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Struggling Southwest school districts make pitch to state board

Superintendents from two rural Colorado districts focused on the challenge of building community support for their schools and the district’s turnaround efforts in their presentation to the state board Thursday.

Montezuma-Cortez and Ignacio school districts, which are nestled in the southwest corner of the state, presented to state board members in Grand Junction as part of a series of meetings devoted to hearing from districts entering their last years of turnaround efforts. If they fail to show sufficient improvement by the end of next year, their accreditation could be revoked and the state could intervene.

Both districts have undertaken comprehensive overhauls of their curriculum and instruction. Ignacio superintendent Rocco Fuschetto launched a district-wide effort to create a common curriculum and assessment system. Montezuma-Cortez took a more piecemeal approach, changing math curriculum and instruction.

Alex Carter, the superintendent for Montezuma-Cortez school district, received praise from state board members on the district’s return to a five-day school week. Many rural districts have moved four-day school weeks in order to cut costs.

“When you make that kind of change, it’s hard to move back,” said state board member Marcia Neal.

Ignacio highlighted a partnership with the local tribe, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, that aims to train teachers in different learning styles and hold parents accountable for students’ attendance.

That’s a huge step forward for the district was butted heads in the past with the tribal board.

“We’ve come to a place, in a very short amount of time, that nobody on either board would have thought was possible,” Toby Roderick, the school board president, said.

Still, neither district was certain that they would improve enough to avoid state intervention. “Hopeful but not confident” was Carter’s take on the potential outcomes of this year’s efforts.