A St. Vrain Valley Schools Publication | 2017-2018
FOR A STRONG COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE Across St. Vrain Valley Schools, we are advancing public education for our community, state and nation. St. Vrain prepares students for their future by giving them a strong competitive advantage that will empower their success in a complex globalized economy.
In this issue:
MEASURING SUCCESS TOP OF THE CLASS
NEW FRONTIERS IN LEARNING TECHNOLOGY
From the Publisher Dear St. Vrain Valley Community, Welcome to ST. VRAINNOVATION, a publication celebrating the impact of education in our community. Public education plays one of the most significant roles in the advancement of our nation. To ensure the success of our children, economy and our future, it is essential that we prepare students to meet the challenges they will face. Please join us in celebrating the incredible achievements of our students, staff and community. Together, we are building a stronger future.
Table of Contents 1
Bond and Finance Update
I’m Here Fostering attendance through engagement is one of the most effective strategies to elevate student achievement.
A Strong Competitive Advantage St. Vrain provides opportunities that are expanding students’ capacity for
Don Haddad, Ed.D. Superintendent @SVVSDSupt
ST. VRAINNOVATION was produced in-house by St. Vrain Valley Schools’ Department of Communications
success and gives them an advantage for the future.
St. Vrain Valley Educational Ecosystem
The Empowered Educator
Theresa Jennings, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
“I knew since day one that my principal and assistant principal would
support me no matter what I wanted to try.”
Kerri McDermid, Communications Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew Wiggins, Director of Communications email@example.com
Special Contributors: John David, Autumn Parry, David Port, Jeffrey Sylvester and Kimberly Wiggins
Cover Photo: Longmont High School senior, Madeline Johnson, during AP Biology Lab, a core class of the Medical and BioScience Academy at the school. Photo by Kerri McDermid
Magazine printing and distribution generously supported by these community sponsors.
New Frontiers in Learning Technology
Top of the Class
“The expectation for students is to develop skills they will need moving
Our schools are full of outstanding educators.
into higher education.”
Let’s meet four of St. Vrain’s finest...
The Future’s So Bright...
These four people are doing amazing things with their lives, and they
St. Vrain Valley Schools launched a solar energy project that will bring
have one thing in common – they are all products of St. Vrain.
3,740 panels to three schools and save approximately $5 million.
The Early Grades Matter
“A teacher is called...it is not just something you do.”
Persevering to Succeed 2017 Frederick High grad, Justin Weber, inspires a community with his improbable recovery from a devastating 2016 bike accident.
School Culture Drives Student Safety
A St. Vrain story about how assessments are shifting mindsets around
St. Vrain Valley Schools has had tremendous success in cultivating a
culture of school safety, positive outlooks and interconnectedness.
District Map and School Directory
Bond and Finance Update In November 2016, the St. Vrain Valley community approved a $260 million bond to address rapid continued growth, enhance school safety and ensure that St. Vrain Valley Schools can continue our commitment to excellence in serving our community. This vote recognized that our community values public education, champions the success of our students and has strong trust and confidence in the future of our district. Bond projects are on schedule – or in many cases, ahead of schedule – as the district operations and finance departments work diligently to stay ahead of inflation and rising construction costs to ensure that we are receiving the highest value and return on our community’s investment in our schools. LEARN MORE AT SVVSD.ORG/BOND
Timeline of Major Bond Projects Note: this is not a comprehensive list of bond projects. SUMMER 2017
FALL 2017 Eagle Crest and Blue Mountain classroom additions completed
Groundbreaking: New Erie PK-8, Elementary 27 & the Innovation Center
Construction begins on new addition at Mead High
2021 Construction begins for projects at: Central Elementary, Hygiene Elementary, Sanborn Elementary, Westview Middle, Longmont Estates Elementary, Lyons Middle/Senior High, Centennial Elementary, Sunset Middle, Columbine Elementary and Rocky Mountain Elementary
2020 Construction begins for projects at: Erie Middle, Erie Elementary, Main Street, Spark!, Mead Elementary, Trail Ridge Middle, Indian Peaks Elementary, Altona Middle, Thunder Valley K-8 and Burlington Elementary
Design work begins for construction projects at: Erie High, Silver Creek High, Coal Ridge Middle, Fall River Elementary, Alpine Elementary, Legacy Elementary and others
Construction begins for improvements and additions to charter school facilities: Aspen Ridge Preparatory Academy, Imagine Charter School, Twin Peaks Charter Academy, St. Vrain Community Montessori and Carbon Valley Academy
Construction projects scheduled for completion on: Mountain View Elementary, Longs Peak Middle, Black Rock Elementary, Niwot High, and previously mentioned projects
2018 Design work begins for construction projects at: Skyline High, Mead Middle, Northridge Elementary, Longmont High, Timberline PK-8 and others Construction projects scheduled for completion at: Lyons Elementary, Erie High, Silver Creek High, Prairie Ridge Elementary and previously mentioned projects
ALL 2016 BOND PROJECTS ARE SCHEDULED FOR COMPLETION BY 2022. 1
• S&P bond rating of AA and a Moody’s bond rating of
Aa2 enhanced • Enrollment has grown by 4,792 since October 2010 • Fortune 500-level corporate sponsors and community partnerships • National financial award – annual reporting, 13 consecutive years
FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY St. Vrain Valley Schools outperformed the 2008 bond by more than $22 million. Funds were reinvested in school buildings throughout the district. Since 2010, the district has refinanced bonds to lower interest rates, saving taxpayers more than $32 million over the life of the bonds. Bond spending is overseen by an accountability committee of community members and the district.
General Fund Sources and Use 28.53%
Central Support and Admin
How Funds are Used
Mill Levy Override
Specific Ownership Tax
Other State Revenue
Other Local Revenue
School Building and Classroom Support
Direct Classroom Instruction
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
BY KERRI MCDERMID PHOTOS BY JOHN DAVID, KERRI MCDERMID AND AUTUMN PARRY
Fostering attendance through student engagement is one of the most effective strategies that parents, teachers and staff can use to elevate student achievement.
ALKING THROUGH THE H A L LWAY S O F LO N G S PEAK MIDDLE SCHOOL WITH SIXTH GRADE TEACHER, MARISA RENALDI, it is challenging to complete a sentence of conversa tion without someone running up to give her a hug or for Renaldi to stop a hurried student in the hall to ask them how their morning had been or about an activity they attended the day before. Being the second-to-last day of the 2016-2017 school yea r, Ma risa’s ha nds are full of letters and notes from eighth grade students who are moving on to high school, the sounds in the hallway full of the excitements that typically accompany commencements. Through the celebrations and chaos of locker cleaning, end-of-year exams and summer plans, one thing is very clear – this is a school community with teachers and staff who are deeply invested in their students’ personal and academic advancement. For Renaldi, her success as an educator hinges on the strength of the relationships she builds with each of her students. “Growing up, I never really connected with school as a student. It wasn’t until I got involved with kids through athletics that I realized that students often did not have a lot of outlets and things that they love. This was where I could have an impact,” said Renaldi. “They are at school eight hours a day...this should be a place that they love.” Marisa’s – and many other educators across St. Vra in Valley Schools – commitment to adva ncing excellence a nd building connections with every child is having a large impact on student engagement, increased school attendance and performance outcomes. “As a teacher, if I do not have a good rela tionship with them, I ca nnot be as honest as I need to be,” said Renaldi. “My number one goal always is to get close to them, learn the things they love and from there, I ca n break down the schooling piece.”
Longs Peak Middle School was recently named a 2017 Colorado Trailblazer School to Wa tch by the Colorado Associa tion of Middle Level Education in large part because of their staff’s efforts to focus on the whole child – personal, emotional, social, academic – through fostering a school culture a nd environment tha t encourages growth, engagement a nd advanced academics. “To increase engagement, students not only need to come to school but they also need to feel successful,” said Renaldi. “Through the strength of my connection to each student, I can challenge them more and build rigor into what they are doing, which ultimately leads to greater success.” IMPACT OF HIGH ATTENDANCE Fostering attendance through student engagement is one of the most effective things that parents, teachers and staff can do to elevate student achievement. Student a ttenda nce – more tha n a test score or any other data point – is one of the most accurate indicators of whether a student will graduate and find success after high school. In the U.S. today, more than 6.5 million students a re chronically a bsent from school. Chronic a bsence is defined as missing 10 percent or approximately 18 days per academic year, both excused and unexcused. Students who have regula r attendance in kindergarten and first grade are far more likely to be at or above gradelevel in third grade a nd in later grades, score much higher in essential math and reading assessments. Studies have shown that a chronically a bsent middle or high school student is seven times more likely to drop out before graduation and only 11 percent of chronically a bsent high school students complete their second yea r of college (compa red to 51 percent who esta blish good attendance habits in high school). St. Vrain Valley Schools recognizes the importance of being present every day and
By the Numbers I M PA C T O F A T T E N D A N C E
School attendance is the number one predictor of high school graduation – more than any test score or other factor.
St. Vrain Valley Schools’ overall 2016-2017 attendance rate was 94.3 percent, compared to 92.9 percent statewide.
total possible attendance days for all St. Vrain Valley students in the 2016-2017 school year.
By third grade, students who have regular attendance in kindergarten and first grade score an average of 20 percent higher in reading and math than peers who are chronically absent.
On average, only 11 percent of chronically absent high school students complete their second year of college.
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
in 2016, launched a comprehensive districtwide attendance campaign to increase awareness of this critical success factor, provide more support to schools for intervention and better identify students most a t-risk for chronic a bsence or truancy. “Wha t we a re trying to do right now is everything that we can to support our families,” said Paula Fredman, District Attendance Advocate in the Department of Student Attendance and Engagement. “What we believe is that truancy court and other legal interventions are not the best solution. We have many interventions in place to recognize students and families in need of resources or other support – before the truancy process begins – to ensure that students are in school and receiving the high-quality education they deserve.”
Photo: Longmont High senior, Avery Pederson, (above) sitting in AP Psychology class at Longmont High and (below) as #14, a four-year varsity starter on the football team.
BUILDING STUDENT COMMUNITY THROUGH INVOLVEMENT Avery Pederson, a senior at Longmont High School, has built connections to his school community through involvement in athletics and other activities. A four-year varsity starter on the Longmont High football team (jersey #14), baseball player and member of the student council, Pederson sees elevated student engagement across the Longmont High community. “My favorite part of school involvement is meeting so many different people, each with their own story and background.” Getting students involved in athletics, music, arts or other co-curricular activities has been shown to have a large impact on attendance, engagement a nd academic success. Involved students also crea te a more dyna mic a nd supportive school culture that builds community a nd ca ma raderie across diverse student populations. “The sports and the activities I’m involved in at Longmont High are amazing, but it is also great to see the many things that other kids accomplish through pa rticipa tion,” sa id Pederson. “For example, in last year’s school play, Cinderella, it was really fun to see how well it turned out and how much time and effort kids put into acting and the production.”
