue STEM projects.

Vista Ridge High School Students Present Wolf Pack Theater
Vista Ridge High School's Wolf Pack Theatre Company, founded in 2010 under the direction of Andy Mello, is dedicated to excellence in high school theatre.  Since its inception, it has strived to bring challenging, engaging, and thoughtful theatre to Vista Ridge High School and Colorado Springs communities.

The newly launched Wolf Pack Theater Company website provides information for students, parents and the broader community about activities and upcoming productions.

String Orchestra in Sand Creek Zone Expands
The Sand Creek Zone orchestra program has doubled in enrollment, and now includes 74 students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades. In the program’s second year, eligibility was extended to fourth graders, following high interest during the previous school year.

The zone earned a $2,500 grant from the Kinder Morgan Foundation for the Strings For All program, which funded the purchase of string instruments for the zone. Purchased instruments will be provided to students who want to learn, but financially unable to rent our purchase one.  Four violins, a cello and a string bass have already been purchased with the grant funds.

The strings program is a viable feeder program for Sand Creek High School, as it completes the existing fine arts curriculum in the zone. Sean Dorsey, Sand Creek innovation leader, and Ray Bell, Sand Creek High School band director, implemented the program as part of the zone’s focus on providing educational options for students. 

Cathy Camp-Davidson, string orchestra teacher, performs regularly as an alternate bassist with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. She brings her experience as a freelance musician to her students.

Camp-Davidson performs with her own string quartet and Irish duo on the bass, cello, and violin.  She also has deep roots in Colorado Springs and her father was one of the original musicians in the Flying W Wranglers. Contact her to learn more about the program.

American Idol Contestant Visits Sand Creek High School
Students at Sand Creek High School earned a special visit Aug. 16 from American Idol contestant Devyn Rush.
The school's students sold the most tickets in Falcon School District 49’s districtwide contest for the Stand Up. Speak Out. concert event Aug. 17 at Security Service Field.

Rush, the national spokesperson for the bullying prevention organization Hey Unique Gifted Loveable You, will congratulate them at 10:45 a.m. She routinely visits schools across the country on behalf of Hey UGLY, working to build emotional awareness and self-love in children.
Rush is best known as the singing waitress from season 10 of American Idol. She is one of six musical artists from across the country uniting at the event to take a stand against bullying. She joins multi-platinum selling artist Vertical Horizon, national anti-bullying organizations and student empowerment groups in the lineup.
Stand Up. Speak Out. is a first-ever event of its kind and it aims to educate students, staff members and families to become more aware of bullying, and more empowered to make it stop. It's a proactive approach to keeping students safe and building a kinder, more compassionate community. Doors open at 2 p.m., and the fireworks finale starts at 9:05 p.m.

District 49 Elementary Schools Hit Highest TCAP Scores in 6 Years
Falcon School District 49 educators say building positive relationships and integrating instruction are helping students achieve their highest scores since before 2008 in some content areas.
The Transitional Colorado Assessment Program scores released Aug. 14 by the Colorado Department of Education show District 49 recorded the highest percentage of proficient and advanced students in fourth grade reading, and third and fourth grade math in more than six years.
Eighth grade writing and science scores are also the highest since before 2008 as the district saw more students scoring proficient and advanced in science. An investment in 21st century learning is paying off, says Amber Whetstine, school improvement coordinator.
“The district recognizes that in order to meet the needs of 21st century learners, we have to teach in a way we’ve never taught before,” Whetstine said. “We are incorporating more rigorous curriculum and opportunities for students to collaborate, communicate and problem solve. The district has also been ambitious in implementing new technologies and resources to meet the needs of these learners.”
Woodmen Hills Elementary School was a standout, scoring 90-percent proficient and advanced in fourth grade reading; 92-percent proficient and advanced in third grade math, one of their highest scores ever; and 90-percent proficient and advanced in fourth grade math.
“Our staff builds relationships with students to ensure their academic success,” said Kelly Warren, principal at Woodmen Hills Elementary School. “We continually strive to improve our individual and team skills to better serve our students and parents.”

Warren also cites a positive educational learning climate, aligning grade-level goals, common assessments and interventions, and ongoing professional development for educators as keys to the students’ success.
Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning had the district’s highest score, with 96 percent of students achieving at advanced or proficient levels in eighth grade reading. The school saw its highest scores since before 2008 in numerous grade levels and content areas.
“We have worked diligently to implement expeditionary learning and provide our community with a school of choice that focuses on things like school culture and student engagement, in addition to academics,” said Don Knapp, Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning principal.
Knapp said getting students involved in their academic data and educating them about their strengths and weaknesses has positively impacted learning.
Evans International Elementary School students saw their highest third grade reading, writing and math scores in six years.
“We work to differentiate instruction for every student,” said Michelle Slyter, Evans International Elementary School principal. “As an International Baccalaureate school, our teachers integrate reading and writing into science and social studies instruction.”
Evans International Elementary School also structures math instruction to incorporate inquiry-based learning, where students problem solve to work through real-world math issues and master number computation.
The following schools saw some of the highest scores in recent years in specific grade levels and content areas: Banning Lewis Ranch Academy, Falcon Elementary School, Falcon Middle School, Imagine Indigo Ranch, Rocky Mountain Classical Academy, Remington Elementary School and Springs Ranch Elementary School.
In looking more broadly, District 49 scores are relatively flat. Whetstine says the district is preparing for the state’s new standards and assessments.
The district is already working to address achievement gaps, the biggest concern in assessing the TCAP data. The district continues to see significant growth gaps in all content areas for students on Individualized Education Plans. Schools are continuing to evaluate the effectiveness of current educational programming for students with special needs.
The district is also striving to see more students scoring advanced across all content areas. This year, District 49 welcomed a new gifted and talented coordinator who will work to ensure educators meet the needs of advanced students by implementing strategies to meet those learners’ needs.
However, achievement gaps in math between female and male students are closing in many grade levels and the district continues to see slight gains in growth gaps with English Language Learners
View all CDE assessment data at, and growth model results at

