Stapp Inspires- Behind the Scenes

Hello! Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Teacher Highlight! During the last several months, we have been introduced to some amazing teachers, coaches and administrators in the District. This month, we are going to switch gears and take a step out of the classroom. We are going to take a look at someone who works tirelessly behind the scenes. This month’s highlight is Board member Paula Peairs.

Paula was elected to the school board in 2013 and was recently re-elected to a second four-year term. Paula represents the Mead and Skyline feeder systems. While she does represent those areas, she feels a responsibility to the entire community for the success of the District. She is the proud mom of two St. Vrain alumni and still has one in the District.

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I had a chance to meet with Paula and learn a little bit more about her and her journey to the school board. Her journey is a relatable one. She started by volunteering in her children’s schools and attending PTO meetings. From there, she was elected PTO president and eventually wound up being one of the founding members of Grassroots St. Vrain. This group was focused on painting an accurate and truthful portrait of school funding, and clearly communicating the needs of the school district ahead of the 2008 mill levy override. From there, she joined Leadership St. Vrain where she discovered even more about District operations and education-related legislation.

Running for a position on the school board was the next logical step for Paula. She grew up in a community that strongly supported schools, and felt she could highlight what was going on in the District. Paula believes very strongly that community support is one of the greatest strengths of St. Vrain Valley Schools.

I asked Paula to give me an overview of how our school board functions. To start, St. Vrain has seven board members where most districts only have five members. By having a larger school board, there is more representation of the community and more ideas. Board members are elected to four-year terms on odd years. Each board member may serve two four-year terms. On election years, either three or four seats are available. Board members are elected “at large”, meaning they represent a specific area, but still make decisions about the success of the entire District. Board members help guide the direction of the school district as a whole.

 

We also discussed the difference between a bond and a mill levy as there is a big difference between the two. So, if you are like me, and didn’t realize the difference, here is a quick run- down. Voter approved elections for school districts generally involve either a capital improvement bond or a mill levy override. Both of these are funded through established mill levies that generate property tax revenues to pay for expenditures. A mill levy is the “tax rate” that is applied to the assessed value of a property. Capital improvement bonds are sold and the proceeds are used strictly for physical improvements – brick and mortar projects, technology and other enhancements. These bonds are typically repaid over 20 – 25 years and the mill levy sunsets – or ends – when those bonds are completely repaid. Through a mill levy override, community members vote to increase the mill levy rate to fund local schools. Funds generated by mill levies can be used for operational expenses, professional development and increasing overall student achievement. This mill levy can either sunset or continue forever depending on the approved ballot language. Because capital improvement bonds and mill levy overrides are used for different District resources, community members might see school districts ask for a bond one year and a mill levy another.

I asked Paula what was the biggest success she has been a part of as a Board member. She said, “We have so much community support. Superintendent Haddad has been able to gain the trust and support of the community. That has been invaluable in helping make sure we can provide equitable resources to each student.”  In the past, smaller communities in the District have felt overshadowed. The Board has worked hard to make sure resources enjoyed by larger communities are available to the smaller communities as well. She emphasized that it shouldn’t matter which zip code you live in, because every student should have access to highly qualified staff, safe learning environment and the latest technology.

She went on to explain that, because of the District’s size, they are able to do things on a larger scale. The District has looked at ways to centralize operations as much as they can. Having a central office focused on bus routes, food service, finance, and human resources allows principals to concentrate on the administration of their schools. The Board wants the principals to be building coaches, to know what is going on in their schools, and to be able to create an environment supportive of learning.

Our time was almost done, and I had one last question for Paula. I wanted to know what she had most enjoyed about her time on the Board. “Hearing community stories and being able to share my knowledge and resources with the community. There was a time when new school boundaries needed to be drawn and people couldn’t wait to leave their school. During a recent boundary meeting, parents came in and asked for their students to remain at their current school because they love the teachers and staff where they are. I’m optimistic about the future of St. Vrain Valley Schools.”