Longs Peak Middle and Longmont High are not the only school communities where student pa rticipa tion a nd engagement a re a t the center of every school day. Across St. Vrain Valley Schools, teachers, principals and leadership are in constant communica tion a bout how to continue serving and supporting our families and students to ensure academic and lifelong success. “When students are connected to the school community, we know their behavior is better, their attitudes are better, their work is better,” said Renaldi. “We have to engage our kids...we just have to.”
Photo (Above): Marisa Renaldi leading a class discussion on ‘The Outsiders’. (Right) Marisa Renaldi reads a letter given to her by a former student headed to high school.
“They are at school eight hours a day... this should be a place that they love.” MARISA RENALDI, SIXTH GRADE TEACHER LONGS PEAK MIDDLE SCHOOL
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
A STRONG COMPETITIVE
ADVANTAGE BY KERRI MCDERMID PHOTOS BY JOHN DAVID AND KERRI MCDERMID
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS PROVIDES OPPORTUNITIES THAT ARE EXPANDING STUDENTS’ CAPACITY FOR SUCCESS AND GIVES THEM AN ADVANTAGE FOR THE FUTURE.
Photo: Arturo Manzo (right), 2017 Skyline graduate, and Manas Saini, Niwot High junior, discuss design modifications for their underwater robotic vehicle at the Innovation Center.
Photo: Skyline High students, Adriana Guzman (Left), Michelle Tran and Katelyn Wojniak after testifying at the Colorado State Capitol in support of House Bill 17-1184.
GOOD AFTERNOON, MR. CHAIRPERSON AND DISTINGUISHED MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE. My name is Katelyn Wojniak and I am a senior at Skyline High School in the St. Vrain Valley School District.” This was the opening scene as Katelyn and two fellow students from St. Vrain Valley Schools sat alongside Colorado Senate President, Kevin Grantham (R-Cañon City), to testify to the Colorado House Education Committee in support of House Bill 17-1184, Modern Technology Education In Public Schools. “I am excited to be here today to share my story with computer science. I’m not going to lie, I initially joined the STEM Academy at Skyline High School because every student gets their own laptop during the school year. The one-to-one program kind of opened the door to the variety of classes that I would take during my high school experience that I wouldn’t have taken otherwise,” Wojniak continued. “It wasn’t until I decided to apply for a job at the Innovation Center and take an elective class over the summer to get my Apple Certification that I realized an education in computer science doesn’t only look impressive on a transcript but it is valuable in real life.” For Katelyn, now a freshman at the University of Colorado Boulder, and her fellow testifiers, Skyline junior, Michelle Tran, and Skyline sophomore, Adriana Guzman, the experience of participating in the legislative process was one of many opportunities they have had as members of the St. Vrain Valley community to make deep connections between classroom learning and the real world. On that day last spring, it was engaging in the civic process by sharing their story to a room full of elected officials and education leaders. On other days, it has been producing a live radio show, repairing Apple devices for teachers, building websites for industry clients or engineering and 3D printing biomedical devices. Their success through these opportunities are part of a districtwide drive that began almost a decade ago to move St. Vrain Valley Schools to the forefront of developing and delivering a rigorous 21st-century education that will empower students and prepare them for the complex, globalized economy. Through this work, St. Vrain has launched 70 high-quality instructional focus programs across the district, among which includes: a Medical and BioScience Academy and High School of Business Program at Longmont High; an Engineering and Aerospace Academy at Erie High; a Leadership Academy at Silver Creek High; an Energy Academy at Mead High; a Biomedical Engineering Program at Frederick High; and a Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Skyline High, among many other programs across the district. Josie Lamp, a 2014 graduate of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy at Skyline High, was a member of those early classes of students to benefit from St. Vrain’s rigorous educational programming that gives choice in finding a learning community that supports a student’s goals and interests. Lamp’s empowered educational choices included working at the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools, a nationally recognized program that directly connects students with partners in technology, robotics, media and other industries for mentorship and paid practical experience, while also encouraging them to pursue their own ideas and inventions. ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
“I feel like I had a much better caliber of education and technical skills coming into college,” sa id La mp, now a senior biomedical informatics major at Arizona State University. “I remember freshman year very distinctly. A lot of my classmates were really struggling, especially in my computer science a nd technical classes, but because I had experience through St. Vrain’s Innovation Center, and other tech electives and computer science curriculum at Skyline, I could jump right in and had no problems adjusting. I got asked all the time, ‘How come you are so good?’ and I could say it was because I had a phenomenal high school education.” For future St. Vrain Valley students, the resources and opportunities are continuing to adva nce. Through community support in the 2016 bond, St. Vra in is
expanding the Innovation Center through the construction of a 50,000 square foot facility that will be open to every student in the district. Included in the building pla n is classroom space for the district’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH program. P-TECH is a new type of school that brings together the best elements of high school, college and the professional world. Through the P-TECH model, students ea rn their high school diploma alongside a no-cost Associa te degree, and receive industry mentoring to ensure they are first in line for jobs after gradua tion. St. Vra in la unched its first P-TECH school in computer information systems in 2016 at Skyline High School with IBM as the industry pa rtner. The district is looking to expand the program to more high schools and industries in future years with the next program in the early planning stages at Frederick High School in biomedical engineering. One way that St. Vrain Valley Schools helps students and families navigate the spectrum of choices a nd high-quality progra ms in the district is through the development of an Individual Career and Academic Plan, or ICAP, beginning in fifth grade. “The whole idea behind the ICAP is ‘What are you going to do in high school?
Wha t a re you going to do in your life?’ It is really involved in every aspect of picking classes and activities that will help them follow their passions and meet their education and career goals,” said Louise March, P-TECH and ICAP Counselor at Skyline High. “I believe this is so important because if they are really doing things that they love, then things will fall in place to support their overall success.” Cultiva ting inquiry a nd a drive for success through world-class experiential learning and choice is one way that St. Vrain Valley Schools gives students a competitive advantage that will empower their success in the future. Students today are not only focused on advancing their academic goals but also on building a better future for those who will follow in their footsteps. For Katelyn, Adrianna and Michelle, their support of House Bill 17-1184 led to Governor Hickenlooper signing it into law in April of this year and will ensure the development of resources and standards to support high-quality computer science curriculum across the state. Ending her testimony, Wojniak stated, “If we can learn and continue to develop technology, then the learning opportunities a re unlimited. The end goal in mind should always be to further education for everyone.”
“If we can learn and continue to develop technology, then the learning opportunities are unlimited. The end goal in mind should always be to further education for everyone.” KATELYN WOJNIAK, 2017 SKYLINE GRADUATE Photo: Katelyn Wojniak (left) testifying to the Senate Education Committee alongside Senate President, Kevin Grantham (R-Cañon City).
Photo: Longmont High junior, Colby Austin, models proteins during AP Biology. AP Biology is a core class of the Medical and BioScience Academy at the school.
Photo: Erie High juniors, Patrick Cummings and Logan Jundt, participating in flight activities as part of the Engineering and Aerospace Academy. By the Numbers T E C H N O LO G Y & I N N O VAT I O N
industry and community mentors are working with students across St. Vrain to support their continued growth and academic advancement.
growth in student participation in robotics programs has been seen over the past four years.
is the maximum internet speed for school networks in St. Vrain, compared to an average median bandwidth for districts across the U.S. of 220 KBps.
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
The core of our work is our unwavering commitment to rigorous academics and robust co-curricular activities that provide the foundation for student advancement.
Partne sha opport Valle gr learn te p
Full-day and half-day kindergarten is offered at every elementary school in St. Vrain, setting the foundation for academic success as students advance to graduation.
St. Vrain offers high quality preschool programs at 22 sites across the district. Programs emphasize kindergarten readiness and provide a high-quality early childhood experience in a safe, supportive and stimulating environment.
0 to 3 Designed for children from birth to age three, the Small Talk, Big Results program is a community initiative designed to build language awareness and reinforce reading success for our youngest learners.
A Strong Academic Competitive Advantage
Advanc courses p curricula that can le St. Vrain every h district w participati AP Ca
The success of St. Vrain Valley Schools can be attributed to the many high-quality teachers and staff, elected officials, business owners, families and community members who champion public education and invest in the continued advancement of our schools and students.
Career Development Center
The Career Development Center offers programs and classes that give students entry-level workplace skills and experiences â€“ in addition to postsecondary connections â€“ in high-demand or emerging fields such as engineering, technology, health sciences, multimedia, culinary arts and more.
Honors Honors courses challenge St. Vrain students through increased rigor and specialized instruction to ensure continued academic growth.
Extended Learning Every school in St. Vrain offers programs for students to extend learning beyond the school day to increase engagement, build stronger school communities and cultivate our studentsâ€™ passion for learning.
Co-Curricular Activities, Engagement & Well-being
St. Vrain offers world language study at every secondary school in the district. Several elementary schools begin foreign language study in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish for students as young as kindergarten.
Visual & Performing Arts
Athletics St. Vrain offers athletic programs at all secondary schools and emphasizes leadership, sportsmanship, discipline and teamwork to foster important life skills and build community.
Movement Movement programs support emotional and social health while increasing memory, concentration and processing speeds.
Visual and performing arts programs are offered at every school in the district through classes, co-curricular activities, enrichment programs, summer camps and a high school Visual and Performing Arts Academy.
St. Vrain V prestigiou Baccala programm students to studies, and personal achievement colle at t scho
erships have a significant role in ping the empowered learning tunities in our district. St. Vrain ey teachers and students benefit reatly from access to unique ning experiences, cutting-edge echnologies and mentorship programs through our many community and industry partners.
The Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program allows students to earn a no-cost associate degree concurrently with their high school diploma while receiving mentorship and internship opportunities with industry partners. This unique program supports the creation of a dynamic workforce and gives every student the framework and resources they need to achieve a postsecondary education.
In partnership with IBM and the University of Colorado, the Innovation Academy for a Smarter Planet seeks to foster a foundation of critical thinking and inquiry-based learning. Through focused summer programming, students learn to think globally and collaboratively in order to develop innovative approaches to problem-solving.
Students on the Innovation Center Tech Team have the opportunity to pursue coursework and on-the-job experiences that prepare them for successful careers in technology and lead to industry-level certifications, such as Apple Certified Technician, while in high school.
Aeronautics The aeronautics engineering program empowers students to conduct research and development of commercial and recreational remote pilot unmanned aircraft systems.
