The Colorado Department of Education has awarded five schools in the Five Star District with top academic honors. Congratulations to Meridian Elementary, Hulstrom K-8, Stargate Charter, Arapahoe Ridge Elementary and Tarver Elementary for earning this distinction.
Meridian and Hulstrom earned both the 2012 John Irwin award and the 2012 Governor's Distinguished Improvement award. Stargate earned the John Irwin award. Arapahoe Ridge and Tarver earned the Governor's Distinguished Improvement award.
The John Irwin goes to schools that "exceed" expectations on the 3-year school performance framework’s indicator related to academic achievement and that “meet or exceed” expectations on the indicator related to academic growth gaps. These schools demonstrate the highest levels of achievement not just for some students but also adequate performance across all student groups.
The Governor's Distinguished Improvement goes to schools that “exceed” expectations on the 3-year school performance framework’s indicator related to academic growth and “meet or exceed” expectations on the indicator related to academic growth gaps. These schools demonstrate the highest levels of growth for not just some students but all student groups.
After undergoing a lengthy and rigorous qualification process, Leroy Drive Elementary has received full authorization from the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) to offer the IB Primary Years Programme. Leroy Drive is first elementary school in the Five Star District to achieve this honor.
As part of Leroy Drive’s accreditation, students will have the opportunity to participate in a curriculum framework that’s focused on inquiry-based learning and draws on a wealth of knowledge and experience from international schools to create a relevant, engaging, challenging and significant educational framework.
Located just seven miles north of downtown Denver, Adams 12 Five Star Schools is close to the conveniences of a major city center yet far enough to offer the quiet of the suburbs. The five stars represent the five unique communities the district serves: Broomfield, Federal Heights, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster.
Our mission is to engage and inspire all students to innovate, achieve and succeed in a safe and supportive environment by ensuring high quality instruction in every classroom, every day.
With more than 43,000 students, the Five Star District offers families the benefits of a large district with a close-knit feel. That's reflected in the numerous opportunities for students, staff and parents at any of the district's 57 unique learning centers. Get the latest news about the Five Star District.
The Five Star community has made accelerating student achievement a focus and this hard work has certainly blossomed into new areas of growth. Schools in the Five Star District have routinely demonstrated significant academic achievement and growth on the state's assessments.
In 2012, the Five Star District saw its strongest performance ever on the ACT for 11th graders. The district's composite score for the ACT is 19.5, compared to 18.6 in 2006. The ACT is a college entrance exam. Additionally, the Five Star District saw its graduation rate for the Class of 2012 increase 5.1 percent to 79 percent as compared to the previous year.
No matter where you live, you have an opportunity to attend Adams 12 Five Star Schools. Beginning Dec. 1 of each year, parents can start applying for Choice for the following school year. This program allows children to attend a school outside their attendance area if there is space available. To learn more about being a part of this high-achieving district, visit our Choice Program.
We invite you to take a closer look at your neighborhood schools and take pride in the amazing things you've set your mind to accomplishing through your schools.
It was a big week for our senior student-athletes in the Five Star District. National Signing Day took place on Wednesday, Feb. 6. Congratulations to the 30 student-athletes who signed their letters of intent. Legacy High School set a record this year with 17 athletic scholarships and Horizon High School had one of its largest signing events with 10 scholarships.
For these student-athletes, National Signing Day represents years and years of hard work. They have spent hundreds of hours perfecting their athletic abilities, while also maintaining the focus on their studies. Our student-athletes are some of our best leaders. They know how to motivate themselves and others to turn challenges into opportunities. They also have amazing support systems including their coaches, teachers and family members.
Congratulations, and from the staff of the Five Star District and the Board of Education we wish you continued success during your collegiate careers.
