A high-ranking Colorado Department of Education official gave the South Routt School District a big thumbs-up this week for the district's educational program and student achievement.
Dr. Morris Danielson, CDE's regional manager for Northwest Colorado, was in Oak Creek on Tuesday as part of the state's effort to perform annual accreditation reviews for its 178 public school districts.
Danielson and a review team consisting of Meeker School District Superintendent Dan Evig and North Park School District Superintendent Sandy Hall met with South Routt Superintendent Steve Jones and principals James Chamberlin and Troy Zabel for about three hours Tuesday morning.
The review team looked over a wealth of documents prepared for their visit by Jones and his administrative team. The documents included the district's educational improvement plan, school goals, Colorado Student Assessment Program test results and evidence the district is working to close achievement gaps.
Chamberlin and Zabel gave presentations on specific district programs and high school senior Nicole Baxter spoke about her experience taking Colorado Online Learning classes at the high school.
Danielson and the two visiting superintendents said they were impressed by the work the South Routt School District has done during the past several years, particularly its alignment of its mission statement and school goals, the extent to which the district analyzes data and uses them to improve instruction, its staff development plan and the strength of its principals.
"You're on target; you're on program; your achievement is progressing nicely," Danielson told Jones. "You're moving in the direction you need to go."
Danielson said the review team will focus next year specifically on student and program progress in subject areas such as math.
"Any observer would have seen in a minute that Steve Jones takes very seriously the achievement of every kid, and he will leave no stone unturned to help every student achieve," Danielson said. "They look like they're on the right track to having all schools high-achieving."
In the latest round of School Accountability Reports, also known as school report cards, Soroco High School and Yampa Elementary School earned ratings of "high," and Soroco Middle School received a rating of "average."
The accreditation review process is relatively new for the state. Education Commissioner Bill Maloney implemented the system three years ago, and this is the second year education officials such as Danielson have visited every public school district in the state to review progress and achievement, Danielson said.
The state accreditation system is designed to ensure all school districts meet certain state requirements. The South Routt School District is accredited through June 2007. School districts can be placed on academic watch or probation based upon findings during annual accreditation reviews, Danielson said.
The review process is an important one for districts, Jones said.
"I think it's a pretty valuable process because it does bring some outside eyes to the district," Jones said. "You get sort of a fresh perspective on what it is you're working on and what you should be working on."
He also said he was pleased with the feedback he got from the review team.
"I think it's very much a tribute to our teachers, our administrative team and our Board of Education," Jones said. "It felt good, and it was affirming."
South Routt's increasing achievement comes despite the fact the district has been forced to cut five teaching positions and a principal position over the past several years because of declining enrollment and revenue. District enrollment has declined about 60 students in the five years that Jones has been its superintendent.
Danielson will visit the Steamboat Springs and Hayden school districts later this year for their accreditation reviews.
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