Robotics From preschool to graduation, the Robotics program at the Innovation Center leverages cutting-edge technologies and programs to support districtwide computer science education and design-thinking integration.
ced Placement (AP) provide college-level a and examinations ead to college credit. offers AP courses at high school in the with several schools ing in the prestigious apstone program.
The Media Program gives students unique opportunities to gain media skills that will directly translate to resume-ready expertise and industry certifications, including: video production, TriCaster certification, live radio broadcasting, podcasting and more.
Engineering & Aerospace
Gifted & Talented
Through community and industry mentorships – alongside resources at the Innovation Center – our students have the opportunity to transform ideas into action and gain authentic experience in translating designs to marketable solutions.
St. Vrain Valley Schools offers advanced learning opportunities to ensure that gifted and twice-exceptional students are challenged academically and reach their highest potential for learning and growth.
Leadership The Silver Creek Leadership Academy prepares future leaders through the acquisition of 21st-century skills in a balanced curriculum that is rigorous, service-based and centered on real-world projects.
The Engineering and Aerospace Academy introduces concepts of engineering design, aerospace and computer science through hands-on, activity-oriented programs that utilize industry expertise and collaborative learning.
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) STEM schools transform teaching and learning by providing students with engaging, real-world learning experiences that prepare students for in-demand, 21st-century careers and emphasize design-thinking integration and connections between school, community and our global society.
Valley Schools’ us International aureate (IB) mes challenge o excel in their encourages both and academic t that can lead to ege credit the high ool level.
CU Succeed is a unique program offered through the University of Colorado where high school juniors and seniors can get a head start on college by earning college credit from highly qualified and trained educators in their schools.
Differentiated Instruction creates multiple pathways for students of different abilities, interests or learning needs to equally experience ways to absorb, use, develop and present concepts as part of their daily learning.
Concurrent Enrollment Students in St. Vrain Valley Schools can concurrently enroll in college courses through partnerships with Colorado State University, University of Colorado, Front Range Community College and Aims Community College.
The Energy Academy provides rigorous learning opportunities for students whose career interests are in the production of energy, as well as students whose interests lie in tangential fields such as law, policy or marketing.
Medical & BioSciences
St. Vrain’s Core Knowledge program is designed around the idea that early schooling should provide a solid, specific, shared core curriculum in order to help children establish strong foundations of knowledge.
The High School of Business TM program is preparing students to excel in college-level business administration programs. Areas of focus include economics, finance, marketing, management and leadership.
Our medical and bioscience programs give St. Vrain students an opportunity to explore medicine, research and health science fields through rigorous curriculum that explores solutions to the most pressing health challenges of today and the future.
BY THERESA JENNINGS PHOTOS BY THERESA JENNINGS AND KERRI MCDERMID
HEN YOU SIT DOWN A N D A S K A T E AC H E R WHY THEY WENT INTO EDUCATION, you see their face light up, their eyes fill with passion and you should be prepared to hear the most energizing response. From being inspired by their fourth grade teacher to admitting that they struggled in school a nd they wa nted to help the next generation of students, you know that for these teachers, learning and growing is part of who they are. For many, their classrooms become a second home, and like finding the perfect house, teachers throughout the district will tell you that landing a position in St. Vrain is like discovering a Mickey Mantle baseball card hidden away in your parents’ attic. For Molly Berry, a sixth grade teacher at Trail Ridge Middle School, who joined St. Vra in last yea r a fter spending three years in another district, the differences are
noteworthy. “From professional development to technology, a nd not just access to 1:1 iPads minis, but the depth of support and integra tion tha t is seen in classrooms throughout the district is rema rka ble,” Berry explains. “My leadership equips us with tools, a nd I have lea rned so much this yea r just by being in this school a nd colla bora ting with my tea m a nd colleagues.” Support does not stop at the school and district level. Our community, pa rents, businesses and local municipalities help St. Vrain pass bonds and mill levy overrides which make 21st-century lea rning, innova tive classrooms a nd technology available at all of our schools. Through this support, teachers are not scrambling to gain resources, but instead focused on teaching and trying new and innovative ways of adding depth to topics in their classrooms.
“I have the flexibility to try new teaching methods, and not just stick to one specific curriculum or way to teach.” MOLLY BERRY, SIXTH GRADE TEACHER TRAIL RIDGE MIDDLE SCHOOL 13
St. Vra in continues to purposefully redesign the lea rning process, shift classroom environments, create a culture tha t grows from fa ilures, a nd add the phrase “yes, but...” to our conversations. As they build on ideas, and form an academic founda tion tha t not only meets sta te standards, but exceeds them, our teachers and students consistently take learning to the next level. “I knew since day one that my principal and assistant principal would support me no matter what I wanted to try. I have the flexibility to try new teaching methods, and not just stick to one specific curriculum or way to teach,” expla ins Berry when discussing a lesson that did not go quite as planned. “I knew that I would have the support of my team and administration to try the lesson again after reflecting on how I can redesign it for success.” Although colla bora tion, the a bility to gracefully fa il a nd the freedom to try new lessons a ttracts ma ny teachers to the district, so does the intentional implementation of focus programs in our schools. Focus programs allow teachers to add depth to a topic and integrate themes across all subject a reas. From STEM to visual and performing arts, medical and biosciences to International Baccalaureate, teachers throughout a school have a common focus which allows concepts to seamlessly integrate across content areas. Collaboration was key for Berry when
Sloped ceiling to allow more light into the room
By the Numbers E M P O W E R E D E D U C AT O R S
minutes of professional development video uploaded to Edthena, a teacher coaching resource.
AN EMPOWERED CLASSROOM Take a peek inside one of St. Vrain’s newest classrooms at Eagle Crest Elementary.
digital books checked out during the 2016-2017 school year – more than any other district in the U.S.
Traveling Chromebook cart
Wobble chair to support different student learning needs Easy to move, flexible classroom furniture
tablets and computers in use across the district.
she wa nted to transform her classroom environment. Berry describes how her teammates were supportive and helpful as she works to integrate flexible seating. At first, Berry was unsure how this would work at the middle school level. However, after careful research through her master’s progra m, she pushed her reserva tions aside and gained support from her team, administration, students and the custodial crew who got involved a nd helped her move furniture in and out of her classroom. “By giving up control with assigned seating, I gained so much more. Students gained this confident independence and they just owned their decision making,” said Berry Berry noticed initially tha t students did not always choose the best seat. She partnered with a colleague who helped her formulate a question to ask her students when she noticed that they may have chosen a spot that is not working well for them. “Is that the best spot for you?”
Fast and reliable internet access
Classroom set of iPad minis with robust instructional support and professional development training
This question has empowered students to decide the best seat for them in Berry’s classroom, a nd speak up when they recognize the need to move to a new spot that better supports their learning. They gained the skills to successfully move away from friends. As for the academic impact, Berry states that students who struggled with academics a nd staying focused in class, have found the golden ticket to how they lea rn best. Throughout all of her classes, Berry has seen an increase in productivity levels and improved behavior from empowering students to decide how
they learn best in her classroom. Taking a risk and becoming empowered are ingrained in how teachers operate on a daily basis, so much so, that they are now transitioning those skills to their students and helping them take ownership of their lea rning. So, the next time you visit a classroom and things seem a little different from when you went to school, know that it is intentional and we will continue to empower our teachers, students, leadership a nd community to strive for academic excellence. ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
BY MATTHEW WIGGINS PHOTOS BY JEFFREY SYLVESTER
T. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLSâ€™ COMMITMENT to providing rich learning experiences and cuttingedge technology is well-established. The passage of the 2012 mill levy override allowed the school district to implement a robust Learning Technology Plan and equip students a nd teachers with iPad minis, Chromebooks and other devices. These digital tools have reshaped how students think a nd lea rn a nd how they engage teachers a nd fellow classma tes. Lea rning is no longer confined to the traditional classroom, but extends to the home, our community and in some cases, the globe. Visiting an elementary classroom within St. Vrain looks far different than it did ten, or even five years ago. Computers, iPads and Chromebooks are as commonplace as pencil and paper. Applying new technology to classroom lea rning is a na tural progression, but developing creative ways to pa ir these devices with purposeful curriculum is essential. Farah Holburn, a fourth grade teacher a t Mead Elementa ry describes how technology has been integrated into her classroom. One way is through iReady, a K-12 adaptive diagnostic assessment tool for reading a nd ma thema tics. This invaluable resource helps identify areas where students need a little more support. After students work through the lessons, teachers ca n identify goals a nd future assignments that will support a studentâ€™s
individual learning needs. Holburn also recounted how technology can build bridges to classrooms around the globe as they prepared to collaborate with a school in Ireland through a locally sponsored program. “Students and parents are excited about digital citizenship and developing these skills at an early age,” Holburn said. “Having educational relationships with students in a different country, with different cultures has opened their eyes about what learning looks like on the other side of the world.” Exposing students to these experiences increases independence and encourages students to ask questions. Holburn hopes to increase her use of technology in the classroom, specifically through personalized learning, a component of blended learning.
Similar to Holburn’s classroom, Kane Hollins of Niwot High School strengthens and reassures his students with autonomous lea rning opportunities. During his environmental science classes, students engage in laboratory investigations and
field experiences. If you were to visit one of Hollins’ classes, you would witness students equipped with cameras and iPads collecting photos and videos of plant life, insects and the surrounding environment to use in the construction of personal websites. Students use these sites to present data findings and create interesting methods of showing their work. St. Vra in Valley Schools’ recent adoption of Discovery Education’s (DE) Earth Science curriculum, has bolstered the use of more web-based curriculum. Using the DE platform, students can build ‘boa rds’ – interactive web pages – by assembling photos, videos, podcasts and other visuals with data and essays to display leveled content. As instructors scroll down individual pages, the content transforms from basic concepts to data analysis, lab findings and ultimately, students’ overall conclusions. Since implementing this technique over four yea rs ago, Hollins has noticed vast improvements in student writing. “I assign writing projects throughout the year, but I’ve come to realize final essays produced by students using this technique tend to be much more polished because it is content they are more familiar with,” says Hollins. “The expectation for students is to develop skills they will need moving into higher education.” Four yea rs ago, David Kline a nd Dan Cribby of Westview Middle School were presented with a question from
the Estes Pa rk Environmental Center – “What would you do with kids, if you had expanded access to Rocky Mountain National Park?” The two were unsure, but they knew tha t, between Kline’s a udio/ video documenta tion expertise a nd Cribby’s science coursework, they could create something special and keep middle schoolers engaged. It was then that ‘Plains to the Park’ was born. Once a month, students from Westview Middle School travel to the pa rk to collect data and place ‘game’ cameras to capture animal behavior patterns. Some students concentrate on documenting the visit with video interviews, photography a nd acquiring clips of the surrounding la ndscape. Others record findings a nd compa re the da ta for la ter traditional classroom use. The progra m is wildly popular and continues to provide authentic learning experiences and impact students – approximately 100 thus far. Moving forwa rd, St. Vra in Valley Schools plans to explore and grow new partnership opportunities with industry leaders, research experts and community orga niza tions. Coupling these valua ble rela tionships with a vibra nt Lea rning Technology Pla n, access to world-class technology a nd educa tors willing to test the limits within the classroom and beyond, imbues our students with the skills needed to become leaders and contributing citizens.