Free, Reduced Lunch Eligibility
The District 49 nutrition services department is dedicated to student health, well-being and each child’s ability to learn. Promoting healthy habits for life long nutrition supports learning. The district has a policy for determining eligibility of children who may receive free or reduced prices for meals served under the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program.  Local school officials use household size and income criteria for determining eligibility. Applications may be submitted any time during the school year, as a family’s eligibility may change due to sudden changes in income, employment, family size, or status under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. More information is available at the District 49 nutrition services website.

Asbestos Inspection Sustains District’s Satisfactory Rating
In 1986, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act was signed into law by Congress requiring all K-12 public and non-profit private schools be inspected to identify asbestos containing building materials. Suspected asbestos-containing building materials are located, sampled or assumed and rated according to condition and potential hazard.

District 49’s inspection and surveillance results are available in the management plan at each facility’s administrative office. These may be viewed any time during normal school hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Contact Zack Gibson in the facilities department with any questions about asbestos: 719.494.8986.
An accredited planner for each school, based on asbestos found, develops an asbestos management plan. The plan discusses specific test results, locations of asbestos, asbestos that has been removed and the results of all re-inspections.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Health require a re-inspection of asbestos material every three years to re-assess its condition. Accredited asbestos inspectors in District 49 performed the re-inspection in December 2012, and no change was noted as to the status of concerns.

In addition, the EPA and CDH require a visual survey of all known asbestos materials every six months to determine and document any change in the condition of asbestos materials. No significant changes in conditions were noted during a surveillance of District 49 buildings in spring 2013. All materials are in satisfactory condition.

BOE Discusses Educational, Operational Outlook at Meeting
The Falcon School District 49 Board of Education came together to officially demonstrate support for the Stand Up. Speak Out. concert to end bullying during its monthly meeting Aug. 8.
Peter Hilts, chief education officer, presented concert logo t-shirts to each of the board directors, along with extending an invitation to the board and community for the Aug. 17 event at Security Service Stadium.
In their first meeting of the new school year, board directors heard from the educational leader of one of the district’s four innovation zones.
Monty Lammers, Falcon Zone innovation leader, provided an update on key happenings within the zone’s five schools: Falcon, Meridian Ranch and Woodmen Hills Elementary Schools, Falcon Middle School and Falcon High School. A new overflow school program is helping to limit class size and Lammers says the cost savings in staffing has put nearly 650 iPads into the zone’s schools.
Directors also received operational updates and outlooks for 2013-2014 from several departmental directors.  
Monica Deines-Henderson, director of nutrition services, provided an update and outlook for the 2013-2014 year. Deines-Henderson and her staff served nearly 950,000 lunches in 21 school buildings across the district during the previous school year and did not implement any price increases in school breakfast or lunch prices for 2013-2014.
Deines-Henderson shared information on a new federal regulation under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act.  The regulation will go into effect July 1 and will impact all food and beverages sold on school campuses during the school day.  It sets maximum and minimum requirements on calories and nutrients for all items.
The department is working to identify appealing menu items that fit USDA requirements and is striving to streamline food preparation in order to make even more entrees from scratch.
Gene Hammond, director of transportation, said the department is working on continuing to grow ridership, implement cost-savings measures and improve communication with families, among other plans for the coming year.
District 49 buses drove nearly 700,000 miles on routes throughout the 2012-2013 school year. The department also experienced an increase in ridership, which brought in $40,000 more than what was budgeted for busing revenue. Hammond said the department is also exploring a dedicated funding steam to replace aging buses in the fleet.
Jack Bay, chief operations officer, provided information on the facilities, operations and maintenance components of the district. He highlighted a focus on creating more efficiencies and shifting to a proactive departmental approach to best serve schools.
Bay addressed potential cost savings on utilities by decreasing water consumption by adding xeriscaping and adding automatic sensor shut offs, electricity by managing lighting controls and retrofitting lighting, and natural gas by adding thermostat controls, among other potential changes.  
The board directors approved an intergovernmental agreement between the district and the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder in order to include District 49 Board of Education director positions on the Nov. 5 ballot. The three four-term seats currently held by Tammy Harold, Chris Wright and Henry Allen are up for election in November.
The directors approved the student fee structure for the 2013-2014 school year for Vista Ridge High School. The district continues to work toward increased transparency and the proposed fee structure aims to provide specific information and designation of student academic and athletic fees.
The board members approved the refinancing of district debt to save money. This opportunity does not extend the term of repayment on district bonds, but saves some interest expense.
The directors approved a planned maintenance agreement covering kitchen equipment for the 2013-2014 school year, realignment of the administrative salary schedule and reauthorization of a contract for services with the Pikes Peak Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The board directors also approved a revised district calendar, which encompasses a minor adjustment made to correct a previous clerical error.
The directors discussed the revision of policies related to the student code of conduct. Additional clarification on policy language will be discussed more extensively at the August work session.
The board members previewed a performance policy for the district’s three chief officers. Hilts, Bay and Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, presented a draft rubric providing clear quantitative metrics and benchmarks board members would use to evaluate the chiefs’ performance. The chief officers also proposed a 360-degree review to include input from peers and direct reports for the CEO, CBO and COO roles in the evaluations.
The board directors held an executive session to discuss individual staff and student matters and confer with legal counsel. The board reconvened to approve the removal of Dustin Horras as principal of Evans International Elementary School and to direct district leaders place him in an alternate position within the district.