Horizon High School
Lindsey Pritchard - Softball - Otero Junior College
Makenzy Mitts - Softball - Adams State University
Gabby Penaflor - Cross Country - University of Missouri at Kansas City
Paige LaBadie - Soccer - Butler College
Darian Drake - Soccer - Otero Junior College
Kylee Franz - Soccer - Adams State University
Chad Reffel - Football - Western State University
Dustin Rivas - Football - Mesa State University
Easton Robbins - Football - Chadron State University
Spencer Elliott - Football - Chadron State University
Signing earlier this school year, Kaylie Rader - Basketball - University of Wyoming
Legacy High School
Michael Danne – Baseball - Kansas Wesleyan University
Jacob Davis – Swimming - Brigham Young University
Melanie Nun – Cross Country - University of Colorado
Travis Baum – Football - Black Hills State University
Skylar McWee – Football - Colorado Mesa University
Aaron Montoya – Football - Black Hills State University
Phydell Paris – Football - Black Hills State University
Steven Yoshihara – Football - Colorado School of Mines
Caitlyn Smith – Basketball - Colorado School of Mines
Morgan Stacks – Golf - John A. Logan College
Sara Goodman – Soccer - Hastings College
Angelique Archuleta - Softball - Kansas Wesleyan University
Hanna Caress - Softball - Colorado Christian University
Mariah Latham – Softball - Doane College
Bekka Prokaski - Softball - Chadron State College
Paige Reichmuth - Softball - Adams State College
Kara Walling - Softball - Colorado School of Mines
Northglenn High School
Andrea Pierce - Softball - Dordt College
Anne Seaholm - Swimming - Adams State
Tristin Washington - Football - Chadron State
Legacy Signing Day Wednesday February 6, 2013
Back row from left to right: Michael Danne, Baseball – Kansas Wesleyan University; Jacob Davis, Boys' Swimming – Brigham Young University; Melanie Nun, Cross Country – University of Colorado; Football, Travis Baum – Black Hills State University, and Skylar McWee – Colorado Mesa University; Softball, Bekka Prokaski - Chadron State College, Kara Walling - Colordado School of Mines, and Paige Reichmuth - Adams State College.
Front row, left to right: Football, Aaron Montoya – Black Hills State University, Phydell Paris – Black Hills State University, and Steven Yoshihara - Colorado School of Mines; Girls’ Basketball, Caitlyn Smith – Colorado School of Mines; Girls’ Golf, Morgan Stacks – John A. Logan College; Girls’ Soccer, Sarah Goodman – Hastings College; Softball, Angelique Archuleta - Kansas Wesleyan University, Hanna Caress - Colorado Christian University, and Mariah Latham – Doane College.
It is with bittersweet feelings that I must pass along the news that our Chief Academic Officer, Paul Gordon, has been named Superintendent of the Glen Ellyn school district in Illinois. Paul has served Adams 12 Five Star Schools for 22 years, and his constant, effective, motivational leadership has had lasting impacts to improve academic success across our district. He previously served as a BASE employee, teacher, assistant principal, principal and executive director. I appreciate all the great work he has done for the Five Star District. Paul will remain with us through the first part of June.
I'm confident that the work Paul has spearheaded is absolutely the right direction in which we will keep growing. Paul has wisely shared his leadership with numerous colleagues and professional teams, and I know our work will continue to advance student achievement. The Teaching/Learning Cycle, alignment of curriculum to state and national standards, and standards-based grading will all continue to be woven into the daily work of our educators. I've seen example after example of the positive impacts these improvements are making in our system, and I'm fully committed to their continued success. We will begin the search for a new CAO soon.
Please join me in congratulating Paul and wishing him all the best in his new position. I know his unyielding spirit to always do whatever he can to improve student achievement will serve the Glen Ellyn school district well.
I was reminded today, as I traveled about the district on one of our buses, that the same date on the calendar can bring dramatically different life experiences.
Eleven years ago on this date, I was making the journey to my office downtown and was listening to the radio when the on-air personalities indicated an airplane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. The initial tenor of the reporting changed quickly as additional information became available regarding the attack on the Pentagon, the second plane crashing into the WTC towers, and the plane that had been hijacked and eventually crashed in Pennsylvania.
What had first appeared to be a terrible and unfortunate accident was unfolding as a well-planned attack, of uncertain dimensions, on our country. I grieved for the victims of these heinous acts with my co-workers and worried aloud with them that our families might also be harmed by another senseless act of violence by the terrorists. I badly wanted to be with my two oldest children to reassure them, comfort them, protect them, and do everything in my power to make sure they were safe and secure.