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
These four people are doing amazing things with their lives, and they have one thing in common â€“ they are all graduates of St. Vrain Valley Schools. BY DAVID PORT PHOTOS BY KERRI MCDERMID AND COURTESY OF THE ALUMNI
PAYTON PETERSON Silver Creek High School CLASS OF 2013
S C O M F O R TA B L E A S PAY T O N PETERSON has felt behind a camera since he was a boy growing up in Longmont, and as much as he has accomplished in the world of film production and digital media at the ripe old age of 22, it is with little surprise he landed in the world’s movie-making capital, Los Angeles. Before leaving Longmont to pursue television and movie production work first in Orlando, Florida, (remember the Fireball Run reality TV show?) with Disney, then in Tinseltown with a production company that does technical work for Disney theme parks, Peterson and his digital media exploits left quite a mark on his hometown. As a Silver Creek freshman, he organized the “Longmont Loves Google” campaign that sought to land the city a fiber optic network. Eventually, that is what the city got, thanks in large part to Peterson, who as part of his senior project at Silver Creek helped spearhead the effort to fund what became the NextLight project. Today, Longmont’s fiber optic network is among the fastest in the nation. As a high schooler, Peterson also recruited the independent film “Dear Eleanor” to shoot in Northeast Colorado, then served as its location manager. During the floods of 2013, the aerial footage he shot from a helicopter above the disaster zone proved vital in the deployment of emergency personnel. He also worked as production coordinator for a wide range of commercials — all while managing his schoolwork
a nd building the video production compa ny he started before earning a driver’s license. Peterson says he would not have accomplished all that without the support of teachers and staff at Silver Creek High. “They were really flexible and, knowing my love for visual arts, actually allowed me to make videos for certain assignments, instead of writing papers or taking tests,” he explains during a break from overseeing live streams for Nintendo and Microsoft at the recent E3 gaming conference in L.A. Nowadays, work often takes him abroad to places like Shanghai, which, he says has whet his appetite for traveling the world. And the passion for film and video he developed as a teenager in Longmont, he says, is undiminished. Soon, perhaps, another film will come to Colorado to shoot, with Peterson in the director’s chair.
MEGAN LEWCZYK Skyline High School CLASS OF 2006
ARELY A DECADE REMOVED FROM SKYLINE HIGH SCHOOL and less than seven yea rs since ea rning undergradua te and master’s degrees from the University of Denver, Megan Lewczyk has managed to build quite a diverse résumé in a short period of time. But the common denominator for Lewczyk – who was born in Longmont and lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with her husband, a military officer – is accounting. She has gone from a practicing certified public accounta nt to running her own accounting firm to college accounting professor (she ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
teaches online classes at Washington State University and Keystone College in Pennsylvania) to educational curriculum developer for CPA candidates at Yaeger CPA Review in Maryland. She also writes a regular blog column and when the need arises, dusts off the graphic arts skills she developed in high school to create the occasional marketing/advertising piece for Yaeger. All while working remotely from idyllic Charleston. Even in high school, Lewczyk, now 29, says she gravitated toward numbers under the tutelage of teachers like Heidi Ringer, then head of the math department at Skyline High School and now the school’s principal. Skyline’s interactive math program taught her “to think, analyze and follow problems,” skills tha t beca me invalua ble to her throughout college and in the accounting business. Outside her teaching a nd curriculumdevelopment gigs, the numbers Lewczyk has her eye on now have to do with how much longer she’ll be in Charleston (maybe one or two years), and how many kids she and her husband will eventually have (no idea). “I want to have a family in the next couple years,” she says. Wha tever those numbers turn out to be, a nd wherever the next career turn takes her, “I’ll always be a big advocate of Skyline High School. I learned so much about the real world and interacting with people by being there.”
“Being able to work as part of a team to create an environment where people can be successful and students, parents and staff feel welcome is a wonderful challenge.” CATHY O’DONNELL LYONS HIGH SCHOOL, CLASS OF 1985 19
CATHY O’DONNELL Lyons High School CLASS OF 1985
OME PEOPLE GO THROUGH SCHOOL WITHOUT A CLUE WHAT THEY WILL DO AFTER THEY GRADUATE. Not Cathy O’Donnell, who says working as an educator “was always my goal,” even as a young girl, when, at least by her mother’s account, she would line up her stuffed animals and play school with them. Raised in Lyons and the first in her family to a ttend college (she is a University of Northern Colorado grad), O’Donnell has spent her entire career in education and all but one year with St. Vrain Valley Schools, where she has risen from elementary school teacher to gifted education coordinator to principal, the position she has held at 780-student Black Rock Elementary in Erie since the school opened in 2008. Several decades removed from her years as a student in the district (she graduated from Lyons Middle/Senior High School in 1985), O’Donnell, who’s ma rried with one child, says she not only still keeps in touch with some of the teachers she had growing up in Lyons, but relishes reconnecting with her own past students. “Hands down the most rewarding thing for me is when previous students get in touch or come back to visit and tell me I’ve had an impact on their lives.” Now starting her tenth year at Black Rock and her 27th with the district, O’Donnell says her educator’s passion still burns. “Being able to work as part of a team to create an environment where people can be successful and students, parents and staff feel welcome is a wonderful challenge.”
ORY VADEN SAYS IT WAS AS A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT THAT HE DISCOVERED THE MOTIVATION TO PURSUE A CAREER MOTIVATING OTHERS. “I developed an interest in and a love for the study of leadership at Frederick High School,” recalls Vaden, 35, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife and young child. “Going to leadership conferences and serving on student council in high school, that is really what inspired me to become a public speaker and to help people advance their goals.” Vaden, who grew up in a Frederick tra iler park with his mom, has advanced quickly himself, from educational children’s books salesma n a nd entrepreneur in college to highly accomplished sales a nd leadership coach, best-selling a uthor (“Take the Stairs” was published in 2012 and its follow-up, “Procrastinate on Purpose” in 2015) and head of Southwestern Consulting, a flourishing executive training firm that he co-founded right out of business school at the University of Denver in 2006. His focus these days is helping others find selfdiscipline, a trait he says has been crucial to his own success. “I was never the coolest kid or the smartest kid or the most athletic kid, but I outworked everybody.” Apparently the hard work has only begun. Besides the new parenting gig (his son was born in the spring), Vaden, an avid reader and exercise enthusiast, says he has “several more books” he wants to write, while also growing his business (of which his wife is co-founder) in new directions. “I feel like I’m just getting started with life. There’s so much left for me to do.”
“I was never the coolest kid or the smartest kid or the most athletic kid, but I outworked everybody. I feel like I’m just getting started with life. There’s so much left for me to do.” RORY VADEN FREDERICK HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 2000
By the Numbers STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
graduating students with a GPA of 4.0 or higher in the Class of 2017.
high-quality instructional focus programs offered at schools across the district.
RORY VADEN Frederick High School CLASS OF 2000
potential college credits earned by high school students in 2016-2017 through AP tests, IB courses and concurrent enrollment. ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
THE EARLY GRADES MATTER BY THERESA JENNINGS PHOTOS BY KERRI MCDERMID
HINK BACK TO YOUR CHILDHOOD and remember the excitement you felt when you saw your teacher walking around with a new worksheet, not just any worksheet, but a connect the dot worksheet. There was the mystery of discovering what image would appear, figuring out the next number in your sequence and knowing that these little points were part of a larger picture that you unveiled after connecting all of the dots. Now think of how students learn to read and write and the connections they make on their academic journey. First, you learn the letters and how to write them, then the sound each letter makes, soon students begin learning sight words and inferring what additional words could be included in the text on the page based on the illustrations.
