Saturday, October 29, 2016

We all should bone up on literacy, in the truest sense

Truth is in trouble, no matter where you stand with individual candidates

 By Rob Carrigan,

It makes sense that I am big advocate for literacy — the ability read and write, and the related skills used in search of truth.  It was pretty much the hallmark of my very existence as newspaper guy. As the "X Files" taught us, "The truth is out there."
Others have taught us some with their writings, too.
“Frederick Douglass taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom, but reading is still the path,”said Carl Sagan, astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator.
But anyone following the current election cycle can see that the truth is in trouble, no matter where you stand with individual candidates.
Writer James Patterson, who himself has written more than 147 novels that have sold more than 300 million copies, puts it this way.
"We are becoming a nation of functional illiterates scattered along the tracks, incapable of pursuing a train of thought for more than minutes at a time," he says. 
"We have let our standards fall so far that this year's first-time voters are, on average, in the habit of reading for personal interest less than 10 minutes a day," according to Patterson.
Citing information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people 75 and older read about an hour a day. "The habit drops off through each 10-year bracket below that until you get to people ages 35 to 44 years old. They are reading 12 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays, and less than 10 minutes during the week. Younger than that, it only gets worse."
Patterson says, "We are becoming a nation of distracted nincompoops who don't have the patience to bother finding out if lies are lies — because we have lost the mental capacity to do otherwise — are forced to judge issues on the basis of style and delivery rather than substance and accuracy."
He is not the only one complaining that political debate has become unhinged from reality. And politicians have never had the reputation of being too closely associated with the truth. 
After all, "In politics, stupidity is not a handicap,” as noted by NapolĂ©on Bonaparte.
But people were at one time, better equipped to call 'baloney' on trickery, deceit, and hogwash.
I actually quoted a politician, accused of not knowing the facts in one instance,  saying,  "I guess I'll have to bone up on that."
Quit staring at the posts, Memes and Tweets on the phone, and think about literacy. 
"Not the literacy of being able to sound out the words above a Facebook post. Not the literacy of knowing what LMAO means in a text message. Not even the literacy required to read the instructions on your College Boards," as Patterson notes.
Maybe we should all hit the books, volunteer at the library, and read newspapers. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