I wasn't able to be with my children that day, but I was comforted that my 4-year-old son was with his mother and that my daughter was with the "next best" set of adults outside her family: the staff members of the public school she attended.
I talked to Meg after her school day and she talked about the "bad people" and the "scariness" -- and the teachers, aides, principal and parents who took care of them and reassured them they were "going to be ok." It was the second reminder I had in Meg's young life -- the Columbine shooting during her kindergarten year being the first -- regarding the many hats school staff wear, and how genuine care and concern for children are intertwined in all of the work. On many days, demonstrating that genuine care and concern for children -- or even a single child in need -- is the most important work a principal, teacher, bus driver or custodian will do.
I've had many reminders of this important truth following September 11, 2001, and today's ride-along provided further reinforcement. I was impressed to watch Gina, who was my driver for the day, complete a thorough safety review of her bus in the parking lot before her route began. I was impressed with her careful driving, especially as the noise and chatter of middle school students filled the air during the second half of our trip. I was impressed with the professionalism of Andy, the paraprofessional who provides support for this route, as he helped secure a student with autism into the safety harness and calmly worked with another student who was reluctant to get off the bus and was attempting to hide in some of the seats.
What impressed me most, however, was their genuine care and concern for the children they serve. They each greeted the children boarding the bus with a warm smile and a genuine hello, and they had similar conversations with the parents who were leaving their children at the bus stop.
One conversation, in particular, touched me. It was between Andy and a student with autism who was completing his last day with Adams 12 Five Star Schools before transitioning to another school district. The student talked to me later on the trip about two students at school who were his "BFFs," but it was clear to me by how much the student shared with Andy -- and the personal nature of some of what he shared -- that Andy was one of his most important BFFs. Andy listened to the student closely as he talked about the Wiggles Christmas video he had brought with him today and about his favorite rap songs, favorite movies and other topics that are not often of interest to someone Andy's age. (Prior to starting work as a bus driver and paraprofessional seven years ago, Andy had served in the Army and completed a long career in the private sector.) Andy listened attentively to this student because he cared, and he told the student that he was going to miss him as he moved to another school because he meant it.
Thank you, Gina and Andy, for making this September 11 a memorable one for me -- and one much more positive than the one many of us stumbled through 11 years ago. And thank you to all of the Five Star District staff for not only your work in teaching, cleaning, transporting, purchasing, or whatever your job assignment is -- but for also caring, genuinely, about the students we serve.
One of my favorite movies growing up - and one that would still rank in my top 10, if I spent time preparing a list - was Back to the Future. It was on the big screen as I completed my senior year of high school back in 1985, and it's the only movie that I've watched more than twice - other than Thomas the Tank Engine, Barney, Scooby Doo, and all things Disney. I was drawn to the movie because of its well-defined, distinctive characters; its clever dialogue; the tension/uncertain outcomes it toyed with at many points of the production; and its fun and playful approach to the science fiction genre.
The movie's approach to time - starting with a look at suburban life in 1985, then a trip back in time to the lives of the main character's parents-to-be in 1955, and then to a transformed family in that same suburban town when time moved forward again to 1985 - also intrigued me, and it has been part of my internal self-talk and dialogue ever since.
Back to the Future has prompted me to reminisce about the past, reflect on the present, dream about the future, and ask myself to identify those things in my past that I want to stay the same for my children, and which things that I'd like to be different. The work of our district leadership team follows a similar model; we analyze past, present and future, and identify those parts of the school experience that our stakeholders indicate should stay the same, and those parts that need to change.
As our students return throughout the district for a new school year on Tuesday, Aug. 21, much of their experience will be the same as when I started kindergarten at Leroy Drive in 1972, entered junior high in 1979, and began the home stretch of my Five Star education at Thornton High School in 1982.
Some new kindergartners - and nearly all of their parents - will shed a few tears. The sixth graders entering our middle schools will worry about finding their classes, remembering their locker combination and how they'll look when they're dressed out for P.E. Our new freshmen will spend a fair bit of time in the first few days of school surveying the students who have joined them from other schools, and will welcome the greater independence that comes with maturity... and, eventually, from a driver's license.