Making connections are an important part of literacy and biliteracy, especially in the early years. The connections students make when they are learning to read and write can be thought of as dots on worksheets, or connections to past knowledge, new words, future growth and the foundation for a competitive advantage. Through collaboration between passionate teachers, knowledgeable librarians, tenacious media staff and strong external partners, St. Vrain Valley Schools leads the charge to provide world-class literacy instruction that makes reading and writing relevant to all students. St. Vrain began to build a culture of literacy by uniting stakeholders throughout the district and community. This movement within St. Vrain allowed a shift from programs
Photo: Jessica Schrader, first grade teacher at Columbine Elementary
Photo: Stephen King’s fourth grade classroom at Centennial Elementary
“I make sure kids know this is a safe place to be. That way, when we start learning the hard stuff, my students know that they have a support system and a safe place to try new things.” JESSICA SCHRADER FIRST GRADE TEACHER COLUMBINE ELEMENTARY
that support leveled readers to a curriculum that asks all students to read at grade level. By building a program from the ground up, a nd having all stakeholders a t the table to help with decisions, St. Vrain has intentionally created a program that closes the literacy gap between students. For Jessica Schrader, a fifth-year, first grade teacher at Columbine Elementary in Longmont, teaching literacy begins through building connections with students and creating a community in the classroom. “I make sure kids know this is a safe place to be,” said Schrader. “That way, when we start learning the hard stuff, my students know that they have a support system and a safe place to try new things.” Throughout St. Vrain Valley Schools, reading and writing are incorporated into every subject from ma th, to science, to technology, to art. Teachers are utilizing tools and resources to do deep dives into content areas. Through myON, a digital personal literacy platform, students not only read about a subject, but some passages are read aloud to the students. This allows
everyone to work with the same content. As a district, St. Vra in is intentional in how biliteracy is supported in our classrooms. District leadership partnered with experts from the University of Colorado Boulder to naviga te a nd transform how biliteracy looks in PK-12 environments, and create strategies to best support all of our students. The biliteracy work St. Vrain is doing is proactive explains Susan W. Hopewell, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Program Cha ir for the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education. Including biliteracy teachers in the pilot year for the new progra m allowed Ruth Ha nna, St. Vrain’s Bilingual and Elementary English Language Learner Coordinator to provide extra support to our biliteracy teachers through professional development. The extra support, coupled with classroom visits and collaboration, ensured biliteracy teachers were able to identify and adjust the curriculum as it was implemented districtwide after the pilot year. The new program asks all students to ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
read at grade level and biliteracy students a re lea rning the sa me texts in two languages with proper supports in place. The English Language Acquisition (ELA) Program that is led by Hanna is designed to offer educational experiences that allow English La nguage Lea rners (ELLs) to develop academic skills and concepts at the same level as other students while acquiring English language proficiency. “The early years are the most critical in setting the foundation that comes after,” explains Hopewell. “What they do in one language informs the other, it is a two way street. What you know in English helps your Spanish and what you know in Spanish helps your English.” As a former elementary school teacher, Hopewell sa id, “My most successful students naturally made connections across Spanish and English, but most kids siloed their languages and they could not see that there was a connection. If a student can write a five paragraph essay in Spanish, you can expect them to be able to do the same in English with the proper supports. Pa rt of St. Vra in’s progra m is to make those connections explicit so that if you were to go into a classroom, it should not only be the teacher that can tell you how the languages are connected, the students should be able to tell you too.” Connections continue to be instrumental as we navigate through lessons in literacy. Stephen King, a fourth grade teacher at
Centennial Elementary cannot talk enough about the connections he builds with his students. King’s road to becoming a teacher was a long one. After spending years in construction, King volunteered in his daughter’s classroom and sat down next to a young boy to help him with an assignment. After sitting with this student for a while, and learning about him, it became clear to King that he wanted to become a teacher. For King, building connections begins in May as the third graders prepa re to transition to fourth grade. Over the summer, King writes his students a monthly letter and includes paper and a self addressed envelope that allows the students to write back to him. Anticipation begins to mount as King waits for his students to write him back. Every day like clockwork King checks his mailbox to see if he has any letters from students. Many students take the time to write him back about what they are doing over the summer, what they are reading and what they like the most. Through these letters King develops a foundation for each student’s writing abilities. He has students reading over the summer and he is able to immediately connect with them on the first day of school. Parents and students alike approach King to tell them about the excitement they felt when they received their letter. Throughout the year, King posts books he is reading and he changes that as often as possible. “I try to put up all types of reading including comic books, modern literature,
maga zines a nd classics. I wa nt them to know that I am reading all the time,” said King. For many kids and adults, reading is a love it or leave it subject. For King, his goal is to help students find a passion for reading by talking a bout books a nd exploring different genres so kids can be exposed to adventure books or a book about sports. He truly focuses on finding the topic that each student enjoys to read about. Through ReadyGen, St. Vrain’s literacy progra m, students experience quality literature that every child can be exposed to and it is done as a whole class so even the lowest reader does not feel like a low reader anymore, they feel like they are a part of the class, reading the same book, discussing the same questions, learning about the same characters, and that is the biggest positive King has seen with the program. Students begin their life and academic career with a foundational awareness of the world around them. Discovering how the color red is spelled and connecting it to a red object in the classroom, then to the word red in a book, and finally writing it in a sentence about a fire truck. The connections students make to their lessons and the world around them are instrumental. We sometimes hea r tha t when kids are young they are learning to read and then later reading to learn. Really, those things are happening simultaneously a nd in St. Vra in, students a re lea rning, reading and writing.
By the Numbers E L E M E N TA R Y L I T E R A C Y
Reading 20 minutes every night equals 1.8 million extra words between kindergarten and sixth grade.
of St. Vrain Valley elementary schools offer a full-day kindergarten program and a high-quality preschool* program. *students in the Frederick feeder attend Spark! Discovery Preschool
For every $1 invested in early childhood education, the U.S. economy sees a return of $8.60.
“A teacher is called...it is not just something you do.” STEPHEN KING, FOURTH GRADE TEACHER CENTENNIAL ELEMENTARY
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
I alw ays try to do my best on a test. My results help me know what to w ork on and where I need to focus. I try
Something that I like about assessments is that you can show what you know when you are taking it. It doesnâ€™t matter what time to keep it is. My class sets goals which my reading of year help me become a better reader and and math writer because it challenges me.
and setting goals at the start of the year helps keep me on track.
Maria, Grade 5 Northridge Elementary
Taryn, Grade Sunset Mid
I like iR
helps m myself. I
areas w imp
Cole, Grade 7 Lyons Middle/ Senior High School
A ST. VRAIN STORY ABOUT HOW ASSESSMENTS ARE SHIFTING MINDS
The programs we use make me very confident. We set goals which really helps me because you have something you are really going for. You have a goal and you think, I can do this! Tests can challenge you but they are not impossible to pass. Arianna, Grade 6 Longs Peak Middle School
EFORE WE MOVE TO THE EDUCATIONAL REALM, letâ€™s think a bout assessments in a different context: your yea rly physical. When you go to the doctor, the first thing you typically experience is an armband, a thermometer and a scale. These benchmark indicators are a small part of your visit, but provide important clues. They are written down a nd logged. The nurse continues, now with questions: Are you sleeping? Eating? How is life? Then the doctor comes in, examines the clues, and begins to ask deeper questions, puzzling together a picture that, with your help and with the evidence, outlines a story. This evidence collection varies in order to serve the whole person. The metrics themselves serve as importa nt context. Some are relevant, at one point in time, and others are the sum of their individual parts, reflecting a picture of your daily habits in
e6 ddle School
Ready because it
me to measure
I can set goals for where I want to prove and also
celebrate and feel good about the
areas where I know I am doing well.
We had multiple practice sessions and I felt way more confident in taking exams because I was more familiar with what they would look like. As soon as the test came out I was way more comfortable with the way it was formed.
Practice taught me how to quickly dissect questions that otherwise would eat up time, and it boosted my self confidence because I knew I could tackle the subject matter.
Caleb, Grade 12 Erie High School
Savannah, Grade 11 Niwot High School
SETS AROUND STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
UCCESS one summa tive number. A number like your weight is better examined on longer intervals ra ther tha n day-to-day. Your temperature, however, will likely fluctuate in a day if something is not right – and should be measured regularly and more often when needed. Different metrics are used and applied within their own context, reasonable to their intended use. The care provider also takes your story into account, compares it to the data, and uses their professional judgment to construct a narrative and a plan that matches your physical and mental experiences. You leave the office with some next steps and often a goal. Through this, both you and your care provider evaluated evidence of your health, reflected on it a nd made a pla n to take action – just like how we use assessments and data. A personalized picture of you emerges from the mosaic of information.
BY KIMBERLY WIGGINS PHOTOS BY KERRI MCDERMID
Erie High student, Lily Kurz applies that approach to her learning: “When you take a test and see what you have done well and what you have not done as well, you can start working to make a plan so you can be better for everything you do in school. When you set goals and achieve to work on them, it works for all your life.” When you typically hea r the word “assessment” in the education realm, your mind might summon images of sharp #2 pencils, sweaty palms and sitting in a hard chair for hours. If you have facilitated a training at work, you might have thought to a time you hawkishly watched to see how many participants were on task, asked questions a nd engaged in the ma terial. For those of you who have studied for a certifica te or degree, the word might evoke images of flashca rds a nd ca tchy mnemonics. For all scenarios, assessments are a part
of our body of evidence. The evidence may vary in meaning, depending on audience and purpose, and rarely provides a full picture. But each metric along the way, when gathered with additional data, creates a path toward best serving our students, teachers and community. Teachers assess minute-by-minute, they monitor student behavior, check for understanding, help those “a-ha!” light bulbs illuminate, or even wa tch as productive struggle ma nifests itself in restless squirms. When we combine all those observa tions, we have da ta. Good da ta includes qualita tive a nd qua ntita tive, feelings and numbers, and the emotional healthy behaviors alongside the academic healthy behaviors. Teachers are constantly diagnosing a situation. This process requires various types of data from various sources, and requires expert skills that are continuously ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
refined through research and experience to best serve our schools. Regardless of the format the assessment takes, we are all looking for an answer to the same, student-focused question: “What was learned?” When students are exposed to this process, they find it invaluable. Chris Tempel of Erie High School summarizes it well: “[Assessment] is a valuable part of my learning experience. I look to improve in what I didn’t do well on, and think of ways to concentrate on that in class.” And when we start that process in early grades and focus on turning the scores into clues about a student, we can make lifelong changes in how our students engage in independent learning tasks, life challenges and reflective behaviors. Through iReady, PARCC and the SAT suite of programs, St. Vrain and the State of Colorado have identified assessments that will give our families, teachers, students and community meaningful, college and career-aligned data. Helping students to better know themselves as learners – to better engage in their own educa tional process a nd develop agency – includes three primary components tha t a re pivotal to quality assessment of a ny type: reflection a nd analysis, meaningful goal setting and taking action.
FIND ASSESSMENT RESOURCES OR TAKE PART IN AN ASSESSMENT DISCUSSION AT STVRA.IN/ASSESSMENT.
REFLECTION AT ERIE MIDDLE SCHOOL “Empowering students to reflect on their own progress helps reinforce a mindset in the students themselves that everyone can grow and achieve,”said Kim Watry, Erie Middle School Principal. Watry and Assistant Principal, Ruby Bode, work intentionally to add reflection to students’ current perception of assessment. Watry explains, “The data is for students to personalize and reflect on, not just for an achievement level, but to see how much growth they’ve made.” At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, Watry and Bode gave all the students access to their previous PARCC
scores. Students explored why they did or did not meet their goals a round their lea rning skills, a nd then applied their understanding from the process to future learning. The school believes this level of reflection and meaning makes a difference in how students approach their learning and changes engagement in the everyday school setting. They know that the behaviors students exhibit in class and during work time are often behaviors that manifest themselves during assessments and other work that students want to do well on. Bode and Watry do not want to sepa ra te assessment performa nce from everyday performance. “Our students are building life skills that will help them be successful in high school and beyond in that they are learning to set goals, reflect on progress, and come up with a plan,” said Watry. “I wouldn’t be as reflective without assessments,” sa id Emma Ma iocco, as a n eighth grade student a t Erie Middle last year. “The tests help to see how much you actually took in during the year, and they help you know what you need to do. Without them, there would still be gaps in my learning.” GOAL SETTING AT NORTHRIDGE ELEMENTARY Once you have reflected, it is important to set goals. Principal Lorynda Sa mpson of Northridge Elementa ry believes tha t if students set mea ningful goals for themselves, they begin to take collective ownership of the learning and outcomes.“Students are more encouraged, and they work harder and smarter after setting goals.” Research backs her experience. When motiva ted by progress, students a re more likely to be “challenge seekers” than “challenge avoiders”. Emily Fiebig, a fifth grade teacher a t Northridge, has students reflect on formative assessments and then set goals to manifest the changes they wish to see in themselves. “It’s important for students
to take ownership of their learning and know what they are working towards,” says Fiebig. Mea ningful goal setting involves personalizing the assessment process so that it is tailored to the student’s needs. At Northridge, even students in first grade set personalized assessment and learning goals with the help of their teachers. As second grader, Stephen Ma thews said, “Every time I take a test, I think about what I’m going to do on math problems and with words. We set goals and it makes testing easier.” Helping students identify positive behaviors a nd then monitoring a nd reflecting on those behaviors leverages the control they have on the assessment and helps them identify behaviors that help take them further. ACTION AT ERIE HIGH SCHOOL Walking through Erie High School, the first thing you notice are the posters with university names, freshman GPA’s and the average accepted SAT scores floating above smiling students. “The school encourages us so much,” said senior, Jadon Lucero. Current senior Caleb Humble actually sta rted to see his possibilities open, “I started paying attention to the posters and I couldn’t believe I could get into some of those schools! It was encouraging.” Students at Erie High saw first-hand how delibera te practice, reflection a nd goal setting helped them meet stressful challenges, build confidence a nd a tta in learning targets. Across the district, staff at various high schools administered practice exa ms on la te sta rt days a nd even on Saturdays, to a good turn-out. “I had a lot of stress before I took my first practice test,” says Lucero. “I wanted a basketball scholarship – I had the grades, but I needed a higher SAT score. It was really stressful for me.” After delibera te practice on his weaknesses, Jadon says, the practice tests boosted his confidence and overall knowledge of the particulars of the exam.