No time like present for evaluating past and future

Last week was homecoming for the Discovery Canyon Campus (DCC) Thunder. Also, District 20 was hosting one of a series of meetings about the upcoming November bond issue at DCC's Auditorium. This weekend, a top-ranked Thunder football team vied with Lewis-Palmer High School for bragging rights in the state standings.
I couldn't help myself from humming the chorus from an early hit from Willie Nelson:
"It's been so long now but it seems now it was only yesterday. Gee, ain't it funny how time slips away."
One only has to drive down North Gate Blvd., in the few miles between I-25 and Colorado State Highway 83, to see what kind of impact building a school can have. I personally remember how much you had to slow down to navigate the bend in Old Northgate Road, just beyond the horse pasture at the big cottonwood.
In calling for the $230 million bond amount for this election, the D-20 board cited growth in the district since the last measure in 2001. The rolls have increased by 7,000 students since 2001 and the district is projecting 5,000 additional students by 2026.
Despite that, D20 leadership says state funding for K-12 continues to decrease. Academy District 20 has experienced approximately $150 million in state funding reductions since 2009. Academy District 20 says the $230 million bond issue is needed to build three schools, including two elementary schools and a middle school. The proposed bond will be used to build two new elementary schools, one middle school and an innovation and learning center.
In addition, property owners will not see a property tax rate increase.
“Because the district has refinanced existing debt, thereby reducing repayment costs; paid down principal debt; and is realizing expansion of the tax base; the district can issue $230 million in bonds over a five year period and meet debt service requirements within the existing tax levy,”says Allison Cortez, communications for D-20.
The last time the district asked taxpayers for money 15 years ago, a lot of it went into building DCC.
In 2001 Academy District 20 asked and received authorization from voters to issue $163 million in tax exempt bonds. The district used those bonds to:
• Build one high school, Discovery Canyon Campus
• Build one middle school, Discovery Canyon Campus
• Build five Elementary Schools (Discovery Canyon Campus, Ranch Creek, The da Vinci Academy, Mountain View and Chinook Trail)
• Rebuild 90% of Edith Wolford
• Create an addition to Rampart High School
• And provide technology and facility improvements at all schools
True, $163 million went a lot farther 15 years ago than it does today.
But from current measures bond proceeds, DCC will receive an addition to the building of at least 10 classrooms (enrollment growth), expanded parking, additional tennis courts to provide a total of six, technology infrastructure improvements, solutions to drainage issues, $1.1 million to spend on capital needs defined by the school community, and from other capital funds the High School gym will be enlarged to at least the size of other district high schools. The campus was constructed with $70 million of proceeds from the last bond authorization (2001), says Cortez.
Edith Wolford will receive connection to fiber optics and other technology infrastructure improvements, and $155k to spend on capital needs defined by the school community. 90% of the school was rebuilt using proceeds from the last bond authorization (2001).
Antelope Trails will receive a remodel to the main entry (safety/security), increased electrical capacity, roof repair/replacement, improved access to the playfield, and $230k to spend on capital needs defined by the school community. The Classical Academy plans to construct a gymnasium, an auditorium, a cafeteria, remodel the existing cafeteria into a library, construct additional parking at the north campus, Cortez said.
Ballots began mailing at the first of the month, I am told. Halloween is the last day to submit a voter registration and receive a mail ballot. Voting has to take place by Nov. 8, either by mail, or by surrendering your mail ballot at the polls, and voting in person.
In evaluating time (ironically an idea lifted from last week's Time magazine), we need to look at the link with our past, ourselves and our future. In different ways, each makes a fascinating argument that the most important time is the present.

___Rob Carrigan 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Keeping track of numbers in local school districts

There were no high school grades in Monument until 1917, when a teacher was hired to teach 9th and 10th grades.

 By Rob Carrigan,

Though no math wiz, I have a pretty good head for numbers, and a strong background in history. The local districts are a challenge to me, however.
"While General William Jackson Palmer was busy developing Colorado Springs, ranchers and farmers homesteading in Douglass, Pine, and Woodmen Valleys were busy organizing the twentieth school district in El Paso County. The new district, established in 1874, two years before Colorado became a state, consisted of 36 square miles. Children met in homes for their education until 1886 when the first school in the district opened in the community of Edgerton that was located at the confluence of Monument and West Monument Creeks. Typical of a one-room rural school, it featured an entryway where coats and lunches were stored, a podium in the front of the classroom for the teacher’s desk, and a potbellied stove in the middle of the room. The district’s first bus barn was the four-horse shed located on the back of the property. Stories abound of this first school of bullets fired by deer hunters flying through the school, of children fishing in Monument Creek during lunch and recess, and of the County Superintendent arriving by train that stopped on the tracks below the school," according to info from Academy District 20.
Different stories circulate, however, of the naming designation of District 38.
"The history of education in the Black Forest parallels that of the original District 20. This area became a part of the original thirty-eighth district in El Paso County organized in 1888. The old Black Forest log school located on the corner of Shoup and Black Forest Roads has been preserved as a reminder of that past," according to District 20's web site.
"The one-room schools in both District Twenty and District Thirty-Eight in Black Forest served students in grades one through six. Secondary students were bussed to schools in outlying districts. This was not a satisfactory situation for the patrons of the districts who wanted the highest quality of education for their children. The solution to the educational needs of these two communities came in the early 1950s when the United States Air Force purchased the 18,500 acres of land that would become the Air Force Academy. The 1957 consolidation of Woodmen District Twenty, the Black Forest, and the Air Force Academy increased the size of the rural District Twenty from 36 to 130 square miles and provided the funds to build the district’s first high school."
District Twenty existed for over twenty years with one high school, one junior high, and up to six elementary schools. The decade of the 1980s brought the district’s major building boom, with the addition of two high schools, two middle schools, and five elementary schools. Nine new schools were added in the 1990s and seven were added between 2000 and 2010," says Academy District 20.
The numbers story seems to differ slightly according to District 38.
"The original Monument School District #5 was founded August 20, 1874, and was called, “The Lewis School District.” School was held in several one-room schoolhouses. This school served 1st through 8th grades. There were no high school grades in Monument until 1917, when a teacher was hired to teach 9th and 10th grades. The latest school house was moved south of the Village Inn, off Interstate-25 in Monument, (former Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce building.)

