Ellicott schools superintendent visits housing residents
By Brian Hagberg, 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 20, 2015
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Ellicott School District superintendent, Dr. Pat Cullen, conducted a question-and-answer session with housing residents March 10 at the Tierra Vista housing center.
The event was spurred by residents' requests for a meeting with school officials, according to Lisa Wise, TVC property manager.
"This stemmed from our community information meeting and parents expressing they have concerns [about the district]," Wise said.
The meeting was held in the Club Room at TVC, in part, as a way to make people feel more comfortable and set the stage for an informal conversation.
"I purposely didn't want it to be structured," Wise said. "The community information meetings are more formal where each person comes up [to speak] and it's more structured. I wanted the parents to be comfortable."
Cullen opened by saying the mission of the district is to welcome all children in a way that makes them feel like they are part of a family, and that he wanted to use this, and future forums, as a way to help improve the district's relationship with the Schriever community.
"We want an inviting environment there, to open those doors so whoever comes in those doors feels like they are a part of something," Cullen said. "Whatever we can do to improve our relationship and provide a quality education for your children. That's our goal, that's our mission."
Residents voiced concerns about communication between the district and residents, as well as, asked questions about advanced level course offerings, special needs resources and a variety of other topics.
"I talked to the elementary principals about concerns with communication," Cullen said. "I was concerned because the last time I was here, we talked about it and apparently it's not working the way you need it to work."
Cullen acknowledged the communication from the district to parents needs some work and said events like this open forum help the district find solutions.
"District events are well-planned, they're apparently not well communicated so we need to do better on our end," Cullen said. "It's critical that we make sure people are served correctly and that they are well informed. We're here to make it better and we're going to work to create a much better and effective communication plan."
One resident said the most common question they are asked when talking to new residents about the district is why there is only a four-day school week.
Cullen said the four-day week serves as both a cost savings move, mainly with transportation and food service, and as a way to attract quality teachers.
"It's a common thing in rural Colorado," Cullen said.
In addition to the question and answer session, Wise also briefly explained one way TVC has given back to the district. The group gave a $15,000 grant to assist the district with renovation of its baseball and softball fields.
The district has received a total of $65,000 in grants to help renovate the fields, Cullen added, meaning the district only had to contribute $40,000 to the project.
Multiple residents asked Cullen to address the rumors they had heard that the district is unable to properly serve special needs students due to a lack of funding.
Cullen said approximately 17 percent of district students are served on an individualized education program and more than $2 million of the district's budget is spent on special education.
"Special education is a big deal," Cullen said. "We spend a significant amount of money addressing special education needs in our district. We want it to happen, and it has to happen."
The forum closed with an important question from one of the youngest residents in attendance.
"When is the first day of school next year?" a 7-year-old girl asked.
Laughing, Cullen said he couldn't give an exact date because he didn't have his cell phone with him, but added school will begin on the first Wednesday in August.
Wise said she will try to set up more meetings with Cullen as the residents request more information and communication.
"This was the first one," Wise said. "Now, they just requested another one in a month. So we'll just schedule more based on demand."
To date, no future meetings have been scheduled.