This year, all high schools plan to continue providing this experience for students to help them refine their skills. Preparation for the SAT has to be built on skills, test-taking practice should just be a refinement. Because SAT skills are all aligned to Colorado Academic Standards, when students seek help on questions, they are really seeking help on skills that will set the stage for success in their future endeavors. “The practice tests, a nd specifically working on my reading skills, helped me a lot on the actual test date,” said Faith Chatten, senior. “These skills will continue serving me in the future.” Many St. Vrain Valley students plan on attaining some sort of postsecondary degree. That will play a large role in the jobs our students can apply for. By 2020, 74 percent of all jobs in Colorado will require some postseconda ry educa tion, a nd 41 percent will require a bachelor’s degree or higher. Our job, as a district that truly believes in academic excellence by design, extends far beyond the PK-12 years of a student’s life. We believe tha t every student who wants to extend their education further not only has that option, but is prepared for success. ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
OUR SCHOOLS ARE FULL OF OUTSTANDING EDUCATORS. LET’S MEET FOUR OF ST. VRAIN’S FINEST... BY DAVID PORT PHOTOS BY KERRI MCDERMID
Burlington Elementary Teacher, Jesse Sapir
OME PEOPLE REALIZE EARLY THEY WERE BORN TO TEACH and devote their entire careers to it. Others discover their calling as educators later in life. Some teachers gravitate to early learners who need help tying their shoes, some to middle schoolers in the throes of adolescence and others to high schoolers with basic reading and writing challenges. Regardless of how and why they came to teaching, the common denominator for the four St. Vrain Valley educators profiled here is a genuine passion for helping kids succeed in the classroom and in life. JESSE SAPIR, THIRD GRADE TEACHER, BURLINGTON ELEMENTARY “I teach because…I enjoy being with my students every day.” Like most teachers, Jesse Sapir is always searching for new and creative ways to connect with kids. For Sapir, who is entering his twelfth year teaching third grade at Burlington Elementary and his fourteenth year at the school, the go-to tool for engaging device-happy digital era kids in the classroom is a decidedly low-tech throwback from the 1970s: the Rubik’s Cube 3-D puzzle. “I keep 20 of them in the classroom, and every year, I get a bunch of kids hooked on it. [Trying to solve the puzzle] teaches them patience and the value of practice,” explains Sapir, 37, who grew up a short train ride from New York City and later settled in Colorado after attending college and graduate school at the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State, respectively. “It’s interesting, too, because the kids who end up being the best at solving it aren’t always the ones you would expect.” A rock climber, skateboarder and father of two kids under age five, Sapir says he savors the unpredictability and fast pace that come with teaching eight- and nine-year-olds. “My job is different every day. You’re racing the clock, trying to get things done, instead of watching the clock.” Each school year brings its own unique set of circumstances and teaching challenges, and this past one, with a class that happened to consist of twothirds boys, was no different, he says. “That brought a whole different level of energy.” Matching that energy is perhaps a teacher’s biggest challenge, Sapir acknowledges. “Teaching is demanding, no doubt. There is no down time ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
stream of the “light bulb moments” that the hiking enthusiast Corne, 35, says are her most rewarding as a teacher. “When I see a kid make two-and-half grade levels of growth in a single school year, and gain confidence by pushing themselves, that’s the best part of my job.”
Mead High Teacher, Kelly Corne
whatsoever. It can be exhausting.” But watching kids discover and learn – and master the Rubik’s Cube in 13 steps – makes all that expended energy worthwhile. “The moments where I see them do things they never thought they could do, that’s when I know I’m making a difference.”
TRACEY KING, KINDERGARTEN TEACHER, ERIE ELEMENTARY “I teach because…I want to inspire the next generation of kids.” The comment ca me out of nowhere from one of Tracey King’s kindergarten students toward the end of the last school year, yet another reminder that she made the right career choice. “‘I want to be just like you, Mrs. King, a teacher,’” she recounts the kindergartner telling her. King, 31 a nd expecting her second child this year, almost chose another path. Although she says she realized as a high schooler in her native Wichita, Kansas, that she wanted a career working with kids, other, more lucrative professions beckoned. Then, as an undergrad at the University of Colorado Boulder, came an epiphany. “I realized I wanted to do something that I’m passionate about, and that’s always been teaching.” Once she committed to teaching, King quickly gravita ted towa rd elementa ry-
I work with the other. Some of the highlevel reading activities that work with kids in an AP class I can adapt for the literacy students. And seeing some of the things the literacy kids struggle with, I think, helps me understand how to help kids in the AP class.” That dual perspective proved especially KELLY CORNE, ENGLISH AND useful during the 2016-2017 school year, LITERACY TEACHER, MEAD HIGH she says, when the “AP for All” program SCHOOL debuted at Mead High, opening AP English “I teach because…I love empowering classes to students who otherwise may not students to learn to love reading and find have qualified. value in themselves and their potential to That, combined with her work in the make a difference in the world.” school’s literacy program, provides a steady Kelly Corne straddles both ends of the educational spectrum at Mead High School, Erie Elementary Teacher, Tracey King as a literacy teacher for students whose English writing a nd reading skills a re below grade level and as an AP literature teacher for kids who already read and write at a college level. Corne, a mother of two who’s been teaching in St. Vrain Valley Schools for more than a decade, including the last seven years at Mead High, says the juxtaposition makes her better at her job. “I see kids who don’t feel successful a t a nything finally start to have success, and I see kids that have never struggled at school. Working with one group, I think, helps inform how 31
aged kids, ea rning a master’s degree in elementary education at Regis University in Denver in 2010, then la nding a kindergarten teaching post at Erie a few years later, in 2014. “I just fell in love with the five- and sixyear-olds. They’re so excited to come to school and everything is a new experience for them,” says the sixth-year teacher, who is also an avid runner and reader. “These a re a ma zing little people, a nd I get the opportunity to do something to their hearts and minds when they’re little, to provide that small piece of inspiration that maybe they’ll carry around with them for the rest of their lives.” Her students provide plenty for King to carry around, too. “They’re just such good people,” she says. “There’s so much bad stuff happening today, but they remind you that there’s a lot of good in the world, too. These kids are just full of kindness and thoughtfulness.” JANIS VOGELSBERG, SEVENTH GRADE SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER, COAL RIDGE MIDDLE SCHOOL “I teach because…it is a calling and because I am excited to see the journey students make.” It took 12 years of colleagues repeatedly asking her, “Why a ren’t you a teacher, you’re so supportive of people and so good at training them?” before Janis Vogelsberg realized it was time to try to answer the question for herself. So Vogelsberg, 37 and the mother of two high schoolers, departed her job managing a medical imaging practice to return to school for a teaching degree. Now, after three years at Coal Ridge Middle School in Firestone, she isn’t looking back. Teaching, she says, “is truly what I was meant to do. For me, it’s a calling, not a job.” Lea rning, she says, is a journey tha t teachers and students make together – in this case through world history and culture. Her chosen companions on the journey are middle schoolers, a group with which she says she has a special connection. “There’s a lot going on socially and emotionally for
them during this time, and middle school can set the tone for where a person goes in life. It’s one of those things where if we don’t grab them now…” Stoking students’ appetite for learning doesn’t appea r to be a problem for Vogelsberg, who employs a blended learning model that gives kids greater input into their educational experience through a combination of self-directed online work and classroom time. Vogelsberg says she’s bent on making tha t class time mea ningful – a nd fun – by cooking up activities like the “Pats vs. Plebs” game (modeled after Jenga, a game played with wooden blocks) to illustrate the social dynamics that prevailed between the upper-class Patricians and working-class Plebeians of Ancient Rome. Keeping it fresh in the classroom is not always easy, nor is presiding over a couple dozen emotionally and hormonally roiling middle schoolers, concedes Vogelsberg, who outside the classroom enjoys swimming, singing and the outdoors. “It’s extremely difficult. There’s no turning off with this job. Once you accept that, it’s inspiring and amazing!”
By the Numbers E D U C A T O R S I N S T. V R A I N
teacher/student contact hours in a school year.
teachers with graduate degrees.
professional development credits earned by teachers and staff last year.
total employees in St. Vrain Valley Schools.
Coal Ridge Middle Teacher, Janis Vogelsberg ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
Through student support, St. Vrain Valley Schools launched a solar energy project that will bring 3,740 panels to three schools and save the district approximately $5 million.
I WASN’T INTO SCIENCE AS A YOUNG KID, BUT IT REALLY STARTED FOR ME IN THIRD GRADE,” sa id Kimberly Fung on a hot afternoon last May, in between classes and studying for finals. “Eagle Crest Elementary became a Green Star School which really opened my mind to wha t composting could do for the world and how we could save these natural resources.” From that spark of curiosity in third grade, Fung has developed a strong drive to have a positive impact on her community and a continued commitment to energy conservation and environmental sustainability. Now a senior a t Silver Creek High School, Fung was one of five students who were part of a student solar committee that was instrumental in helping Dara Ward, Energy and Sustainability Manager for St. Vrain Valley Schools, bring a major solar energy project to the district. “When you ca n make a cha nge tha t is positive not only for your world a nd your community, either small or big, it is
something to really hold on to,” said Fung. “There a re a lot of people in the world who are just waiting to hear from you and support your success.” Through their work, and a partnership with Xcel Energy and Microgrid Energy, Ward and the students negotiated a deal to bring 3,740 solar panels to three schools in the district – Erie Middle, Niwot High and
Red Hawk Elementary – that will cover 79 percent of the energy needs for those buildings and save St. Vrain approximately $5 million over 30 years. The project is a significant achievement, not only for the large cost savings that will safeguard the district from rising utility prices, but also the adva nced lea rning opportunities for students at all levels.