"Palmer Lake School began in the late 1800s and was housed in several one-room schoolhouses. Those buildings are still in existence and currently have been remodeled as residences in the town of Palmer Lake. This school also served 1st through 8th grades only," the District 38 site says.
"In 1921, the Inez Johnson Lewis School had one graduate, Bernice Ingersoll. In 1922, the high school was accredited. Donald McKay, who was the district's superintendent as well as principal and math teacher, was credited with helping to get the high school accredited. The school used gas lights because there was no electricity in Monument at the time. To be accredited, the school had to have electricity, and Mr. McKay was instrumental in getting electricity to the school," District 38's history records.
"Palmer Lake School District #33 paid tuition for their high school students to attend the new high school in Monument. In 1935, Palmer Lake built a new elementary school at 115 Upper Glenway. Since then, there have been three additions to the Palmer Lake Elementary School. The school has served elementary students since its inception, with the exception of 1980-1985, when it closed and all elementary students attended classes at the facility on Lake Woodmoor Drive. In 1986, Palmer Lake Elementary was renovated and reopened for elementary students. The latest addition took place in 1992 when the new cafeteria was added," according to a District 38 history.
"On July 28, 1948, Palmer Lake School District #33 and Lewis Consolidated School District #5 of Monument voted to merge. At this election, it was decided to give the combined districts a new number by adding 33 and 5. Thus, the district became #38 and was renamed "The Lewis-Palmer Consolidated Schools." 

A new high school was built at 66 Jefferson Street in Monument in 1957. It continued to serve as the district's high school until 1980, when Lewis-Palmer High School opened at 1300 Higby Road in South Woodmoor. 
In 1973, Lewis-Palmer Elementary School opened at 1315 Lake Woodmoor Drive as a middle school for grades 4-8. It wasn't until 1980, with the opening of a new high school and the transfer of grades 6-8 to the former high school site, that Lewis-Palmer Elementary School served students in grades K-5. Prior to that time, K-3 elementary students went to school at the Palmer Lake facility. 
In 1980, the old high school became the middle school and continued as that until Lewis-Palmer Middle School opened in 1994 at 1776 Woodmoor Drive. In 1995, after considerable remodeling and renovation, Grace Best Elementary School opened in the old high school and middle school facility at 66 Jefferson Street in Monument as the district's fourth elementary school. 
Another District 38 school, Kilmer Elementary School opened in 1988 at 4285 Walker Road, east of Highway 83, to accommodate the growth in the eastern part of the district. However, until numbers increased in that area, students from the Monument area were bused to that facility for school. Kilmer grew to nearly 600 students with the addition of three portables in the 2000-2001 school year.  
In June of 1998, the original Pine Grove one-room school was donated by the landowners to Kilmer Elementary. The school was once located just north of Hwy. 83 on Palmer Divide/ County Line Road. An El Paso County family donated the land and a Douglas County family donated a bunkhouse for the building which was refurbished by the families into Pine Grove School. The school opened full time in the fall of 1913. Thanks to the help and donations of Kilmer families, Pine Grove was moved and restored to its original appearance where children can still learn within her walls.
To confuse things a little more, at the time of this writing, Ray Kilmer, the namesake of Kilmer Elementary, lived down the block from me... In District 20.

Photo Information: 
1: Monument Elementary School, Class of 1916
2: First Palmer Lake School
3: Inez J. Lewis School, 1928.
4:Monument's first school, just north of Dirty Woman Creek.
5: Monument School 8th Grade, 1925-26