District 49 Students to Head Back to Class
Falcon School District 49 students are about to begin the 2013-2014 school year. Elementary school students, and sixth and ninth grade students, head back to class Aug. 1. All remaining middle and high school students return Aug. 2.  
Peter Hilts, chief education officer, will begin his first school year with the district at Meridian Ranch Elementary School, where he’ll meet, greet and high-five students as they head into their first day of school. Hilts will visit each of the district’s 22 schools throughout the first couple of days of classes.
The school year will begin with several new principals, including Kim Mariotti, who is taking over as principal at Springs Ranch Elementary School, Ron Hamilton at Sand Creek High School, Cheryl Goodyear-Degeorge at Falcon High School, Jeff Moulton at Stetson Elementary School and Michelle Slyter at Evans International Elementary School.
New technologies will also greet learners as they enter their classrooms. Skyview Middle School is expanding its one to one iPad tablet initiative. iPads will be in the hands of approximately 150 eighth grade students and 150 sixth grade students.
Falcon Elementary School is enhancing its technology program by increasing the use of tablet PCs.

These are just a few examples where District 49 students and educators are using technology to advance 21st century skills in the classroom.
This year, Ridgeview Elementary School will join several other District 49 schools for the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which encourages the community to become healthier and more active. Students and staff members will strive for 60 minutes of exercise every day.
As the 2013-2014 school year starts, there will be a lot of activity across the district.

District 49 Concert to Promote Compassion, End Bullying in Schools
Each school day, accross the nation, more than 160,000 children stay home for fear of being bullied. Research shows students who bully others tend to exhibit other defiant and delinquent behaviors, perform poorly academically and are more likely to drop out. In their schools, bullies impact social development, self-esteem and school performance. Victims develop an increased risk for problems with anxiety and depression -- some attempt suicide to escape ongoing harassment.

On Aug. 17, musical artists from around the United States will join voices in Colorado Springs, where they'll confront bullying and promote compassion. The Stand Up. Speak Out. anti-bullying concert in Falcon School District 49 presents a venue for thousands of people to stand up and speak out against aggressive and harassing behaviors in schools. Vertical Horizon will headline the evening event, preceded by The BottomLine, Brian Jarvis, Devyn Rush, Taylor Watson and Brendan James. The band SRO volunteered from New York to arrive and perform as doors open. To support this enormous community effort, purchase your tickets today at the Security Service Field online box office.

Colorado Computer Support Gets ‘A’ – Again
During its second year supporting Falcon School District 49, through a significant shift in the district’s technology infrastructure and support processes, Colorado Computer Support technicians earned a gold-star. Based on a survey sent to educators and administrators in the spring, their overall satisfaction rating reached above 90 percent.

In 2012, District 49 charged CCS with replacing 1,000 Dell laptops with Apple MacBooks. Blake Schwank, CCS owner and founder, says the company’s success was a result of its commitment to customer service and technician education. Today, more than 20 percent of the technicians have Apple certifications.

“We’ve worked hard to hire great technicians who really enjoy working with people and have a desire to continually learn new technologies,” said Schwank, while explaining that CCS employees are eager to watch the growth and advancement of their clients’ businesses.
FEF Celebrates Educators, Students, Volunteers
The Falcon Education Foundation hosted District 49 staff, students and family members at one of its most successful annual events yet. The foundation raised $38,000 at the spring auction and dinner, the organization’s primary fundraiser.

During the past 10 years, the foundation awarded 287 grants and scholarships to teachers and students in District 49, totaling $237,000. Proceeds from the auction and dinner fund these teacher minigrants and scholarships.

Along with raising funds, the foundation also recognized outstanding members of the District 49 community at the annual event. Award winners stand out among their peers for their investment in their own education, the education of others and helping the community. 

FEF is a nonprofit organization that raises funds beyond the usual means of support to help students and teachers reach their full potential. The foundation supports ideas that are innovative, creative and inspirational. 

The foundation also recognizes District 49 seniors in the class of 2013 with $500 scholarships. This year, eight students were honored for high academic achievement.

Outstanding Honorees

Jill Anderson, Springs Ranch Elementary School
Rochelle Kohlhouse, Falcon Virtual Academy
Lisa Reid, Woodmen Hills Elementary School
Sara Scroggins, Odyssey Elementary School

Hannah Petrie, Falcon High School
Rece Rowan, Odyssey Elementary School
Amir Yousuf, Patriot Learning Center

Cheryl Curry, Odyssey Elementary School
Melanie Robinson, Ridgeview Elementary School 
Robert Steeves, Evans International Elementary School

Stephanie Danford, Falcon Virtual Academy
Maria Gaudette, Odyssey Elementary School

Academic Achievement
Hannah Petrie, Falcon High School
Amelia Nunn, Falcon High School
Rachel Stern, Sand Creek High School
Nestor Hernandez, Sand Creek High School
McKayla Stoltenberg, Vista Ridge High School
Benjamin Leatherwood, Vista Ridge High School
Ashley Tolle, Falcon Virtual Academy
Maggie Murphy, Falcon Virtual Academy

Middle School Raises Funds for Tornado Victims
Susan Schmidt, a seventh grade teacher at Skyview Middle School, was delighted when her class took an interest in raising money for the Red Cross to support the victims of the May 31 tornado in Oklahoma.

Schmidt’s class raised $72 by the end of the school week and when community members heard about her students’ efforts, additional contributions were given, lifting their total to $300.

