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Colorado governor visits Durango High School and Fort Lewis College

Jared Polis signs bills having to do with education, American Indian research effort
Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill Tuesday removing the pilot status on the Colorado School Leadership Program. The program allows for principals to be mentored by other experienced principals in order to create a better environment for students and educators. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

A bill to extend Colorado’s School Leadership Program was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jared Polis during a visit to Durango High School.

The pilot program that started during the 2018-19 school year was set for repeal. The program provides professional development for public elementary, middle school and high school principals. The program is meant to create a sense of support among educational leaders in order to increase the retention rate of school principals and vice principals throughout the state.

“Retention is a challenge in rural communities. Sometimes isolation and not having that community partnership that you’d see in some of the metro areas can definitely burn you out,” said DHS Principal Jonathan Hoerl.

The bill would continue to allow high-quality principals to mentor other principals to improve the climate and culture of public schools. It will also allocate up to $250,000 a year to the Colorado Department of Education for the program.

“This specific bill relates to leadership more so than teachers, but it indirectly relates to teachers as well,” said DHS teacher Robert Logan. “If you think about principals and assistant principals, they’re the primary leaders in the school in whatever capacity they may bring in to it. Often, teachers will move from being in the classroom to becoming an assistant principal and later a principal, and that transition is very significant. Often, there is not a lot of support the for the new principal or assistant principal.”

Logan played a key role in starting the program and is also an instructional coach for teachers at DHS.

Polis said more than 40 principals have been trained at the Principal Leadership Institute, including principals from Mancos Elementary School, all three levels of the Ignacio schools and Pagosa Springs Middle School.

“It puts people together and puts them in a setting for at least a year,” Logan said. “You have a principal with a lot of experience interacting with another principal with maybe not as much experience. So if a new principal shows up and they have a parent who is out of control, they can process that with this other principal.”

The bill removes the pilot status of the program and makes it a reoccurring practice in coming years.

Polis also signed a bill that better specifies the way teachers are evaluated in order to look at educator effectiveness.

The bill dictates that 30% of a teacher’s evaluation will be determined by academic growth compared with the 50% that was mandated previously. Teachers will also have different rubrics based on what they teach and the students they teach.

“When I was teaching, we had this new program about how to evaluate teachers, and, from my point of view, it was kind of silly,” said state Rep. Barbara McLachlan. “It was kind of a ridiculous amount of work people had to do to evaluate us and this bill is modifying that.”

The evaluation process will come into affect during the 2023-24 school year and will appropriate $452,973 from the general fund to the Department of Education.

“This is how we can improve recommendations for teachers and what they may do to improve their teaching skills or their content knowledge,” Polis said. “At the core of education is teaching and a great teacher makes an enormous difference.”

The stop at DHS was one of a few that the governor made Tuesday as he also signed three bills at Fort Lewis College.

Gov. Jared Polis signs into law bills that prepare students for success and strengthen Colorado’s Native American and Alaskan communities. (Nathan Van Arsdale/Durango Herald)

At FLC, Polis enacted House Bill 22-1327, a federal Indian boarding school research program that requires History Colorado to research the physical and emotional abuse Native Americans faced at the federal Indian boarding school at Fort Lewis Indian School at the Old Fort in Hesperus.

He also enacted Senate Bill 22-148, a law that provides money to Colorado land-based tribes to build or renovate behavioral health facilities and provide behavioral health services.

In addition, Polis signed SB22-104, a law that defines local government entities that are eligible for benefit programs and also recognizes tribal nations in Colorado as recipients for those programs.

tbrown@durangoherald.com

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