School district holds to tight budget, board approves calendar

Policy matters, emergency response and questions of the school calendar dominated the agenda of the Archuleta School District 50 Jt. board meeting on Monday.

After recognizing area athletes for excellence on and off the field, the board heard various reports. Of note, the district reported it has been holding well to a tighter budget and District Superintendent Mark DeVoti gave credit to building administrators for keeping costs at a minimum. However, DeVoti said, “There’s no definitive word on stimulus money,” referring to the over $70 billion promised by the Obama administration for secondary education.

The board then approved a motion submitted by district business manager Janell Wood to bring the district into compliance with National Incident Management Systems and Incident Command Systems (NIMS/ICS). Developed after the 9/11 attacks, NIMS/ICS coordinates various agencies for appropriate response to national or local emergencies. Furthermore, with the adoption of NIMS/ICS, the school district would have a clear response for incidents within schools such as a Columbine-like incident. With the board passing the motion unanimously, school administrators will begin training for NIMS/ICS in early June.

A motion to approve a school calendar for the next two school years was met with some opposition by school board member Joanne Irons. “The problem I have is not with the calendar, per se,” Irons said, “but our policy. I propose we look at our policy before setting a calendar (for the 2010-2011 school year).”

Irons stated that she had researched other Colorado school districts and found that several high-achieving districts had school years almost three weeks longer than the year for the Archuleta district. “I think we need to look at what’s best for achievement,” Irons said.

Irons suggested that the board approve the 2009-2010 calendar but hold the 2010-2011 calendar for further review after revisiting policy and best practices — a motion rejected by the board. Both calendars were accepted (with Irons opposing) after DeVoti pointed out, “Approving calendars two years out is what I’m hearing most people want in this district.”

A second reading of policy revisions was approved without much discussion. The revisions, dealing with policies as diverse as “Commitment to Religious Neutrality” and “Student Expression Rights,” basically eschewed recommendations by the Colorado Association of School Boards for policies that the board felt better reflected the needs of the local community.

“We worked long and hard on these policies last month at our work session,” said board member Ken Fox, “and I think we can be happy with the results.”

The board then heard a first reading of further policy revisions and will consider a second reading of those revisions at its May 12 meeting.