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School board renews contracts of four charter schools

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Montessori Peaks among renewals

By Emile Hallez

  The Jeffco school board approved five-year contract extensions Feb. 4 for Montessori Peaks Academy and three of the 13 other district charter schools up for renewal.

The board voted unanimously in favor of the contracts, which also included Rocky Mountain Deaf School, Lincoln Academy and Free Horizon. The board also voted 5-3 to approve a 20-year electricity purchasing agreement with CEI Roofing LLC, which would place solar panels on up to 30 Jeffco schools.

“I’m very pleased with last night,” Montessori Peaks principal Char Weaver said of the board’s approval. “I felt that the Board of Education asked us some hard questions. … We’ve done so many good things over the last five years. … It was an amazing opportunity to reflect.”

Similar sentiment was echoed by other principals at the meeting, agreeing that five-year contracts force schools to be introspective and thoroughly examine their programs.

Test scores, including the CSAP, have improved substantially in the last few years at Montessori Peaks. The school has earned high ratings in categories that were rated average only five years ago.

Though students have tested well, improvement is needed in a few areas, Weaver said. Math scores for some students are being scrutinized, and writing scores are a bit lower than the staff would like to see.

“It’s the slowest to come together for kids,” Weaver said about writing.

Charter schools differ from other public schools in that they have less oversight from the Board of Education. The programs receive some funding from Jeffco Public Schools, but staff members are employed by individual charter schools rather than the district.

“(Parents) are looking for an alternative educational experience for their kids,” Weaver said about the charter school’s program.

As the name suggests, Montessori Peaks employs a Montessori educational philosophy. Teaching methods are based on the research of Italian doctor Maria Montessori, and much of the experience is centered on children’s abilities to be self-directed in their educations. Montessori, Italy’s first female medical doctor, contended that children are unique individuals who are highly affected by their environments.

Montessori Peaks Academy’s students come from all over the metro area, including Jefferson and Douglas counties. Like other charter schools, Montessori Peaks is rated by federal and state agencies that use the CSAP as an evaluation tool.

Prior to approval of the charter school contracts, the board briefly discussed the solar-energy purchasing agreement. A motion to go into executive session to discuss financial specifics of the potential contract was not seconded, and the agreement was moved forward by votes in favor from board members Paula Noonan, Dave Thomas and Robin Johnson. Jane Barnes and Laura Boggs voted against the measure.

The proposal allows CEI Roofing to install solar panels on district buildings, which could include Chatfield, Columbine and Dakota Ridge high schools. Electricity will be purchased at rates equal to or less than current rates paid to Xcel Energy and the Intermountain Rural Electric Association, for which Jeffco pays about $9.3 million per year. The district will be participating in a renewable-energy credit program though Xcel Energy.

Jeffco expects to save $1 million in energy costs over 20 years through the purchasing agreement.

 

Contact Emile Hallez Williams at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.