Board trips to other schools cost District 51 $1,300

The price tag for three school board members and a handful of District 51 administrators to visit Front Range school districts last month is $2,433.93, according to figures from the school district.

Nearly half of that cost — $1,105.40 — will be reimbursed to the school district by education-focused nonprofit the Colorado Legacy Foundation, and the district will absorb the remaining $1,328.53. The foundation invited District 51 leaders and personnel from other Colorado school districts to attend a tour Sept. 23-24 of four Denver area schools that feature various innovations, including science, technology, engineering and math-centered curriculum; instruction blended with online content; and students advancing through achievement instead of using a grade-level system.

District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz, school board member Ann Tisue, District 51 Chief Academic Officer Bill Larsen, Central High Principal Jody Diers, and Jill Hatten, director of Mesa Valley Vision Home and Community Program, attended the tour event. All but $85.23 of the cost for a rental car, meals, hotel rooms and mileage will be reimbursed. The district will pay the rest.

Days before the trip to Denver, Schultz and board members Tisue and John Williams joined District 51 Executive Director of Academic Achievement and Curriculum Leigh Grasso, District 51 Assessment Coordinator Sean Taylor, District 51 K-12 Science Specialist Teri LeFebre and West Middle School Principal Vernon Walker on a trip Sept. 19-20 to visit Harrison School District in Colorado Springs. The price of two rental cars, meals and hotel rooms totaled $1,061.30. Williams said he wanted to visit Harrison to learn more about their “cutting-edge” physics curriculum.

“They raised test scores by 20 points in the first year (after implementation) so I’d like to look at stuff like that,” Williams said during a Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce forum earlier this month.

The cheapest trip made involving school board members in September was a Sept. 11 trip to Douglas County School District in Castle Rock. That trip cost $182, spent on a rental car and one meal. Schultz, Tisue, board member Jeff Leany and District 51 Executive Director of Student Services Tanya Skalecki participated in that visit.

Tisue said she was invited to the schools or they were ones District 51 had been requesting to visit. Tisue said she has visited 11 schools or districts, some on her own dime, since she was elected two years ago.

“I was trying to understand the cultures they had in some of those schools, how they were able to get their achievement,” she said. “Seeing it in person is so important. I don’t see how you can apply that depth of information just by reading it.”

Leany said he has also visited, often at state meetings, with personnel from Falcon 49, Adams 50 and Poudre Valley school districts to learn about their innovations.

“There’s a ton of ideas out there that won’t cost much” to emulate or borrow from, he said.

Tisue said taxpayer dollars are important but so are trips like these.

“If you’re going to do reforms, you have to have some budget for that type of thing,” she said.


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