School safety, school finance and new graduation requirements were some of the important issues covered during the Cherry Creek Schools Day at the Capitol, hosted by the Cherry Creek Community Legislative Network on Feb. 27. A crowd of more than 50 citizens took part in the annual event, which provides an opportunity to observe lawmakers in action, meet with some of them face-to-face and get updates on legislative issues that could impact public education.
Board of Education President David Willman welcomed the group, which included several district employees, many parents and even some students. Parent Nikki Royer-Allen brought her son, Brodie, a seventh-grader at Campus Middle School. She felt it was a worthwhile experience for both of them.
“People need to be more aware of the issues the district is facing on a macro scale,” Royer-Allen said. “Plus, it’s an opportunity to take a field trip with your child.”
“Law fascinates me and I wanted to see the workings of the legislature,” Brodie Allen said. “It was interesting to see the Senate and the House of Representatives and the variation between them, and also some of the laws they were proposing and the angles on them, specifically.”
Four seniors from Smoky Hill High School also participated in Day at the Capitol. They were doing research for a group project in their Probability and Statistics class.
“The goal of our project as a whole is to focus on standardized testing,” said senior Jacob Wortham. “We’re trying to reach that legislative level and find out what can we do to change testing that would be for the betterment of all students.”
The students and other participants heard from Dr. Harry Bull, superintendent of Cherry Creek Schools. He addressed the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla. and emphasized that the Cherry Creek School District is constantly evaluating its comprehensive school safety plans and protocols. He told the audience that the district is doing everything it can to ensure the safety of nearly 55,000 students and 8,000 staff members, but that more is needed.
“As a community, we need to have conversations about guns and mental health,” Bull said. “We just have to.”
Bull also touched on the ever-present problem of inadequate school funding in Colorado. He briefly explained a school finance proposal, developed by 171 superintendents from across the state. The proposal is based on the concepts of equity and adequacy and would provide funding based on the needs of students, rather than just the number of students, Bull said.
Joi Green, the counseling coordinator for Cherry Creek Schools, updated the group on new graduation requirements which go into effect for the Class of 2021, students who are now freshmen. Green explained that while the Legislature and Colorado Department of Education approved new graduation guidelines, they didn’t specifically define them, leaving some flexibility to each district to develop and implement new measures. The biggest change, Green said, is that in addition to accruing the required 22 credits, students will also have to demonstrate competency in English and math. Cherry Creek Schools has identified a number of different ways students will be able to do that. For example, they can obtain a qualifying score on standardized tests including the ACT and SAT, Advanced Placement and IB, ASVAB, as well as the Accuplacer assessment. Additional options for students in CCSD could also be completion of a district defined capstone or by earning an industry certificate.
The event wrapped up with a luncheon where citizens had the
opportunity to talk face-to-face with lawmakers who represent the Cherry Creek
School District, including Rep. Jeff Bridges, Rep. Janet Buckner, Rep. Alec
Garnett, Rep. Cole Wist, Sen. Jack Tate and Sen. Nancy Todd.