March 8, 2011
A smaller, quieter group representing five schools in Falcon School District 49 started hammering out concerns and ideas for change as the growing district on the eastern edge of Colorado Springs goes through a massive overhaul.
While student achievement was a priority, so was a desire for the staff at each building to have the tools and abilities to make its own decisions. Many concerns about budgeting, teacher workload and hiring practices surfaced in the discussion.
Details were vague, but the teachers and administrators at the meeting made it clear they wanted the freedom and time to focus on instruction.
The Tuesday night session at Sand Creek High School was the second of several “Innovation Assemblies” planned for each of three zones in the district. At upcoming Innovation Conventions, all parents and community members in each zone will be given an opportunity to discuss and answer questions about proposals that will guide District 49 as it pursues innovation status from the state.
Also on Tuesday, D-49 officials said they have canceled a community wide meeting that had been planned for Saturday so that people can focus on the zone planning sessions.
The Sand Creek zone, headed by Innovation Leader/Assistant Superintendent Sean Dorsey, includes Sand Creek High School, Horizon Middle School, Evans International Elementary School, Remington Elementary School and Springs Ranch Elementary School. Dorsey also is principal of Sand Creek High School.
Unlike the individuals at the Falcon zone meeting, all those attending Tuesday’s Sand Creek assembly are employed by the district; many also are parents of D-49 students. Dorsey said he wanted the assembly to be "staff time" and that parents and other community members can get involved at the zone convention next week.
Many voiced support for zone-wide curriculum as opposed to each building determining its own, but professional development and planning time were mentioned as key issues.
Scheduling and calendars were suggested as things that could be altered to boost achievement.
The roughly 14,700-student District 49 on the eastern edge of Colorado Springs is pursuing innovation status with the Colorado Department of Education, which would allow it to seek exemption from some state and local rules to try new things. Specifics about what waivers it may seek have not been determined because planning is ongoing.
In January, the D-49 school board approved a reorganization that leaves control of how to deliver education largely in the hands of innovation leaders/assistant superintendents and their school communities. As part of the process, District 49 was divided into three zones.
Charter schools are in their own group, and the leader of that zone is expected to be appointed at Thursday’s regular school board meeting.
Innovation plans must be created for each zone and each school, which is the goal of ongoing meetings across the district.
Saturday’s community-wide conference was canceled to direct resources to the upcoming Innovation Conventions for each zone, D-49 officials said Tuesday. Parents and community members are invited to open forums to collaborate on developing plans particular to their area:
• Vista Ridge Zone — 11 p.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday, Vista Ridge High School
• Sand Creek Zone — 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Sand Creek High School
• Falcon Zone — 6-8 p.m. March 16, Falcon High School
Completed proposal forms are due Wednesday to schools or the District 49 Education Service Center. For more information, visit www.d49.org or call the district at 495-1100.
Contact the writer at 636-0162.