By Brian Hagberg
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Last month, Dr. Pat Cullen, Ellicott School District superintendent, met with housing residents for a question-and-answer session and promised to return in a month’s time.
He was back at the Tierra Vista community center April 22, and brought elementary and high school administrators with him to give more specific answers to resident questions.
“These guys are here because they know exactly what’s going on in their schools,” Cullen said.
Cullen was joined by Ellicott High School Principal Mark McPherson, Ellicott Elementary Principal Joe Torrez and Ellicott Elementary Assistant Principal Susan Flores. All of the administrators are relatively new to the district and want to utilize events like these sessions with housing residents to strengthen the district’s relationship with Schriever Air Force Base.
“I really enjoy what we’re doing with Schriever and the participation by the [base] leadership, as well as the Airmen coming out and working in our school,” Torrez said.
Some of the events Torrez said base personnel have traditionally volunteered for include the school’s annual field day events, the fourth grade bike rodeo and awards assemblies.
“We have three days in a row during the last week of school of field days,” Torrez said. “We had Airmen who volunteered at our field day activities, and last year, we had 20 to 25 volunteers [support].”
Cullen opened the meeting by letting residents know concerns they had raised previously, specifically concerning incorrect or outdated information on the district website, had been or were in the process of being corrected.
“Every calendar on the front page of our website has been updated,” Cullen said. “The other thing we’re going to put in place starting next year is every teacher will have a Google Sites page. If you want to find out what’s happening in that classroom you can go there.”
Torrez said he thinks the new system will be more user-friendly than the current communication system.
“Moving forward, I think that with the new student information system, we’ll be able to disaggregate grade-level groups, classroom groups, sports groups, things like that,” Torrez said. “I think the functionality of the newer system we’re moving to will be a lot more user-friendly.”
Cullen said the district recently approved adding a grant writer and public relations person to the staff as a way to help keep lines of communication open and current.
McPherson explained some of the measures the high school is taking to expand its advanced course offerings. He said four teachers would be attending Advanced Placement training during the summer in order to offer AP courses in each core area of study.
“We have two [AP courses] now and we’re going to be offering four more, one in each core area, next year, as well as honors courses for the freshmen and sophomores,” McPherson said.
The high school is also working to increase the number of concurrent courses offered as well, he added. Concurrent courses are courses students take in high school, but receive college credit.
Residents’ questions touched on a variety of topics during the hour-long session, though most of the time was spent addressing questions about the district’s preschool program and leadership opportunities for students.
Torrez explained the preschool program serves 3- and 4-year-old children who meet certain qualifying factors. Those factors include speech, cognitive or physical delays, poverty, medical conditions or anything that might impact a child’s ability to advance at the same level as their peers.
“There are ways to qualify for the program, which is funded by the state,” Torrez said. “The Department of Human Services, the Preschool Alliance for Kids, the Colorado Department of Education and a district preschool advisory council all have oversight on our program.”
He said the program has four teachers, three of whom teach both a morning and afternoon session, and one who teaches a morning session then serves as the preschool director and holds office hours in the afternoon.
“It’s play-based [learning], but we have an actual curriculum,” Torrez said. “They have very specific curriculum and goals they work to achieve.”
Both Cullen and McPherson said while there are some opportunities for students to take on leadership roles at the high school, the district is trying to find new programs to provide additional opportunities.
“We’re getting ready to tackle what we’re doing for next year in the next six weeks,” McPherson said. “We recognize there is a need for leadership opportunities and we will be taking a look at trying to implement some of those in our building.”
Cullen said the district has looked into opportunities to develop partnerships with different schools to give students an opportunity to learn about state government, as well as possibly implementing a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program.
“Of course, we’d like to see our school involved in some ROTC program,” Cullen said. “This partnership is critical to us and we value it, so whatever we can do to better serve you, we want to do.”
A date for the next meet and greet session has not been announced.