Scouts Give Custom Podium to Elementary School
While fifth grader Baylee McDonald, 10, provided her peers end-of-year words of encouragement May 24 at Springs Ranch Elementary School in Falcon School District 49, she did it proudly from a new podium.

Cub Scouts Pack 225 meets regularly at Springs Ranch Elementary School. To give back to their community, leaders CB Denson and Kenneth Knapp organized the pack to create and donate a customized podium, painted with the school’s colors and featuring its bobcat mascot.

Students Earn Second at National Health Conference
Falcon High School’s health education team placed second in the nation June 26-29 at the Health Occupational Students Association’s Future Health Professionals National Leadership Conference in Nashville.

HOSA promotes careers in healthcare and creates opportunities for members by enhancing academic, technical and leadership skills. The national student-led organization is 150,000 members strong.

During HOSA’s 2013 leadership conference, the association’s largest gathering ever, Falcon High School student’s Shane Borah, 16, Brianna Schmitt, 15, Adrienne DeBauche, 16, and Emma Nowlin, 16, earned the silver medal during their event.

Falcon High School sent to Nashville 27 of Colorado’s 124 NLC delegates.  The students previously placed first, second or third at the Colorado Leadership Conference in March to qualify for the national competition.  
The high school’s three emergency medical technician teams – including Mason Garrett, 18, and Matthew Seymour, 18; Tyler Rohr, 18, and Daniel Snelling, 17; Alyssa Athey, 18; and Emily Campbell, 18 – placed among the top 20 teams.
Mark Estrada, 17, competed in nursing assisting and also earned a place in the nation’s top 20. 

National Guitar Workshop Finishes Fourth Year in District
Educators from around the United States gathered July 8-12 during a national Teaching Guitar Workshop at Sand Creek High School in Falcon School District 49.

Thirty-nine music teachers participated in the weeklong workshop's fourth year at the District 49 high school. Twelve benefited from a new Level 2 stage of instruction. By participating, educators received acoustic guitars and related accessories, along with a box of teaching materials and three graduate credits.

The event is presented by the National Association for Music Education, Guitar and Accessories Marketing Association and International Music Products Association, as well as sponsored by Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

"We had so many different states represented from all levels: elementary, middle and high schools," said Ray Bell, instrumental music director at Sand Creek High School, a Level 2 teacher. "All participants got a box of classroom materials, which is what we worked on through the week. We're getting better at playing and teaching guitar -- primarily teaching."

After playing John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" with a new Taylor acoustic guitar, Jane Koch of Grand Island, Neb., praised the workshop's support for educators. As a new sixth, seventh and eighth grade music teacher at Walnut Middle School in Grand Island Public Schools, she says "being new to the district, I need to build up my skills."

District 49 Invites Candidates to Run for Board of Education Seats
The Falcon School District 49 Board of Education opened a call for nominations of candidates for board positions July 11 during its monthly meeting.
Three school board director seats will be up for election in November. Tammy Harold, president, and Chris Wright, vice president, were elected to serve four-year terms in 2009. Henry Allen, director, was appointed to fulfill the term of a vacated seat on the board.
District 49 community members interested in serving on the school board are invited to a board candidate workshop Thursday, August 8 from 5-6 p.m. in the board room at 10850 E. Woodmen Road in Peyton. Candidate information will be available to interested individuals August 7 at the district’s Education Service Center.
The board directors voted to participation in El Paso County’s November 5 election for board director positions. Participating in the coordinated election reduces election costs for the district. The directors also approved appointment of an election official, Donna Teubner, to handle election-related duties for the November election.
The directors unanimously approved a revised POWER Zone innovation plan. The approved plan adds a curriculum component to the zone’s currently approved innovation plan, allowing educators to collaboratively select resources to best meet the needs of students and align to Colorado academic standards. All waivers within the plan will expire at the close of the 2014-2015 school year. The plan will go on to the Colorado State Board of Education for approval.
The board approved a printer and copier maintenance agreement. The proposed agreement was established after a comprehensive proposal and product demonstration process. The approved agreement will provide all printer and copier services for one year at a cost of approximately $130,000.
The directors provisionally approved revisions to student contact and discipline policies, and student suspension and expulsion policies. The changes are legal recommendations from the Colorado Association of School Boards and align district policy with state legislation.
The board will complete a more comprehensive approval process in coordination with the chief education officer throughout the next two months, to determine how best to revise district policies to meet state law.
Dianne Kingsland, science, technology, engineering and math education coordinator, presented a proposal to develop a regional entity in support of developing sustainable resources for STEM education. Kingsland works as part of a regional STEM consortium, coordinating business, higher education, military and educational interests to support meaningful educational opportunities
The board directors voiced their support of the district pursuing a partnership in support of the regional STEM consortium. Kingsland is also closely following developments in STEM education at the state level.
The board approved three new job descriptions: zone operations administrator, teacher on special assignment – 21st century learning and innovation specialist, and budget manager.
The directors approved a policy to guide participatory media use. The policy and regulation provide guidance for leveraging participatory media, while facilitating brand engagement and management of the district’s brand.
The board discussed an opportunity to refinance district debt to save money. This opportunity would not extend the term of repayment on district bonds, but would save some interest expense. The board will vote at the August meeting on authorizing Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, and a bond officer, to accomplish the refinance.

