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ViewSHERIDAN SCHOOL DISTRICT 2
Board of Education Recap October 12th, 2017

News from Sheridan School District No. 2

Contact: Mark Stevens

mstevens@ssd2.org

303-495-8699 (mobile) • 720-328-5488 (office)

News Release

Oct. 12, 2017

SOAR Academy Blossoming

Board members and staff toured SOAR Academy in the morning on Tuesday (Oct. 10) as part of the ongoing series of Learning and Facilities Walks to observe classrooms in action. When board members gathered for their regular meeting later that afternoon, they said they liked what they saw.

“The engagement with the staff and the students was incredible,” said board president Ron Carter, “The staff was doing a really good job of getting the kids involved and keeping them involved.”

Board vice-president Bernadette Saleh said the district’s alternative program for high school students was “very impressive.” It was “amazing,” she added, “how well behaved they are and quiet. It was really great to see.”

And board member Karla Najera, noting the “love and respect” she witnessed throughout the tour, said the visit was a “wonderful experience.”

During the tour, SOAR Academy principal Christian Ramaker underscored how the school staff works to make sure that all students feel safe and supported at school. The 94 SOAR students come from all over Metro Denver, he said, and the staff’s first priority is to establish a solid culture and climate that takes into account the economic stresses that many SOAR students are facing.

Ramaker told board members and others on the tour that the new blended learning program, using both classroom and online instruction, supports students with erratic schedules.

At the board meeting, Superintendent Michael Clough reminded the board that SOAR started as a program with only 9 students in the basement of Sheridan High School. The fact that there are 94 students today, said Superintendent Clough, with a waiting list to get in “is a wonderful testament to what has been accomplished.” Superintendent Clough praised the “great leadership and welcoming environment.” He also noted the “wonderful instruction” during the morning tour and many high-interest activities to draw students into the learning.

The school will consider any student who applies as long as they go through SOAR’s intake and orientation process. (The next orientation is in December.)

To date, 150 students have graduated with a SOAR diploma.

Student Attendance Campaign Yielding Results

Superintendent Clough and the board have set goals to boost attendance rates for both students and staff during the 2017-2018 school year. Last month, data was shared with the board indicating progress with staff attendance. This week, Superintendent Clough noted modest, steady progress in trends among students. He noted, however, attendance rates are typically better in the fall that in the spring and he urged everyone to keep supporting the messages about the importance of consistent, regular attendance.

Pupil Count & Budget

District-wide enrollment is down about 90 students below projections, said Superintendent Clough, and that will yield a shortfall of income from the state of about $375,000. However, that potential loss is not as worrisome as it might be, he added, because the district was able to return $200,000 to its contingency fund.

A recent independent audit of the district’s financial picture is not complete, he added, but the district is financially healthy and auditors noted again this year how all Sheridan School District 2 funds are in good shape.

Superintendent Clough said the loss of 90 students may be due to the “front end of gentrification” in Sheridan. Families have reported, anecdotally, that they have found rents of $300 to $600 less in other Metro Denver communities, including Aurora.

Surveys

Pat Sandos, Executive Director of School Services and Student Behavioral and Emotional Supports, said surveys will be handed to parents at parent-teacher nights this month and that students will take the surveys at computer labs (second grade and up) across the district. Teacher surveys are also going out, he added.

CASB Conference

Sheridan Board of Education members plan to attend the Colorado Association of School Boards conference that begins on Nov. 30 in Colorado Springs. But precisely who will attend will be determined after the Nov. 7 elections. All four current board members are running for re-election and three of the sitting board members face challengers.

Work on Curriculum

The board heard an in-depth presentation on Curriculum, Instruction, and English Language Development and Assessments from Deputy Superintendent Jackie Webb; Language, Cultural and Equity Director Linda Chapman; Director of Student Achievement Lara Eddy; and Data and Assessment Manager Kirk Henwood. The presentation covered all the work being done this year to support and improve the professional practices of teachers, improve the synchronization of curriculum from one grade level to the next, and improve the instruction for students learning English.

Deputy Superintendent Webb said “the most important thing” schools need for student achievement “is a competent and caring teacher in front of the student and that’s followed very closely by having an aligned curriculum.” Aligned curriculum spells out what students should know and what they should be able to do.

The work in Sheridan is focused, she said, on “clarifying and communicating grade level expectations in the context of an aligned curriculum as defined by Colorado Academic Standards and WIDA.” (WIDA is a 39-state consortium that supports academic language development and academic achievement for linguistically diverse students through high quality standards, assessments.)

Director of Student Achievement Lara Eddy said the work began in the spring with an audit of the existing curriculum, including interviews with teachers. A district-wide curriculum development team, spanning from preschool through high school, was assembled to work throughout the school year to improve and enhance the curriculum maps, she said. The team is called the Curriculum Vertical Articulation Team, or C-VAT for short. The key question, said Eddy, is “what are students learning in the grades before and what will they be learning in the next?”

The work, she added, will also promote teacher leadership. C-VAT is working to develop parent brochures and a bank of exemplars that show what is expected of students in all subjects. C-VAT includes two teachers from the Early Childhood Center, two from Alice Terry Elementary School, five from Fort Logan Northgate School, three from Sheridan High School, and two from SOAR Academy plus building and district administrators. “This is a really great opportunity to make sure we are all on the same page,” she said. An analysis of district-wide performance, with academic achievement below state expectations, found that the largest cause was the district’s need to improve systems for continuous improvement.

Data and Assessment Manager Kirk Henwood said data will inform all the work in curriculum, instruction, and culture (through the aforementioned surveys).

Language, Culture, and Equity Director Linda Chapman introduced the board to the state’s new official terminology—this specific area of instruction is English Language Development and the students are known as English Learners. The district serves 728 English Learners, roughly 50 percent of all students. Of the 728, 94 are considered Non-English Proficient, 292 are Limited English Proficient, 142 are in the course of being monitored and receiving some language services as they continue to reach full proficiency, and 119 are still being monitored to ensure full transition to English proficiency but they have exited the program and receive no services.

Chapman said the district is working with five teachers who are focused solely on English Language Development instruction and that their goal is to ensure students who come to Sheridan speaking another language can access instructional content the same as native English speakers. The team is working on developing a guide to English Language Development programming, developing Individualized Language Acquisition Plans for each student, improving collaboration with families and family liaisons, and preparing for state’s computer-based testing of ELD students in January.

Consent Agenda

All consent agenda items were approved.

About Sheridan School District 2

Located southwest of Denver, Sheridan School District 2 seeks high-level post-secondary options for all students through continuous improvement of quality instruction. More: www.ssd2.org

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Sheridan School District NO.2
4150 South Hazel Court
Englewood, Colorado 80110
email: info@ssd2.org
phone: (720) 833-6991
fax: (720) 833-6650