All of our students - just like 40 years ago - will hope they have a "nice teacher" (that's the elementary school student version) or "good teacher" (that's the secondary school student version), and most of them will hope for as little homework as possible. They'll also want school to be fun, engaging, relevant, appropriately challenging and the gateway to a life as good as - if not better than - that of their parents.
Responding to student needs for an engaging, relevant and appropriately challenging education looks different in many respects now than it did 40 years ago. The explosion of technology, growing global interconnectedness and changing skills needed by employers are among the reasons that we need to reshape some of the "what" and "how" we deliver education to our students. In the 2012-13 school year, staff, parents and students will see a system that continues to take the following steps to improve our effectiveness in meeting student learning needs:
1. Polaris. Many of you will notice posters in our school buildings with a student gazing at the nighttime sky and with text identifying the mission, vision, performance goals and commitments for the district. The poster content - especially in the key area of "commitments" - was developed from staff feedback throughout the district after they had received input from colleagues, parents and other stakeholders.
The Polaris graphics are purposeful and symbolic; they reflect our commitment to providing students outstanding educational opportunities that will equip them to pursue and achieve the goals and dreams they have for their future. Polaris also reflects our commitment, as district leaders and staff, to stay focused on guiding principles so we do not get off course in our work - just like ship navigators, for centuries, have looked to Polaris (aka the North Star) to keep them on track to their destination in the midst of stormy seas.
As you'll see, the Polaris posters paint a big-picture view of what we intend to accomplish for our students and how we will go about the work. In September, we'll supplement the Polaris posters with a more comprehensive online explanation of how the work ongoing right now - both system wide approaches to teaching and learning, as well as school-specific programs like STEM and International Baccalaureate - fit together in a coherent manner and advance the mission, vision, performance goals and commitments. It reflects our best efforts, in an era characterized by standardized testing, school accountability/ratings systems, and school choice options that were not in place 40 years ago, to provide an outstanding education to all of the children we serve - and an outstanding value to our taxpayers who are investing in our work.
2. Innovation, Risk Taking and Relevance. Our business partners consistently tell us that they desire employees who have strong "hard skills" in communication, mathematics and other industry-specific skill sets as well as creativity, a willingness to make calculated risks following review of probable costs and benefits, and an ability to solve multi-dimensional problems. Our leadership team believes few students will become innovators, thoughtful risk takers, and solvers of complex problems unless we create structures that allow our teachers to bring those same characteristics to their classrooms.
Over the last two years, we've worked on developing, and communicating throughout the district, a systemwide framework for teaching and learning that asks our educators to use their professional judgment, and that of their peers, to analyze student learning needs, modify or supplement instruction as necessary to connect with each student, and take appropriate risks to implement innovative teaching strategies designed to move student achievement dramatically forward from where it's been for most of this past decade.
One of the key vehicles for that work is project-based learning in which we move students beyond the dreaded one-dimensional "story problems" from math classes 40 years ago and ask them instead to solve problems which cross disciplines and/or have been suggested by our higher education and industry partners. We have a limited track record in approaching student learning in this manner, but given the excitement that we've observed in students, staff, and business/higher ed partners where teaching has moved forward in this fashion - as well as the achievement results in many of these classrooms - we have high hopes for its ability to elevate student outcomes in our district.
3. Infusion of Technology into Instruction. District leadership believes that we cannot expect our students to be fully prepared for the 21st century if technology resources and digital literacy skills are offered to students in isolation from math, literacy, social studies, arts/electives and other components of a well-rounded education. We are also aware of the temptation to utilize technology simply because students "like it" or find it entertaining, and are committed to integrating technology into instruction only when it is likely to assist in building student understanding of more rigorous content standards now in place throughout Colorado.
Our Information Technology and Learning Services staff members have been closely collaborating throughout the summer to expand value-added technology use into more schools and classrooms in this coming school year, and we'll seek solutions moving forward that will allow us to improve equity in technology resources offered to our students so that school size and building age do not determine the quality or breadth of educational opportunities provided. Perhaps no other area of our work is so different now than it was 40 years ago, when computers that performed the simplest functions filled entire rooms in businesses and universities and were absent altogether from K-12 classrooms.
There is much more that I'd like to share about where we've been the last two years in the Five Star District, and where we're heading in the future - but it's time for me to put my parent hat on and get my first grader ready for his first full day back to school. I look forward to connecting with you on these issues in future blog posts so that you'll see why I believe - and why our business partners, higher education collaborators and district staff believe - we're creating opportunities for students throughout Adams 12 Five Star Schools to thrive in their world.
Elementary students will experience art, music and physical education at the same level next school year
The following letter from Superintendent Chris Gdowski was sent to all elementary school parents and guardians concerning the budget and specials on April 18.
April 18, 2012
Dear Elementary School Parents and Guardians:
Adams 12 Five Star Schools is committed to ensuring all of our students experience a well-rounded education that will prepare them for a global economy. We believe art, music and physical education play a critical role in achieving that commitment.
I’m writing you today because I want to put to rest incorrect information that’s been circulated within our school communities indicating that elementary specials will experience cuts next year.
I want to be very clear. We are committed to offering art, music and physical education in every elementary school, regardless of their size. Your child will continue to experience art, music and physical education next school year at the same level as they have this year.
Lower student enrollment at some of our schools does not require a full-time staff member in order to offer the same level of specials instruction as in years past. For example, to offer all specials, a smaller school may need 0.8 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for art, 0.8 FTE for music and 0.8 FTE for physical education. This would result in an FTE savings of 0.6 FTE which can be applied toward minimizing additional class size increase in grade level classrooms.
For next year, we currently have 18 schools that do not require a full-time position in each of the specials areas: art, music and physical education. Funding specials in those schools at a level less than 1.0 FTE will result in a district-wide savings of $1 million, or 13.5 FTE. The additional FTE can be used to address class size issues in our elementary schools.
We heard from more than 4,250 staff, parents and community members during our public engagement process for the budget this year. We know from those who participated in the process that they place a high priority on specials and class size. The budgeting approach I’ve outlined above allows us to support both of those priorities.
I appreciate your support during these challenging economic times. Thank you for partnering with our schools and the district to keep the focus on student success.
I've met hundreds of inspiring people during the two years that I've served as superintendent in Adams 12. The job introduced me to Noel Cunningham, the Denver restauranteur who worked tirelessly throughout the Denver community to gather resources to assist improverished families in Ethiopia, and whose recent passing has been mourned by thousands; Shelley Becker, our District's new chief financial officer, who has worked with women in Uganda so that they can become financially self-sufficient by making and selling jewelry; Karen Loucks Rinedollar, who founded Project Linus while living in Douglas County so that children battling cancer could have a homemade, comforting blanket, and who planted a seed that has since resulted in the creation of more than 350 Project Linus chapters throughout the country and distribution of over 4,000,000 blankets to seriously ill and traumatized children; and Darla Brand, a member of our central office team in Adams 12, who has coordinated our building's effort to provide Christmas gifts to the many needy families throughout our school system. Each of them has connected their inner passion for people in need with focused, purposeful action.
Many of the students in our schools have made the same connection between passion and action; listening to them, and watching them in action, is the best part of my job. As we draw near to the Christmas holiday, when millions of people throughout the world will celebrate the birth of a precious child, it is fitting to talk about the work of one of our students which is focused upon providing assistance to the many precious children in our community.
I met Megan Sandstrum a couple of months ago at a board of education meeting. She's a freshman at Legacy High School, and she approached the Board that evening to ask all of the District's leaders to support the work of A Precious Child, a local charity that she's supported as a volunteer. A Precious Child supports children in need throughout our school district in a variety of ways. They solicit donations of gently used clothing for both children and adults, sort it and display it attractively, and provide needy families with a "personal shopper" to help them find needed items and sizes; accept donations of new toys and clothing for delivery to families prior to Christmas; receive gently used sports equipment, including soccer balls, basketballs and hockey sticks, so that students with limited economic resources have opportunities to be physically active outside of school hours; and accept financial contributions throughout the year so that they can be responsive to needs not addressed through donated items.
Megan and Carina Martin, founder of A Precious Child, took me on a tour of their facilities earlier this week. I was so impressed by this charity's work in gathering so many quality items for the needy in our community and the respectful, dignified manner in which they interacted with their customers. I also noted, however, that some of the most essential items for warmth and comfort in the cold winter months, including coats, gloves, hats and boots, were in very short supply. I reflected back on a conversation I had a week earlier with Kathi Mullins, a health aide at Federal Heights Elementary, who shared that more than 250 of the school's 650 students were absent on a recent cold and snowy day. Over 80 percent of our students at Federal Heights qualify for free lunch status, which means that, for a family of four, their gross annual income is less than $29,000. I wondered how many of those students -- and how many of the other students who have missed school during this cold December -- did not attend because they do not have adequate winter clothing. Given that 44 percent of the 24,000 elementary and middle school students in Adams 12 qualify for free and reduced lunch and are members of families struggling to provide for life's basic necessities in these difficult economic times, my hypothesis is that thousands of students are foregoing school attendance on the coldest days because of inadequate clothing.
If you share Megan and Carina's passion for assisting those less fortunate, and if you have clothing, toys, or financial resources that you can donate to the noble work they've engaged in to serve our community, I hope that you'll visit their website -- www.apreciouschild.org -- or give them a call at 303-466-4272 -- to learn more about how you can help and where you can take your donations.
I'm grateful to Megan, Carina, and the thousands of others in our Five Star community who give unselfishly of their time, talents, and financial resources to make it a better place. I have the opportunity to interact often with the students you've touched with your generosity -- and on their behalf I extend a deep and sincere thank you.
A couple of years ago, when The Bucket List was a popular movie in theatres, several of my colleagues talked about the life experiences they wanted to complete before the end of their life's journey. I mentally developed my own "bucket list," and it is fairly short. I'd like to travel to Africa and engage in meaningful, hands-on work with those burdened by poverty; attend the Kentucky Derby; harvest a wild pheasant with my sons by my side; and attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (There are a few more items on the list, but I'll share them another time.) Most of our high school students are decades away from thinking about their own "bucket lists," but I anticipate that many of them will be drawn to the energy of the Big Apple, the tradition of the Macy's event, and will add the parade to their lists. And if those students are members of the 2011 Legacy High School Marching Band, they'll be able to check it off the list with fond memories of their participation in this year's parade.
The Legacy band is expected to be on the parade route tomorrow morning between 9:20 and 9:40 a.m. Denver time on KUSA-TV (Channel 9), and I hope that you'll join me in watching them perform. There are many statistics which make clear that Legacy's marching band has exceptional talent and is deserving of the honor of performing in the parade, including Legacy's status as the 5A state champion marching band six years running and its selection as one of 11 marching bands to participate in this year's event from over 150 applications. Legacy is only the third high school band from Colorado to participate in the Macy's parade over its long history, and the first to do so since 1998. The 135 members of the marching band rehearse year round so that they can perform at the highest level in an environment of high expectations, and those fortunate enough to be along the parade route tomorrow will hear a band that one would assume had travelled from a college campus.
As I watch our Legacy students tomorrow morning, I'll be reflecting on the many individuals who have contributed to this opportunity but are unlikely to be on the TV screen. That list starts with Clay Stansberry, the band's director, who invests his talents and enormous amounts of time each year in bringing out the best in each year's group of performers; continues with the extensive group of parent volunteers who spend evenings and weekends moving all of the equipment and instruments from semi-truck to performing area and back again; and concludes, fittingly, with the past members of the LHS marching band who performed at the exceptional level necessary for Legacy to be a successful Macy's applicant and have since graduated or moved to another school community. These individuals have reminded me, once again, that there are many people behind the scenes, past and present, that contribute significantly to the present success of a marching band, a school, and a school district.
Congratulations and best wishes to the LHS marching band; have a great time tomorrow! I'd also like to extend my sincere thanks, as we commence this Thanksgiving weekend, to all of those who have worked in and supported the Five Star school community, past and present. You've given us a school system with much to be proud of and grateful for. I'm thankful that I was a student in this community and for all of the opportunities that my outstanding Adams 12 education has provided me as an adult, and am committed to working with the staff, students, parents, and community members so that the current and future generations of Adams 12 students include their schooling experience among those things they are thankful for as they celebrate future Thanksgiving holidays.