Photo: Silver Creek High students, Mason Williams and Kimberly Fung discuss an upcoming solar installation.
“For a large school district like St. Vrain Valley Schools to be willing and able to be part of this kind of energy and resource conversation effort, it really helps the rest of us. They are not only leading by example, they are saving money and creating jobs,” said former Colorado Governor, Bill Ritter, now Director of the Center for the New Economy at Colorado State University. “Also, it helps kids understand that we have to pay attention to this. We have to pay attention to how we consume resources, to costs and to emissions.” Echoing Governor Ritter’s sentiment, Mason Williams, a junior at Silver Creek used his experience on the student solar committee to dive deeper into the economic and business aspects of energy planning and conservation. “Before joining the student sola r committee, I had been doing independent resea rch on how clima te cha nge is impacting our planet – not just scientifically, but economically. From a business aspect, it is a major job creator,” said Williams. “One thing tha t I really lea rned through this experience was how important the prep work was to the planning process, such as figuring out how much it is going to cost, what it is going to save us and how we can negotiate a deal that is best for our district.” Last spring, Fung a nd Willia ms presented the sola r project proposal to the Board of Education who unanimously approved the project, not only for the operational and cost-saving measures, but also the educational value it will bring to
current and future students. “For me, there was a personal kind of reward for being a part of something outside of school for the benefit of our district,” said Williams. “Once the project was approved, it was very rewarding to know that everything you’ve done and all the time you spent has lead to something impactful and important.” Fostering young leadership in sustainability and energy management is essential to economic success now and in the future. St. Vrain Valley Schools offers many opportunities for passionate students to engage in work addressing important environmental questions, including the Energy Academy a t Mead High School, the Green Sta r Schools progra m a nd independent resea rch opportunities in classes across the district. “We think this is one of the grea t challenges of our future – developing a workforce that will adapt to a 21st-century energy system,” said Ritter. “It is important beca use we believe there will continue to be change in the energy economy and the workforce will need to respond. To esta blish tha t mindset ea rly on in our students is really the best way to get a jumpstart on the transitioning workforce and a strong energy future for our communities.” For Colorado and St. Vrain, the future looks bright as student engagement and environmental leadership continues to build across the district. “It is a priority for St. Vrain to continue identifying a nd embracing real-world problem solving, design thinking programs and other offerings for our students so they are well-equipped to excel in a growing energy and sustainability industry,” said Dara Ward. “As we expand our renewable energy reach a nd bring susta ina bility solutions to the forefront through environmental awareness, STEM education and building operations, St. Vrain is serving as a model for other school districts and communities around the nation.”
By the Numbers S U S T A I N A B I L I T Y I N S T. V R A I N
in estimated annual savings for the 3,740 panel solar installation across three school sites, equivalent to 3,953 residential homes’ annual electrical usage.
is saved annually through school engagement resources and conservation behavior programs.
is saved annually in lighting upgrades such as LEDs and lighting controls.
of St. Vrain Valley schools are participating in sustainability programming, which includes: • ReNew Our Schools Energy Competition • Resource-Wise program • Green Schools Recycling Challenges • Green Star Schools • Earth Day events • School gardens • Water investigations • Environmental education
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
PERSEVERING to SUCCEED BY DAVID PORT PHOTOS BY KERRI MCDERMID AND JEFFREY SYLVESTER
2017 FREDERICK HIGH GRAD, JUSTIN WEBER, INSPIRES A COMMUNITY WITH HIS IMPROBABLE RECOVERY FROM A DEVASTATING 2016 BIKE ACCIDENT
HAT STRUCK FREDERICK HIGH SCHOOL GUIDANCE COUNSELOR KATHY ZULAUF about this before-and-after storyline was not how different Justin Weber seemed after a near-fatal dirt biking accident in March 2016 left him with a traumatic brain injury, but rather how close to his usual self Weber remained, even as he dealt with a daunting, odds-defying recovery from his injuries. “He has such an endearing personality to begin with, and he never lost his sense of humor,” says Zulauf, who knew Justin prior to the accident and became close with him and his family while she quarterbacked the effort to get him back on track academically after the accident. “His positive attitude made all the difference in the world in his recovery.” From a grim initial few weeks when family and friends wondered if Justin would survive at all, to a gloomy early medical prognosis that cast doubt on whether he would ever reclaim his physical and mental capabilities after spending three weeks in a coma, to a stunningly rapid recovery that this past spring saw the 18-year-old graduate on-time with his classmates at Frederick High, the story he has spent the past year-anda-half writing, with the help of his parents, fellow students, teachers and others like Zulauf, has surprised just about everyone who has witnessed it — except maybe Justin himself.
Photo: Justin Weber embraces Frederick High School counselor, Kathy Zulauf, after receiving his high school diploma in May 2017. ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
“I could always see myself [recovering],” he says, despite an Evel Knievel-like litany of injuries that included brain shearing, a fractured skull, broken neck and collarbone, shattered wrist and optical nerve damage in one eye (an issue that continues to cause him vision problems). Enduring all the therapy at Craig Hospital, the renowned rehabilitation facility where he spent much of the spring and summer of 2016, “was hard work, and I had a lot of schoolwork to make up, too.” “He had to relearn how to walk, talk, sit, stand, swallow — basically everything,” adds Kim Weber, Justin’s mom. “He just would not take ‘You can’t’ for an answer. From day one, he never felt self-pity or sadness or asked, ‘Why me?’” IT TAKES A VILLAGE Instead, as soon as he could, Justin got down to the work of recovery. Once he emerged from his coma and after his speech returned about a month-and-a-half later, Justin began rehabbing in earnest at Craig. That included eight hours a day of intensive therapy, supplemented by plenty of academics. Within a month of the accident, Justin was standing again. And continuous improvement ca me steadily after that. As grueling as the physical therapy was, keeping pace academically required some heavy lifting, too, not only by Justin but by faculty and staff members at Frederick High School, Craig Hospital and the school district’s Ca reer Development Center (CDC). Zulauf served as academic conduit between them all, working closely with Cra ig Hospital’s in-house high school teacher, Laura Magnuson, as well as CDC instructors such as Jim Cade and Lauren Hart, and Sarah Moore and Rebecca Zahn at Frederick High. “They all went above and beyond,” says Photo: Justin Weber during welding class at the CDC. 37
Kim Weber. “The staff and teachers at Frederick, the CDC and at Craig, were amazing in their support of Justin, the encouragement they gave him and their willingness to be flexible with his academic work,” echoes Zulauf. Even with a strong educational support tea m, Justin says academics were the hardest part of his recovery. “There were math skills that I wasn’t able to do really well, which was kind of frustra ting. I received a lot of help, so I got caught up.” Justin has had a lot of catching up to do outside of high school, too. There was continuing his pursuit of a certificate in welding from Front Ra nge Community College. There was tending to his personal herd of 30 dairy cows, which he keeps at a nearby farm and shows competitively at livestock events around the region. And there was tending to his social life. Like most high schoolers, Justin had prom on his mind. In the spring of 2016,
less than two months removed from what he now calls “my wreck,” Justin left Craig Hospital to attend the Frederick High prom, arriving in a chauffeur-driven limousine. Just the day before, he had walked for the first time by himself since the accident, recounts Kim Weber. But Justin had more on his mind than just walking. He spent a good chunk of prom night out on the dance floor. Justin’s brief prom night appearance back in Frederick was as inspiring as it was improbable, says Zulauf. “It was a defining moment when he showed up. I think everyone who saw him that night knew nothing was ever going to keep him down.” Having endured the darkest parental moments contemplating the potential loss of her child, then stood by Justin virtually every day of his recovery, Kim Weber says seeing him walk to collect his high school diploma in May was among her proudest moments. “It was a celebra tion for me,
because I had been there every step of the the ordeal, says Kim. “Something like this way. He worked really hard for that.” could tea r a fa mily apa rt a nd we stuck together. Now we’re best friends on top of A NEW NORMAL, A FRESH it all.” CHAPTER What seemed in dark times like a before/ These days, diploma earned, Justin is after storyline that would end prematurely back to what his mom says is his “normal and tragically in the spring of 2016 is once everyday routine” – keeping his cows again open-ended, with plenty of chapters show-ready, welding in the metal shop (a still to be written. As for the author of that passion sparked in him by his father, Jason) story, Justin Weber, “he knows he has a and hanging out with friends. While he second chance,” his mother says, “and he’s occasionally has short-term memory lapses taking full advantage.” a nd plays mind ga mes on his phone to For Justin, that could mean pursuing continue the neurological healing process, passions that he cultivated at St. Vrain’s Justin is, she says, “back to his old self.” Ca reer Development Center, owning a Yet even Justin admits he has emerged dairy farm, or, once he earns his college from the wreck and the recovery with a metal-working certificate, opening his own changed outlook. “I don’t take anything for welding shop. Or maybe it will be both. granted anymore,” he says. “I was thankful Whatever course Justin chooses, the “after” for stuff, but certain things, like hanging in this story should be worth watching. out with friends and family, didn’t mean as much to me as they do now.” The Weber family is also stronger after
“It was a defining moment when he showed up. I think everyone who saw him that night knew nothing was ever going to keep him down.” KATHY ZULAUF, COUNSELOR FREDERICK HIGH SCHOOL
By the Numbers STUDENT SUPPORT SYSTEMS
total students in St. Vrain Valley Schools, all of whom have access to support systems as needed to foster their growth and continued academic success. Programs include: •
Birth to Three Reading Initiative
Colorado Preschool Program
Dyslexia Task Force
English Language Acquisition Services
Family Liaison/Interpreter Team
In Focus Program
McKinney-Vento Homeless Education
School to Work Alliance Program
Sources of Strength
Traumatic Brain Injury Support Team
Truancy Prevention and Support
of St. Vrain students are identified as students with disabilities.
