By MEGAN COLWELL
ALAMOSA —The Alamosa school district’s March board meeting began with board President, Elias Heredia reading the district’s mission statement; to remind everyone why they have committed to educational work.
The room bustled with excitement, as latecomers squeezed into a surprisingly packed room — one wouldn’t believe this was a late, 7 p.m. meeting full of folks who had just ended the workday.
The meeting’s first agenda item, “District Celebrations,” opened the floor for members to share recent successes. Assistant Superintendent, Marsha Cody, celebrates Ortega middle school, for being so invested in their students. Board Secretary, Katrina Brown, gave a shout out to teachers “for getting through the third quarter” – this elicits tired giggles from the crowd.
Board Treasurer, April Gonzales, celebrates the seniors of Alamosa high school’s (AHS) girls’ basketball team. Gonzales says: “They really went above and beyond to make the new girls feel comfortable and welcomed.” Assistant Treasurer, Gloria Solis, finally got to attend an AHS meeting and was moved by the teachers’ passion. It is clear the Alamosa school district recognizes and encourages heart in their faculty and staff members.
The student reports were also celebratory, with young students accomplishing great things. This partly explained all of the giddy parents and kids in attendance. AHS’ creative writing teacher, Anna Smith, recognized the “Young Excellence” in her creative writing class. Over the course of the semester, her 28 students created writing pieces to be presented to the public for possible publication. Of the 28, 26 students’ work was chosen to be published in an anthology.
Five of Ms. Smith’s students attended the meeting with her and spoke about the growth they experienced in Smith’s class. All shared the initial apprehension of being so vulnerable with classmates —shyness, insecurity, etc. kept them from wanting to share the private and intimate writing they produced.
However, as the students got to their own voices and one another, they began to develop confidence. Each believes the class contributed to a significant transformation in not only their writing skills, but also their perception of self. Many of them upperclassmen, Ms. Smith’s class equipped students with the skills they’ll need to succeed in higher education and life.
AHS went on to celebrate the success of Future Farmer’s of America (FFA) students. Agriculture instructor, Justin Tedford and students, Trista Simmons, Emma Turner and Newin Fowler embarked on a project to discover the most efficient way to produce potatoes in a greenhouse. Actual farmer, Brendon Rockey — owner of Rockey Farms in Center — struck a deal: for every pound of potatoes the students produced, Rockey would donate $25.
Tonight, their hard work paid off. Rockey presented a check for $2500 to the students, Tedford and AHS principal, Andy Lavier. Rockey said: “You say I ‘donated’ this money but this is business! You [the students] are contributing to potato production in the San Luis Valley and I support it.”
Next on the agenda was a presentation on a new career-readiness program: ICAP. ICAP builds on the career-readiness programming the Alamosa school district already has in place, but allows the program to be better tailored to individual students.
The agenda item that received the most time revolved around a parent-teacher request policy. Nearly 20 teachers showed up to speak about the complications the existing parent-teacher request policy creates. The policy allows parents, at the end of each school year, to complete a teacher-request form; in which they choose three teachers they’d prefer their child to be placed with for the following year. The parents are expected to choose teachers that will best fit their child’s educational needs.
Tonight, the teachers argued the majority of parents aren’t choosing teachers based on their child’s educational needs, but rather who their neighbor suggested – or even choosing last minute, not caring whose name they put down. This results in unbalanced classrooms, with children being randomly placed after all the effort to ensure they were not.
They proposed, rather than changing the request policy, changing the language of the teacher-request form — specifically, omitting the sentence: “Your child is guaranteed to be placed in one of the three teacher’s classrooms.” The Board heard the argument and encouraged teachers to write-up a new form. They also suggested creating protocols that anticipate the possible push-back from the community.
The meeting ended with the Superintendent Report, led by Superintendent, Rob Alejo, who listed off various updates and proposed policies. A few highlighted policies are related to: bullying and bullying reporting (policy JICDE-E1 and E2) and suspension/ expulsion of students (policies JKD/ JKE and JKD/ JKE-R). The Board discussed the benefits and pitfalls of these policies, including but not limited to: unnecessary convolution in paperwork/ processes, problems with legitimacy of reports, and the fact Colorado already has comprehensive bullying and suspension policies in place.