District 49 Partners with Digital BOCES to Support Online Learning
The Falcon School District 49 Board of Education approved an agreement with the Colorado Digital Board of Cooperative Educational Services program at a special meeting June 26.
The approved memorandum of understanding lays out expectations and details of working with CD BOCES to achieve better economies of scale and more effectively serve the needs of the district related to digital learning and professional support for online educators.
CD BOCES focuses exclusively on digital learning models and provides comprehensive support, oversight and accountability for online and blended schools.
“CD BOCES is prepared to be an active leader in our digital learning schools,” says Kim McClelland, interim executive director for CD BOCES and iConnect Zone innovation leader. “We will ensure the teachers and administrators in our schools have the tools and support necessary to serve families well and give students every opportunity to succeed.”
The directors also appointed two district representatives to the CD BOCES board, Peter Hilts, chief education officer, and Chuck Irons, board secretary. 
Amber Whetstine, coordinator of school improvement and professional development, shared information on the district’s innovative professional development program and the concept of a University of Innovation.
To best support students in 21st century learning, the professional development program is evolving to meet the needs of educators, said Whetstine. The University of Innovation concept aims to empower teachers to advance in their careers and develop the skills they need to support students’ success.
Dianne Kingsland, science, technology, engineering and math education coordinator, provided information on the development of the district’s STEM initiatives and partnerships. Kingsland founded a regional STEM consortium as a collaborative team made up of leaders across many sectors of the community to build a pre-K-12 STEM workforce pipeline.
To coordinate business, higher education, military and educational interests to support meaningful educational opportunities, Kingsland discussed the development of a BOCES devoted specifically to STEM education and sustainable resources to support STEM programming. The board will revisit the concept at the July meeting.
The board directors renewed five-year charters for Rocky Mountain Classical Academy and Imagine Indigo Ranch. The previous charters with both schools were set to expire at the end of June.
The directors approved the supplemental Fund 21 budget, which addresses allocation of specific donated funds from Falcon Community Builders for Classrooms into the district’s Fund 21. The approval allows the district’s accounting to reflect the appropriate fund for those dollars.
The board directors voted to reauthorize a contract with Community Partnership for Child Development Head Start services at Falcon Elementary School and Evans International Elementary School for the 2013-2014 school year.
The board directors approved three new job descriptions: Teacher on Special Assignment for Online Professional Development, Teacher on Special Assignment for English Language Development and Data and Reporting Analyst. The descriptions address staffing and departmental changes.
Stephanie Wurtz, public information officer, presented a policy to guide participatory media use. The policy and regulation provide guidance for leveraging participatory media, while facilitating brand engagement and management of the district’s brand. This item will be considered for approval at the July board meeting.

Elementary Students Take Learning Outdoors
Springs Ranch Elementary School fifth graders, staff and parents invested two-and-half days to learning in an outdoor classroom.

During their time at Camp Elim in Woodland Park, the students learned from real-life problems and observations, while participating in interpersonal and social development opportunities.

While together in a 24-hour setting, the students developed skills in leadership, followership, decision-making, cooperation and communication. They leveraged outdoor technologies, including a Global Positioning System.

The outdoor classroom experience included descriptive writing assignments about nature walks, math calculations with a zip line, obstacle maneuvers in rope courses, and science experiments that led to building windmills and creating tie dye shirts.

Denver Post: Gabel Tops State in Track and Field
Vista Ridge High School twelfth grader Noah Gabel, 18, received the Denver Post All-Colorado boys track and field Athlete of the year June 4, as well as Class 4A Athlete of the Year. The Denver Post also acknowledged the VRHS men’s 4x400 relay team for receiving state honors. The team included twelfth graders Darrian Morgan; Pierre Copeland; Aaron Johnson and Noah Gabel. Read more on

Educator Selected as AFA Teacher of the Year
Falcon Elementary School teacher Melanie Dolfika has received one of the state’s top honors for educators.

Dolfika was notified June 4 that she had been selected for the Lance P. Sijan Chapter of the Air Force Academy Teacher of the Year award for 2012-2013.

She’ll be recognized for her efforts in July at an AFA statewide meeting.  As a Lance P. Sijan chapter winner, Dolfika is now in competition for Colorado State Teacher of the Year.

Dolfika will also be formally recognized for her outstanding achievements during the annual STEM Rocks! event in August at Peterson Air Force Base.

“We are so lucky to have such an outstanding educator in our school and zone,” said Malinda Keck, principal at Falcon Elementary School.

District 49, Colorado PTA Supports Parent Engagement Bill
Colorado PTA members, including PTA president and Falcon Middle School administrative secretary Karen Hobson, attended a bill signing ceremony May 28 in Denver.

Governor John Hickelooper signed SB13-193, “Increasing Parent Engagement In Public Schools.” The PTA joined the co-sponsors of the bill Sen. Evie Hudak and Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp at the state capitol to support the importance of parent engagement in public education.

As a member of the State Advisory Council on Parent Involvement in Education, Colorado PTA gathers best practices to share with communities.

SB13-193 establishes a new position at the Colorado Department of Education to oversee parent engagement in schools throughout the state.

The bill also requires school accountability committees to hold public meetings that solicit input concerning the contents of school priority improvements and turnaround plans before they’re written.

It provides funding to allow regional training to help districts and parents work together to implement best practices and learn how to support a student’s education.

School districts are required to have a point of contact for parent engagement.  The contact works to improve communication for student success.

(Courtesy Photo/Colorado PTA)

Boys Track Team Retains Top Tri-County Title
Skyview Middle School’s eighth grade boys track team won the Tri-County League Track and Field Championship for its second consecutive year.

During the meet May 11 at Fountain-Fort Carson High School, eighth grader Elias Sutton set a new Tri-County League record with a 200-meter time of 23:05 seconds. Classmate Joel Walker topped 1,600- and 800-meter times.

Sutton, William Haywood, Ryan Giles and Brian Saucedo won the 4x100 relay. Haywood, Sutton, Isaiah Lapioli and Tanner Teeples won the 4x200 relay. Walker, Lapioli, Kyle Jones and Noah Beatty won the 4x400 relay.

Other eighth graders who competed included Chance Anders, Daniel Beltran, Alex Freeman, Reuben Otero, Devin Quach, Estefano Reinecke, Gavin Urban and Henry Vo.

District 49 Offers Space to Nonprofits Impacted by Fire
Falcon School District 49 leaders, including its administrators and the Board of Education, unanimously agreed to open district facilities at no charge to local non-profit organizations impacted by the Black Forest fire.
“As the community is making its way back to homes and businesses, space will be needed for the planning and coordination of clean up efforts,” said BOE treasurer Marie LaVere-Wright. “We want (home owner association)’s, churches, Boy Scouts and other nonprofits to know they have a place to hold meetings as they move forward.”
Organizations interested in using district space should contact Dani Garcia, executive assistant to the chief business officer, at 719-495-1130 or send an email to

Teacher Explains Falcon High School CyberPatriot Program
"The top national security concern in our world today is cyber security," said Thomas Russell, a technology teacher at Falcon High School, explaining the CyberPatriot program. "The greatest challenge is not technological, it's finding enough technically educated people to fill the projected shortfalls of people for the many cyber security job openings in the future." Russell coordinates teams of students exploring operating systems, programming languages and cyber security. "(CyberPatriot) is designed to excite, educate and motivate the next generation of cyber defenders and other STEM graduates, our nation needs."

During a recent state-level Air Force Association network defense competition, District 49 ranked as three of the top four CyberPatriot teams in Colorado.

District 49 Board to Vote on 2013-2014 Budget
The Falcon School District 49 Board of Education will vote on the proposed 2013-2014 budget at its regular meeting June 20 (revised) at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the Education Services Center.
Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, highlights budget priorities for the next fiscal year as expanding the use of technology and digital devices districtwide, as well as implementing an approximate two percent boost in compensation for staff.
Board directors will also vote on salary schedule modifications to maintain a consistent two percent scheduled increase for all certified, administrative, professional/technical and licensed staff. Currently, classified staff members are operating in a three percent schedule. The proposed change would provide a transition over three salary cycles.
Also on the agenda for approval are proposed budgets for the district’s five charter schools: Banning Lewis Ranch Academy, GOAL Academy, Imagine Indigo Ranch, Pikes Peak School for Expeditionary Learning and Rocky Mountain Classical Academy.
The board will vote on a community proposal to place an item on the ballot for the November 2013 election. The measure would modify the current at-large representation of board directors, to director-district representation, consistent with the district’s innovation zone concept.
Directors will take action on a proposal to use the 10 percent hard to fill differential in order to recruit and retain specific staff members. Approval of this item would improve the district’s ability to compete with private sector and contract labor wages to fill some special service positions including board certified behavior analyst, school nurse, school psychologist and social worker.
Board members will vote on proposed staffing for the facilities, maintenance and operations realignment, which aims to provide improved clarity and accountability for the entire department.
Stephanie Wurtz, public information officer, will present information on a proposed policy to guide participatory media use. The policy and regulation would provide guidance for leveraging participatory media, while facilitating brand engagement and management of the district’s brand.

District 49 Students Promote Anti-Bullying Concert Event
Students from Falcon High School, Sand Creek High School and Vista Ridge High School are spending their summer visiting neighborhoods and social media sites to promote Stand. Up. Speak Out., a concert to end bullying.
More than 40 students are members of street team outreach groups for Stand Up. Speak Out., a concert taking place Aug. 17 at Security Service Field.
Street team members represent the diverse student populations in District 49’s high schools. Many of them are stepping outside their comfort zone and donating their time because the cause is so important to them.
“I can't stand to lose more people to bullying,” said street team member Chris Sanchez, who starts 12th grade in August at Vista Ridge High School. “This is me, taking a stand. It has got to end.”
Students are promoting the event by distributing posters and flyers around their communities and sharing information via social media outlets. They’re also presenting concert information and anti-bullying skits in the district’s middle and elementary schools.
Mindy Quinn, District 49 marketing and communications specialist, is helping to organize the concert, working directly with district staff and street team student volunteers. 
“I am amazed at the creativity and passion our students are showing to support this event,” said Quinn  “I am there to provide direction and guidance.  They are coming up with amazing marketing strategies that are sure to fill the stadium.”
Before the end of the 2012-2013 school year, street teams were already making a meaningful impact in their schools, said Quinn.
The Vista Ridge High School team wrote and directed skits about bullying, including its impact and ways younger students can end it. The skits will be recorded and used at elementary and middle school assemblies in POWER Zone schools.
Falcon High School’s street team hosted a Skype meet-and-greet with Devyn Rush, former American Idol and national spokesperson for Hey U.G.L.Y., which stands for unique, gifted, lovable, you.  Hey U.G.L.Y. is participating in the event, and Rush is a featured Stand Up. Speak Out. performer.
The Sand Creek High School street team is working with the school’s Optimist Club to sell chocolate bars as a fundraiser. Their goal is to generate $450 to purchase tickets for donations to families that cannot afford the event costs.
“The goal is simple: to create a community of compassion,” said Quinn. “We want to let all students in our area know what we are doing to put an end to bullying in our district and the community.  I am honored to be working with these amazing students, who are already shining as leaders in our community.”
Tickets for Stand Up. Speak Out. are now available at the Security Service Field box office and online: They cost $15. A discount rate of $13 is afforded to youth 12 years and under, seniors 55 years and older, and military ID card holders.
For more information about District 49 and Stand Up. Speak Out., visit: To sign up for emails, text keyword District49 to 33233.