Paula, thank you for helping make St. Vrain Valley Schools one of the top districts in the state. We appreciate your time and for serving on the Board. Because of caring, involved people like you, the students of St. Vrain have amazing opportunities.

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Stapp Inspires- A Principal’s Vision

When was the last time you thought about how your child’s school functions? The identity of the school, the systems in place that help it function on a day to day basis, the culture of the school? If you were given a blank sheet of paper and were told you could design a school however you saw fit, what would it look like? What would you include? What would be your priorities for the school? What if that was happening in your community right now?

In November 2016, the residents of the St Vrain Valley Schools passed a $260.3 million bond measure allowing for significant renovations throughout the district and the construction of several new schools as well as a district-wide Innovation Center. One of the schools under construction is Erie PK-8 (this is just a placeholder, until the naming process is completed this spring–there will be several opportunities for the Erie community to provide input before the school board votes on the final name).  Erie residents have the unique opportunity to help design the perfect school for their community.  This month’s Stapp Inspires Educator Highlight focuses on the founding principal of this new school, Cyrus Weinberger.  

 

I had the opportunity to meet Cyrus at Erie High School to discuss the design of the physical building, the hiring of a leadership team, and the planning going on behind the scenes. So far this has been the only interview where hard hats, safety vests and closed toed shoes were needed.

If Cyrus’ name sounds familiar, it should. He was the founding principal of Red Hawk Elementary in Erie which opened in 2010.  This school has had several notable accomplishments including the President’s Council for Nutrition and Physical Fitness Community Leadership Award, Child Obesity 180 Innovation Competition National Award and a Kaiser Thriving Schools Grant to name a few. Cyrus was the driving force behind implementing the All School Movement Program. This program provides students with 35-40 minutes of vigorous activity a day, in addition to P.E. and recess. Giving students the opportunity throughout the day to get up and move is a passion of Cyrus’. He hopes to build upon the successes of Red Hawk to collaboratively develop a vibrant learning community where students can experience a rigorous academic environment while engaging in project- based activities.

Cyrus is excited to work with a variety of stakeholders to create the vision for the new Erie PK-8. Starting in November, there will be a series of community meetings scheduled throughout the year (click here to sign up for the Erie PK-8 newsletter or start giving feedback). This is your opportunity to give input as to what the school should look like. What type of learning environment will it be? What programs are most important to you and your student? Starting in October, the hiring process for the leadership team, consisting of teacher representative from each grade level, specialist teachers (art, P.E., etc) and parents will begin. This will be the group responsible for defining the vision for this new school. Cyrus is eager to engage with the community and figure out how to make this the best school possible for them.

Cyrus is looking forward to using his experiences of starting Red Hawk to help build this school. He states that he feels honored to be entrusted once again to start a school on the path to success. The concept of a PK-8 school has great potential, as it allows for extensive collaboration between teachers as students make the transition from preschool, to elementary school and the sometimes difficult leap to middle school. The proximity to Erie High School helps to support the transition from middle school to high school. This model provides unique opportunities for curriculum acceleration as well.

At this point we head out to the construction site to do a tour of the school in progress. As  I tour the construction site, it is clear that this 131,000 sq ft building will be a state-of-the-art facility. The school is being built to hold about 900 students, with 4 classes at each grade level. There are two dedicated Maker Spaces and a Media Center as well. The building sits on 22 acres, which includes 3 different playgrounds, an outdoor amphitheatre, track, athletic field, and baseball field.

 

 

As we were headed back to the high school after the tour, I kept coming back to the Red Hawk Movement program. I knew it something close to his heart. It turns out Cyrus was “that” kid growing up–the one who was bright, but couldn’t sit still. The one who spent more time in the principal’s office than out of it (he kept a book in one his principal’s office for his frequent trips). Over time he learned that he could focus better if he got up and moved before he sat down to focus. He knew how it made him feel, and he tried to incorporate movement breaks for his students while he was teaching. After doing some research on his own, he found that 20 years of scientific research supported what he knew all along.  If you want to hear more of Cyrus’ story check out his TED Talk or Colorado Education Initiative talk.

