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Adams 12 Five Star, Westminster Schools credit improved test scores for mill levy approval

Funding challenges remain
Posted at 7:07 PM, Nov 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-08 22:38:22-05

THORNTON, Colo. -- While voters across the state said "no" to a broad plan to boost school funding, two districts in Adams County will get some help.

Voters approved mill levy overrides in both the Adams 12 Five Star and Westminster school districts. It’s the first time in ten years that voters in Adams 12 approved a mill levy override.

Adams 12 Five Star Measure 5-C

($27-Million Mill Levy Override)

  • For – 33,268
  • Against – 27,674

Superintendent Chris Gdowski said he’s tremendously grateful, citing three factors that helped sway voters.

“One is that our (test) results have consistently improved over time, and we’re one of the most improved districts in Colorado, over the last four years,” he said. “Our graduation rates are dramatically improved.”

Gdowski also said that Adams 12 Five Star spent nearly a year working with more than 7,000 people in the community, including staff, parents, students and business owners, to talk about the vision of the district moving forward, and how it might allocate resources to better meet the needs of kids.

"People were engaged in setting the vision," he said. "Finally we were very transparent about how we go about allocating any dollars that did come in, either through our local measure or from the state measure.”

“There was a lot of trust,” the superintendent said. “It wasn’t a blank check.”

Gdowski told Denver7 that the $27 million raised from Measure 5-C will be used to:

  • Reduce class size, with a focus on high schools and middle schools
  • Purchase new text books
  • Provide better compensation for teachers
  • Hire more counselors

He said over the last decade, because of budget restrictions, class sizes have gone up from two to eight kids per class.

“Class size is important not only in terms of academic achievement and having a teacher that has enough time to differentiate instruction for you, whether you’re gifted and talented, or a special needs student,” he said.

Gdowski said a manageable class size is also important in terms of building a relationship with kids.

“We’ve set an expectation for ourselves in Adams 12 that we want to know every student by name, strength and need, and when you’re able to move class size to a smaller spot, that’s realistic for our teachers to do."

Regarding teacher compensation, Gdowski said it currently averages about $39,000 a year. He said they hope to boost it to $43,000.

Challenges Remain

With voters turning thumbs down on Amendment 73, the $1.6 billion state funding proposal, Gdowski said they won’t be able to do everything they had hoped.

“We wanted to bring back a lot of programs, whether it was a middle school sports program, or an outdoor education program for middle schoolers,” he said. 

He said they would like to provide more technical education opportunities, better meet the needs of special education, invest more in technology and move back the start times for high school students.

“The downside to (Amendment) 73 not passing is we’re not equipped with the resources to make that happen,” he said.

Westminster Decision

Voters in Westminster also approved a mill levy override.

Westminster Public Schools Measure 4-A

($9.9-Million Mill Levy Override)

  • Yes – 9,527
  • No – 9,076

In a note posted on the district’s website, Dr. Pamela Swanson, the superintendent of schools, cited the trust the district has earned in the classroom for the win.

“Our achievement and growth scores have steadily risen, and earlier this fall, we celebrated getting off the accountability clock," she wrote.

She said the district will use the money generated to:

  • Improve school safety & security
  • Expand vocational/career programs
  • Create partnerships with organizations like the Boys & Girls Club to enhance learning opportunities for community youth
  • Attract and retain highly-effective teachers, mental health professionals and counselors
  • Utilize Certificates of Participation to invest in infrastructure and building upgrades