Vista Ridge High School Rallies for State Victories
Vista Ridge High School students celebrated top performances in track and field and cyber security competitions during a pep assembly May 21 at Vista Ridge High School in Falcon School District 49. The boys' track and field team earned the school's first state title May 18, while setting a 4A meet record during the 1,600-meter relay. CyberPatriot teams placed second and third during a state-level Air Force Association network defense competition. The third place finishers tied with Falcon High School. District 49 contains three of the top four CyberPatriot teams in Colorado.

Teacher Races for Reading
Leslie Allen, a second grade teacher at Ridgeview Elementary School, stands with a 2000 Chevrolet Camaro after qualification rounds May 16 at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo. The Falcon School District 49 elementary school competed this year in the speedway's Race to Read program, when students from around the state record home reading hours for prizes. Each participating school's top class can send its teacher to drag race at the speedway in May. Tara Wold's fourth grade class logged the most hours at Ridgeview Elementary School, but she passed her racing opportunity to Allen, whose class finished second. During qualification rounds with 59 other teachers, Allen registered a .346-second reaction time and a 14.6-second quarter-mile run. She joined the top four racing at the speedway's Night of Fire and Thunder, May 18, and placed second.

Kindergartner Celebrated for Safety Artwork
Springs Ranch Elementary School kindergartner Joshua Harris created a safety poster, asking car drivers to respect school bus-mounted stop signs. After submitting it to a Falcon School District 49 contest, it was selected as the best safety poster from an elementary school student. For his winning entry, the district's transportation team gave the six-year-old a school pizza party May 20, as well as a box full of art supplies – one of his favorite activities.

This summer, District 49's transportation team will take Joshua's artwork to the Colorado State School Bus Championship Road-e-o, a competition that identifies the state's best in school bus safety. Transportation professionals are evaluated in several areas, like special needs, student management and emergency evacuations. During the event, Joshua's poster will be submitted for the Colorado State Pupil Transportation Association's safety poster contest.

District 49 Board Announces New Chief Education Officer
Falcon School District 49 will soon have a new chief education officer. At its monthly meeting May 9, the board directors unanimously approved Peter Hilts as chief education officer.

“I am honored and eager to get to work for everyone who depends on Falcon School District 49,” said Hilts about the board’s decision. “The future of public education demands the kind of courage and innovation displayed in District 49. I look forward to joining the team and building on a promising foundation.”

The board commended Hilts for his experience with innovative education and vision for 21st century learning.

In his current position as director of academic services at The Classical Academy, Hilts coordinates efforts of school and instructional leaders. He is a founding director of the award-winning College Pathways blended school. He has also held leadership roles as a high school principal and director of instructional technology.

As District 49’s CEO, Hilts will oversee all educational strategies and functions for the district. He replaces acting CEO Don Begier, and joins the chief business officer and chief operations officer to round out the district’s leadership team.

The district will now begin the process of developing a contract with Hilts, including start date, salary and other contractual matters. Directors will approve a final contract before Hilts officially accepts the position.

The board held an executive session prior to the regular meeting to discuss the CEO finalists, Hits and Mary Vedra. Hilts said he will work closely with Begier, and his current colleagues at TCA to ensure a smooth transition of leadership.

Board directors approved changes to the boundaries for Springs Ranch Elementary School and Remington Elementary School. The adjustments will increase operational efficiency at both schools, allowing Remington to enroll students up to its optimal capacity, and alleviating crowding at Springs Ranch.

The boundary between the two schools will now follow the natural boundary of North Carefree Circle, so students will not have to cross that major road to attend their neighborhood school. Families currently enrolled in either school will have the opportunity to choose whether to opt into the new boundary, which takes effect for the 2013-2014 school year.

Directors approved funding of a vocational program partnership with Pikes Peak Community College. The program provides District 49 high school students the opportunity to pursue career pathway education outside the traditional classroom environment.

The board established guidelines for how many students may participate, as the district funds their concurrent enrollment at the college. The directors also approved funding of a vocational program in cosmetology, providing similar guidelines for students enrolled at the International Salon and Spa Academy.

The board directors approved the Colorado Digital BOCES constitution and bylaws, moving forward with the formation of the program to provide a collaborative support network for online and blended learning. Colorado Digital BOCES is the first entity of its kind in the state, giving educators greater access to best practices and trainings for those educational models.

Jack Bay, chief operations officer, presented a proposed realignment of the facilities, operations and maintenance departments. Bay recommended implementing a structure for operational staff, so they are positioned as a unified team with the priority of developing a plan for cost-savings on the operational side of the district. The board approved the plan, which also establishes lines of reporting, accountability and leadership for the operational departments.

Directors approved a resolution to establish passing periods as educational time, an item annually addressed by the board. Directors approved revisions to board policies and regulations regarding relations with charter schools, staff absences and leave and staff ethics.

Directors approved revised meeting dates for the scheduled May work session, moving from May 22 to May 29, and June meeting, from June 13 to June 12. Also approved were food services for the Head Start program at Evans International and Falcon Elementary Schools for the upcoming school year.

The board received a legislative update from lobbyist Amy Attwood, addressing current and new school finance acts. Of 178 Colorado school districts, District 49 ranks 177 in the funding it receives from the state. Attwood has worked throughout the legislative session to ensure the district maintains a voice in the development of educational policy at the state level. She will continue building relationships with legislators, other school districts and educational stakeholders.

Board directors discussed restructuring of contracts for the district’s top administrators in order to establish a uniform contract for the chief and innovation leader positions. The board members expressed their desire to limit all contracts to one year.

Teacher Appreciation Week, May 6-10
Communities around the United States are pausing to honor the men and women who provide their passion and skills for the education of children.

Teacher Appreciation Week, May 6-10, is an opportunity to stop and thank a teacher. Sometimes, a simple thanks is all a teacher needs to feel valued.