As we finish up I have one last question for Cyrus. I ask him what is the one thing you want the community to know. He reflects for a minute before answering: “Your voice will be heard. Only through working with the community can we achieve the greatest heights in rigor, innovation and educating the whole child. It is increasingly important to create learning environments that encompasses all these traits.”

 

Cyrus, we look forward to watching your journey as you collaborate with the community to create a school from the ground up. We wish you all the best and can’t wait to tour the building once it’s completed!

 

Stapp Inspires-The Heart of a Coach

“I can meet you at 10:00 am, that’s when practice is over. Do you know how to get to the field?” After receiving directions to Everly Montgomery Stadium I was all set to meet up with this month’s Stapp Inspires Teacher Highlight, Doug Johnson.

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I touched base with Brion (our dealer principal and Longmont High School graduate.) before our meeting. Both Doug and Brion started at Longmont High about the same time. Doug as a coach and Brion as the quarterback. As we chatted about days gone by, Brion said how proud he was that Doug has continued the strong tradition of LHS football.

I arrived at the field just as practice was winding up. The relief of practice being over and plans for later in the day were being made as I passed the athletes leaving the field.  Doug is spending a little extra time with a few players and soon he is ready to meet and get out of the sun.We settle into his office and I can’t help but notice the pictures of all his teams, I saw a few from more than 10 years ago. We chat for a few minutes to get a little background information. He started coaching at Lyons High School with his dad in 1990 and 1991 and at Skyline High School in 1992 before winding up at Longmont High School 1993. He is a math teacher when he isn’t coaching. It’s worth noting that he also coaches basketball and track. Oh, and in his spare time a sponsor to FCA.

Doug’s concern and love of his players and students is his heart. For him the greatest thing to see his kids over come challenges and succeed. To have students and athletes reach out and update him on what’s going on their lives is the best part of working with high students. Because he cares so much for his kids the hardest thing for him to do is to correct them. “It’s a lot easier to let it be.”, he said.He stressed to this team that they are a family and that love of your teammates is more important than hate of opponents.

He wants to see his players be contributors to their communities and that this can happen in many different ways. he last Saturday of football camp Doug sets up an opportunity for his players to help others out in the community. This year the team was headed up to Lyons to help out 6 homeowners who were effected by the flood with their landscaping. He tries to either provide materials needed or have them donated for their projects. If this isn’t possible, they take care of the difference.Doug started this tradition in 2007. He admitted it started as a mentality of “coach is making us do this” but over the years it has transformed into “we are going to do better than last year.”  He wants to teach these young men how to show love to others without saying it and how they have the ability and power to give hope to those around them. Of course the football team has goals they want to meet each season. But at the end of the day, we all have a bottom line that defines us and if the team does nothing else but this outreach… That is a successful season for Doug and the team.

As much care he has for his players there are a few things that hold more importance to him. He has 5 kids whom he loves dearly and a wife he adores. He still dates his wife every week. ” It’s so easy to become roommates, especially with kids.” he comments. Doug has coached a few of his kids in different sports and had a blast spending time with them in that way. ” I’m more concerned with the person my daughter becomes than how she performs as an athlete.” he said while talking about coaching his daughter in pole vaulting.  He places a huge importance on family time, not just in his family, but his athletes too. He prefers to not have team dinners and let his players have dinner with their families because that kids are away from too much as it is.  

Doug, when we first spoke on the phone you mentioned that you were unsure of why you were chosen for this highlight, you didn’t think you were doing anything special or extraordinary and that there were plenty of others who were more deserving. I hope I have been able to show why you were chosen. Your heart for not only your athletes, students and your family is seen by all.  You see that there is more to life than football and you help your players see beyond the field. You give hope and encouragement to everyone you meet. I want to thank you for your time, just meeting with you was inspiring to me. We wish you and the team good luck this season.

Go Trojans!

Stapp Inspires Teacher Highlight

 

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Teacher Highlight! I’m Erin, the Digital Marketing Manager for the dealership.