of St. Vrain Valley students are English language learners. ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
St. Vrain Valley Schools has had tremendous success in cultivating a culture of school safety, positive outlooks and interconnectedness. BY MATTHEW WIGGINS PHOTOS BY JOHN DAVID, KERRI MCDERMID AND MATTHEW WIGGINS
School Culture Drives Student Safety I
T IS NO SECRET THAT ST. VRAIN VA L L E Y S C H O O L S VA LU E S CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY, high-quality teachers a nd academic excellence within its schools. These essentials a re considered ‘priority one’ when speaking to any district official or community stakeholder. Another area of equal importa nce is student sa fety a nd providing secure learning environments for our community’s grea test asset – students. With the successful passage of two bond measures and strong finances, St. Vrain remains dedicated to investing in safety and security. Over a span of eight
yea rs, the school district has alloca ted $4.2 million to facility improvements such as secure entryways, indoor a nd outdoor camera systems, school resource officers (SROs) and upgrades related to increased emergency response times. In addition to building upgrades, students and staff engage in several trainings and drills throughout the year – averaging 811 drills across all schools annually and 1,890 hours of training designated for campus supervisors, SROs, school leadership and district administration. Every camera installed and every drill performed greatly increases our ability to
provide safe learning environments, but by far, the greatest asset we have in responding to critical situations is the culture created within the classrooms and hallways of our schools. Staci Stallings has been an SRO at Silver Creek High School for the past three years of her ten-year tenure with the Longmont Police Department. She fully believes that a strong, well-defined culture contributes to school safety. “The term school sa fety is often associated with prevention. When I think of school safety, I think of a student’s mental health, the quality of life in school a nd
Photo: Stacy Stallings, School Resource Officer for Silver Creek High sitting with students at lunch. Inset photos: Silver Creek students enjoying science and band class. relationships developed between students,” said Stallings. “These issues affect school safety and can be linked to documented incidents of school violence.” Overall, St. Vra in Valley Schools has 13 dedica ted SROs servicing all neighborhood schools and the 411 square miles surrounding them. While these officers ultimately serve the community by enforcing the law, they are an integral part of school culture and discipline – they must be approachable. “The key is to rema in visible – I never stand alone. There are always kids conversing in the halls or at lunch. I use
that time to ask questions and get to know as many students as I can.” When Stallings is not cruising the halls or having lunch with incoming freshmen, she can be found participating in classroom discussions, accompanying classes on leadership retreats, attending co-curricular activities or overseeing Silver Creek’s Restorative Justice (RJ) Program, a program designed to engage students on both ends of an infraction – the ‘offender’ and the ‘victim’. Stallings successfully esta blished the RJ Program during the 2016-2017 school year, with the support of the Longmont
Community Justice Pa rtnership (LCJP). When used, RJ is a highly effective, alternative form of discipline that engages all parties involved and allows for a healthy emotional healing process. To sta rt the process, the ‘offender’ must first take responsibility for his or her actions. Once this is acknowledged, the ‘victim’ and his or her parents or guardians must agree to participate in a group conference. This conference involves both parties, staffed facilitators and LCJP trained student peers. Collectively, the group decides action items for the ‘offender’ to complete. This could consist of a written apology, a published ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
article on a meaningful topic or any other constructive form of contrition. Once all action items are completed, offenders are eligible for reduced punishment while victims experience a more mea ningful resolution. The RJ Program is not the only initiative impacting Silver Creek’s school culture and safety. Sources of Strength (SOS) is a national project that encourages students to develop help-seeking behaviors a nd promotes connections between peers and ca ring adults. Interventionist Whitney Mires was first exposed to SOS a t a Colorado Safe Schools Conference. “Sources of Strength is a communityoriented progra m tha t concentra tes on positive solutions ra ther tha n the ‘sad, shock and trauma’ approach often used in progra ms supporting mental health,” said Mires. “The goal is to reach all of our students with this program, not just those within select focus programs.” Through a large grant from Boulder County Public Health, the school was able to host an initial training of 50 students and 12 staff members in the fall of 2016 with plans to host a second training this fall. During the second year of this initiative, new recruits are nominated by peer leaders from the previous year and they participate 41
“When I think of school safety, I think of a student’s mental health, the quality of life in school or relationships developed between students.” OFFICER STACI STALLINGS SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER, SILVER CREEK HIGH SCHOOL
in group informa tional meetings, oneon-one conversa tions a nd ca mpa ign development activities. Senior, Aubrey Hanrahan, feels so strongly about the SOS program, she’s made it her senior capstone project for Silver Creek’s Leadership Academy. Ha nraha n is a valua ble peer leader a nd looks forwa rd to further integration of SOS in the school’s culture. “It is a positive program that focuses on supporting students,” said Hanrahan. “Many of my friends currently trained in
the program feel genuinely supported and realize there are ways in which they can reach out for help if they need it.” SOS has a la rge inventory of predesigned materials to guide student-led activities, but schools are encouraged to adjust their program based on their school’s culture and level of participation. Silver Creek’s program utilizes posters, videos, audio recordings and social media content by producing various campaigns that target specific challenges students often face –
Photo: Aubrey Hanrahan (left), Ben Willett and Amanda Harvey walking through the hallway at Silver Creek High. Hanrahan is focusing on the school’s Sources of Strength program as her senior capstone project. depression, anxiety and anger, to name a few. Each campaign uses images of actual Silver Creek students and focuses on how they deal with these common emotions. This increases relatability and drastically improves the school’s efforts in recruiting new students and peer leaders. Schools are encouraged to share their efforts with other schools in their community and across the nation. Social-emotional progra ms such as Sources of Strength a nd Restora tive Justice have proven successful within St. Vrain, prompting the district to develop additional stra tegies for continuous improvement. These include increased student participation and engagement at school, strengthening emotional support and stress management, and emphasizing healthy habits and behaviors. During the 2015-2016 school year, St. Vrain implemented its first ever Wellness, Culture and Safety Inventory (WCSI), an online questionnaire that collects feedback from high school students. The inventory takes approximately 30 minutes to complete a nd focuses on student well-being a nd issues that impact academic performance and success. Results from the 2016-2017 WCSI questionna ire revealed tha t most high school students feel very secure and safe in their school environments. They like and feel connected to their schools, have many chances to be involved and feel very strongly that graduation and having plans for the future are extremely important. Another tool in St. Vrain is Safe2Tell, a Colorado orga niza tion serving as the sta tewide bysta nder reporting tool for concerning behaviors. Safe2Tell encourages individuals with critical information about a possible event to report it.
Susan Payne, Founder and Director of Safe2Tell believes an increase in the number of tips received each year demonstrates a change in the culture and attitudes about reporting unsafe behaviors and situations. Over the past ten years, social norms have changed. Payne says, “It is impera tive tha t we lower the threshold of wha t triggers a student report or a nonymous tip. Notifica tions of the smallest concern contribute to the safety of students and staff.” Children a re exposed to higher a mounts of communica tion through social media and other online platforms. While it is impossible to monitor every scrap of information a student receives, it is possible to encourage reporting, build social-emotional skills a nd provide the tools necessary to inform authorities in a comfortable way. “Young people perceive threats to school safety long before adults,” said Payne. “It is extremely importa nt for students to recognize the importa nce of reporting suspicious activity to an adult or through the Safe2Tell hotline.” St. Vra in Valley Schools, had ma ny reports in the 2016-2017 school year. These reports ranged from bullying to petty theft, but show that students are willing to report and build upon the life skills and resiliency programs they are engaged in. Just as St. Vra in has experienced tremendous success in developing strong academic programming, integrated learning technologies and professional development, it has succeeded in cultivating a culture of school sa fety, positive outlooks a nd interconnectedness.
By the Numbers S A F E T Y A N D C U LT U R E
invested in safety features, camera systems and upgrades over the past eight years.
hours of training designated for campus supervisors, SROs, school leadership and district administration
of high school students reported feeling safe at school over the past 12 months.
of St. Vrain’s schools are equipped with industry-leading security features and have robust safety and emergency management plans in place.
Contact Safe2Tell 877-542-7233 or safe2tell.org
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
Schools under construction
Elementary 27 (PK-5)
19 Frederick High School
35 Niwot High School
IB World School, STEM
AES.SVVSD.ORG 2 Altona Middle School Leadership AMS.SVVSD.ORG 3 Aspen Ridge Preparatory School
CU Succeed, Biomedical Engineering
20 Hygiene Elementary
36 Northridge Elementary
8 Olde Columbine High School
ASPENRIDGEPREPSCHOOL.ORG 4 Black Rock Elementary
21 Imagine PK-8 Core Knowledge IMAGINEFIRESTONE.ORG 22 Indian Peaks Elementary
38 Red Hawk Elementary
A Gifted and Talented, World Language School
BRES.SVVSD.ORG 5 Blue Mountain Elementary
37 Prairie Ridge Elementary PRES.SVVSD.ORG
Science, Technology and Inquiry
6 7 8 9 10 11
23 Legacy Elementary LEGACYES.SVVSD.ORG 24 Longmont Estates Elementary
40 Sanborn Elementary
Carbon Valley Academy
25 Longmont High School
Medical and BioScience, Advanced
41 Silver Creek High School
Career Development Center
Placement, High School of Business
26 Longs Peak Middle School
42 Skyline High School
IB Primary Years Programme
27 Lyons Elementary
43 Spark! Discovery Preschool STEM
Coal Ridge Middle School
28 Lyons Middle/Senior High School
39 Rocky Mountain Elementary STEM
STEM, Visual and Performing Arts, P-TECH
12 Columbine Elementary STEM
29 Main Street School
44 St. Vrain Community Montessori School SVCMONTESSORI.ORG 8 St. Vrain Online Global Academy
13 Eagle Crest Elementary
30 Mead Elementary
45 Sunset Middle School
14 Erie Elementary
31 Mead High School
46 Thunder Valley K-8
47 Timberline PK-8
15 Erie High School
32 Mead Middle School
Engineering and Aerospace, AP Capstone
CSU Online Program
Energy Academy, CU Succeed, AP Capstone
EXCEL: Extraâ€”Curricular Engagement and
48 Trail Ridge Middle School
16 Erie Middle School
33 Mountain View Elementary
Rigorous Academics Enhanced
17 Fall River Elementary
Through the Arts, STEM
49 Twin Peaks Academy TWINPEAKSCHARTER.ORG 50 Westview Middle School
34 Niwot Elementary
18 Flagstaff Academy FLAGSTAFFACADEMY.ORG
School of Differentiated Instruction
ST. VRAIN VALLEY SCHOOLS
St. Vrain Valley Public Schools RE-1J 395 S. Pratt Parkway Longmont, CO 80501
CONNECT WITH US
The Frederick High School Class of 2017 participates in a ‘Grad Walk’ at Prairie Ridge Elementary School. Photo by Kerri McDermid
ST. VRAINNOVATION was produced in-house by the district communications team and funded by: