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Buena Vista Middle and High School. Photo by Carly Winchell

Buena Vista Education Association (BVEA) President Bonnie Grover spoke during public participation during this past Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Buena Vista Board of Education (BOE). This was the first regular meeting with newly elected members.

BVEA President and Elementary School Librarian/Teacher Bonnie Grover speaks to the new school board during public comment about communication. Photo by Carly Winchell

Grover has been BVEA president for more than sixteen years. She emphasized the importance of communication with the board and expressed hope for the future relationship between the BVEA and BOE.

Communication was a key theme throughout the school board election, with the board’s previous response to the BVEA earlier in the year often driving candidate discussion.

Two candidates endorsed by the BVEA, Paula Dylan and Mallory Brooks, were elected to the board.

“I believe open communication is going to be the key to a successful partnership with BVEA, so I look forward to that in the future,” said Grover to the new board.

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Board Vice President Brett Mitchell returned to Grover’s comments and the topic of improving communication. Mitchell explained that while they were getting more feedback from teachers, he was still hearing “that maybe they don’t feel like they’re being heard.”

“I would propose that we add a seat on the board for a representative for teachers or a member of the BVEA,” suggested Mitchell. This position would be a “seat at the table,” essentially an advisory role that could deliver a report and participate in discussions.

Mitchell cited a moment in a previous meeting where teacher Melissa St. John raised her hand and provided input to the topic being discussed. Though that is not typical for a public meeting, Mitchell said St. John’s input was an important perspective in that discussion.

“I don’t think that’s something we can make a decision on tonight, but it is something we can discuss,” said Mitchell. “Maybe that will give a little bit more as far as Bonnie was talking about as far as communication.”

New Board President Jessica Crites said she liked the idea of the seat being filled by a strategy team member. Mitchell added that it could possibly encourage more participation with the strategy team because it would be a more direct link.

Crites directed the topic to be added to a future agenda for discussion.

The remainder of Tuesday’s BOE meeting focused on hearing reports and discussing orientation planning for the new members.

Finance Director Janice Martin delivered the finance report. With the failure of Proposition HH in the election, the certification of the mill levy for the district moves back to January. The board will need to certify it by January 10. In a previous meeting, the Board approved the use of a virtual meeting to fulfill that requirement.

Superintendent Lisa Yates told the Board about senior seminar students who completed job shadows at various businesses in the community, such as the Chaffee County Times, Sangre de Cristo Electric Association, Climax Molybdenum Mine, Solvista Health, and others.

She also updated the board on various charitable opportunities the students had participated in recently, with BV Cares, which raised more than $3,000 for school families in times of need. BV Cares was started by teacher Gregg Perrin according to Yates, who AVV recently spotlighted in a story about the Civics Class at the high school.

Yates also delivered the Student-Centered Accountability Program (S-CAP) results. The review was completed virtually, allowing the reviewers to go through different resources and documents available online. It focused on Priority 2 and Priority 3 items.

The School Strategy Book describes these priorities as to “instruct with a focus on intentionally designed instruction” and to “create a culture of 7 C’s with the school as an experience.”

According to Yates, the reviewers praised their plans for participation and eligibility, noting them as a strong strategy for high-quality instruction and getting students in school.

The reviewers also brought up the advisory period, which has been refocused more on academics. Yates indicated that what the reviewers did not see, were comments noting that the advisory period is too short.

Yates said the reviewers brought up questions about how things are trending upward for academics while trending downward in areas of respecting one another. They also noted an increase in staff absences, which had not yet been an item of concern for the district.

“It gives us something maybe we weren’t paying attention to that we can now look at,” said Yates.

For Priority 3, the reviewers did not provide specific feedback according to Yates. Rather than feedback on the priority itself, its focus was that the implementation appears to be working.

New board Treasurer George Richardson asked for permission to audit the review and reported that he was impressed with how engaged the reviewers were in the process. He also indicated that he heard from two people that the district’s work is “the gold standard.”

Jamie LaRue speaks on censorship in libraries and schools. Image courtesy of the LWVCC recording of the event.

During the board reports and correspondence portion of the meeting, Paula Dylan spoke on a recent League of Women Voters of Chaffee County (LWVCC) information session from November 13.

The speaker event discussed Censorship in Libraries and Schools.

Speaker Jamie LaRue is the current head of Garfield County Library District, and former director of Douglas County Libraries and the Executive Director of the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom.

Dylan encouraged all BOE members to watch the video of the speaker. She mentioned policies IJ and KEC at the district, which address this topic, and expressed a desire to have a more in-depth discussion with Yates at a later date to consider how the school can make its policies even stronger.

Yates was also in attendance at the event and selected the topic of censorship for the upcoming BV Monthly section on BV in the News.

Yates said they haven’t yet had a book challenge, though the process is available should someone wish to do so.

The full video of the LWCC event is available here.

The next regular meeting of the BV BOE is set for 6:30 p.m. on December 11.