This month we want to take a closer look at the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools (IC). The IC has been a part of the district for a few years now and has really filled a need in preparing students for life after they graduate. At the IC, students can get their Apple Certification or work on creating and producing a product that solves a need for real-world clients. St. Vrain Valley Schools is in the process of building a new Innovation Center with the groundbreaking scheduled to begin in early August and an anticipated start date of Fall 2018. The passage of the bond in November of 2016 will allow St. Vrain to expand and branch out to all students. The new facility will be a hub for the entire district. Both students and educators will have access to the latest in industry standard tools and experts in the field.

As with any project, the success of the new facility depends on the team that is running it. Meet Axel Reitzig, he is the Robotics and Computer Science Coordinator for the IC. He has been an educator for a total of 25 years. He started teaching German at a college level. He later decided to pursue his German and Language Arts endorsement and taught middle schoolers for a few years. Eventually he went through the Library Sciences program and was teaching STEM with robotics and Computer Science emphasis before coming to the IC. I had the opportunity to spend some time with him recently.

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Axel has that intangible quality that you hope every teacher has. In just talking to him, I was ready to go back to high school and sign up for one of his classes. He is truly an expert in his field, but always yields to letting students find their own answers. He believes that we are all creative problem solvers and innovators. Axel focuses on three components when interacting with his students; engagement, challenge and transformation.

He said students need to be ‘engaged ‘with the world around them, not just intellectually, but emotionally and socially as well. The ‘challenge’ part is making sure students are applying their skills authentically, that there is a true means to an end, not just filling out a worksheet. Where the struggle to learn a certain math component goes from dread because “it has no purpose” to  “if you want your project, or app to work you need to figure this out”. And finally, ‘transformation’. Can students apply what they have learned to something they have to design?

His quiet passion for his students and their work is evident. He enjoys providing his students authentic learning opportunities, where abstract becomes concrete and projects are meaningful to students. On thing he said has stuck with me. When talking about his students and their work he said. “Students are natural learners and problems solvers. They want to help and make a real difference in their world.”  We then took a look at one project the students are currently working on for Boulder County Open Space.

 

Do you remember when students from Skyline created the underwater camera so a researcher in Peru could study frogs in their natural habitat? (If not see here). Boulder County Open Space intrigued by the project, asked the students if they could build something able to create topographical maps of the lakes, streams, and ponds.

Sometimes certain aspects are outside Axel’s realm of expertise. The entire team at the IC has reached out and partnered with members of the community to provide support for some of these projects. Retired engineers and IT specialists are just a few of the people who mentor and help support these students.

Axel is also quick to highlight what his colleagues are up to. I got the sense that even though I was only talking to Axel, a strong team mentality exists at the IC. Axel doesn’t work as a teacher telling students the outcomes of their projects, but as a facilitator instead. He said, “The best thing I can do is let students take technology out for a ‘test drive’. I want to provide opportunities for transformative experiences. I get out of the way, and if needed, provide help or find someone who can help.”

Axel, thank you for your time and dedication to all students within our community. Thank you for taking the time to meet with us. We are excited to partner and support the IC and St. Vrain Valley Schools.

We wish you and your entire team the best as you work to expand and open the new Innovation Center.

 

 

 

 

A Woman’s Work

What do you do when the unexpected comes up? You are usually self sufficient, but life happens. You find yourself in a place where if you could just get over this hurdle, you and your family would be fine. You would be back on your feet, you just need a little help this one time. But most social services programs aren’t designed for people like you. What do you do?

Thankfully for women living and working in the St. Vrain Valley there is a safety net. The mission of A Woman’s Work is to provide financial support for women in the St. Vrain Valley whose immediate needs cannot be met by other sources. They ask only that recipients perform an act of kindness in return.

Stapp Inspires is proud to partner with A Woman’s Work to assist those who are living in our community. This we will be highlighting A Woman’s Work. We hope that you will check back here to learn more about this great organization making a positive impact in our community!