"Not only are teachers some of the smartest, most compassionate people I know, but they do work that few of us could accomplish on our best days," wrote Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, in an blog post May 6.

"What our teachers really need—and deserve—is our ongoing commitment to work with them to transform America’s schools," he said. "They need us to acknowledge them as professionals who are doing our nation’s most important work."

The District 49 community may share success stories or words of appreciation on the district's Facebook page, or using the #District49 hashtag on Twitter. Around the country, people will celebrate teachers using the hashtag #thankateacher.

For inspiration, visit District 49's "In the Classroom" board on Pinterest.

For more information about the PTA Teacher Appreciation Week, visit

Students Raising Money, Awareness to Fight Cancer
Stetson Elementary School students in Falcon School District 49 are joining in the fight against cancer by raising money and awareness, as well as coordinating a schoolwide outdoor assembly May 8.

Beginning at 8:30 a.m., the students will hold a Relay Recess, an abbreviated version of the American Cancer Society’s national signature activity, Relay For Life. The Relay Recess program provides cancer prevention and education information, and also raises funds for the American Cancer Society’s mission, “to help create a world with more birthdays.”

“It’s a great opportunity for the students to make an impact in the community as well as become knowledgeable about cancer,” said Erin McGovern, Stetson Elementary School teacher and Relay Recess coordinator. "The students feel good about themselves knowing they are doing something to help others."

The Relay Recess event at the school will provide an opportunity for students, teachers and their families to celebrate and remember those loved ones touched by cancer. The program will last one hour.
The Falcon/Peyton Relay For Life will take place June 7-8 at Sand Creek High School and is estimated to raise $50,000 for the American Cancer Society’s mission of saving lives from cancer. The money raised by the Stetson Elementary School students will be donated to Relay For Life on behalf of their school.

Teacher Selected As STEM Educator of the Year
Teacher Sandy Lamb gets her students excited about science, technology, engineering and math.

For her excellence, the Odyssey Elementary School teacher was recognized as a top STEM teacher in Colorado.
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics selected her as the Rocky Mountain Section, K-12 Educator of the Year. In her nomination, an educator in Academy School District 20 explained her ability to inspire students as they explore, collaborate and learn.

Lamb will now be nominated by the section for the AIAA’s national education award. 

“The awards committee and I think that Sandy Lamb is a teacher we would want to have for our children,” said Jim Rendleman, AIAA Rocky Mountain Section chair, during the awards presentation May 2. "She knows how to make STEM fun."
The AIAA Rocky Mountain Section promotes the advancement of the arts, sciences and technology of aeronautics and astronautics in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. It supports STEM education from elementary school through university levels.

Teacher Wins Excite Award, Launches Clean Water Project
Sand Creek High School teacher Todd Matia and his team of engineering students are in the running for a national grant to invent technological solutions to real world problems.

Matia was selected as a recipient of the Lemelson-MIT Program Excite Award and is now a finalist for a 2013-2014 InvenTeam grant.

The InvenTeam initiative, created by the Lemelson-MIT Program, offers an unparalleled opportunity for high school students to cultivate their creativity and experience invention. InvenTeams are comprised of students, teachers and mentors and can receive grants up to $10,000.

Matia’s high school InvenTeam is working to improve bio-sand technology to provide clean water production in third world countries, an initiative started by Bio AuSable, a 4-H InvenTeam located in Canada and New York. Bio AuSable will serve as official mentors for the InvenTeam at Sand Creek High School.

Bio-sand filters are made of layers of sand and gravel with different coarseness that allow water to pass through, while capturing parasites and bacteria in the process.  Once water is passed through the filter, it is 98% clean.

The devices can be constructed with simple materials and tools. The operation of the system is designed to be easy and accessible, increasing the availability of clean drinking water for communities in third world countries.

The school submitted its application in April. “Our team of 25 are the most fantastic kids and the strongest class of juniors and seniors I have ever had in 13 years of teaching,” Matia said.

The school’s InvenTeam is partnering with local veterinarian clinics to test water and is looking to foster additional partnerships to incorporate scientific research.  Students will work on prototyping and redesigning of the filter based on research and testing.
If you are interested in partnering with Sand Creek High School’s InvenTeam, please contact Todd Matia at Find out more about Bio AuSable at

Colorado's Online Teacher of the Year
"I love what I do," said Rochelle Kolhouse, Falcon Virtual Academy teacher, who received Colorado's top honor for online educators. "One of the things I like to do is bring in the real world, when it comes to teaching science – show them that what they're learning actually means something, they will use it one day, it is part of our world. I also enjoy watching students work together and just blossom in their education endeavors."

Kohlhouse was selected by the Colorado Department of Education as the state's 2012-2013 Online Teacher of The Year. With her leadership, Falcon Virtual Academy’s science program has shown tremendous growth and achievement. She builds curriculum to meet the needs of various learning styles, aligning coursework with Common Core standards.

"She's an amazing teacher who does amazing things with kids," said Dave Knoche, Falcon Virtual Academy principal. "And truly her gift is developing those relationships that are crucial for making kids successful."

District 49 CEO Finalists Answer Community Questions
In the below video, Mary Vedra (application/resume) and Peter Hilts (application/resume), the two finalists for the Falcon School District 49 chief education officer position, answer questions from the district's community April 24 during a Board of Education meeting at the Education Services Center in Peyton. With the selection of two finalists, the board directors started an immersive interview process April 22 with tours of schools. During the public meeting April 24, Vedra and Hilts provided a presentation to the District 49 BOE directors, and then answered questions submitted by the district's community. To communicate your preference for either finalist, contact the District 49 BOE, or email

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