 

Prospect Sound Bites 2017

Summer is just around the corner. School is winding down and the weather is starting to heat up. That can mean one thing, that Prospect Sound Bites is just around the corner!

What is Prospect Sound Bites? Is a summer long concert series that starts on Memorial Day (today!) and wraps on Labor Day. This is our 3rd season to partner with Prospect Sound Bites  and we are looking forward to another great season!

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Ok, details in case you haven’t visited. The concerts happen every Monday evening in the Prospect New Town neighborhood in Longmont. The concerts start at 5:30pm and go until 8:00pm. Each week a different local band plays. Prospect Sound Bites does a wonderful job of pulling bands in from different genres.

So we covered the Sound, now about the Bites. Feel free to bring your own picnic dinner with you, don’t forget your chairs or blankets to sit on! Or better yet visit one of the many food trucks that line the park. The food options are endless. We are talking, Mexican Street Food, Wood Fired Pizza and BBQ just to name a few. Make sure you save some room for dessert. Yep, you read that right a couple food trucks serving nothing but sweet treats have been known to pull up as well.

So check out this summer’s line up of great bands and we hope to see you at Prospect Sound Bites this summer!

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Stapp Inspires- Teacher Highlight Chris Chou

Welcome to Stapp Inspires Teacher Highlight! Each month we will be highlighting a teacher, support staff or coach and the school they work at with in St. Vrain Valley Schools. These special people encourage and inspire their students and co-workers. We are proud to share their stories with you.

This month we visit Longmont High School. A few quick facts about LHS. LHS has been recognized 3 years in a row by US News and World Report as a “Best High School”. Enrollment has increased by 10% from the previous year. LHS is able to offer 20 AP classes and 11 classes for college credit.

We are stepping into Chris Chou’s AP Biology classroom this month. Ms. Chou has been teaching for 14 years, 12 of those have been at LHS. Ms. Chou has been instrumental in setting up and overseeing the school’s Medical and Biosciences Academy (MBSA).

 

The MBSA is designed for students who are interested in careers or secondary education in the health sciences. One of the classes students are required to take is AP Biology. Under Ms. Chou’s tutelage, all LHS students taking the Advanced Placement (AP) Biology exam scored a 3 or better, leaving the school with an average of 4.1. The national average for the AP Biology Exam is 2.83. It’s easy to see why Ms. Chou received  the 2016 Outstanding Biology Teacher Award.

We had a few questions for Ms. Chou about her passion for her students and preparing them for the next steps in their lives.

We asked her what her favorite thing about teaching at LHS was. This is what she had to say…

“I love teaching a diverse population of students who are involved in so many different activities both inside and outside of school. They have so many interesting backgrounds and interests. I also enjoy working with a passionate group of educators. The teachers at Longmont High really care about their students, work hard to improve their craft, and learners themselves. Many of them provide unique learning opportunities for students and model what it looks like to be learners themselves.”

We also wanted to find out what the most important thing she felt she could pass on to her students. She teaches primarily juniors and seniors, students who are about to embark on the next stage of life. This is what she feels is the most important lesson she can impart…

“I believe the most important lesson I can teach my students is how to think critically and make informed decisions. I teach mostly juniors and seniors who are soon to be graduation and going into the adult world. They will need to know how to sift through the abundance of information available to them through media and the internet, and it is  important that they know how to make informed decisions regarding their educational choices, finances, health, future careers, involvement in politics and public issues. But I think the lesson I hope students gain from being in one of my classes is how to treat others with kindness and respect and how to work well with other. I also want students to be curious, enjoy learning and be lifelong learners.”

Ms. Chou’s commitment and passion to her students in the MBSA program are well prepared to continue their secondary education in any field they choose. In fact 83.3% of MBSA graduates have gone to major in science or pre-health programs. 8.3% are studying pre-engineering and another 8.3% currently major in non-scientific course work.

Thank you Ms. Chou for making LHS a great space for students to learn and succeed. It’s teachers like you who are having a wonderful impact on our future.