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Avon charter school charged up

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyTeacher Jeanne Nelson watches over students as they take math assessment tests Friday at Stone Creek Charter School in Avon. The school will have an eighth grade class for the first time this year.
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AVON, Colorado ” There’s a lot of fresh faces at Stone Creek Charter School, which will be starting its third year with a lot of confidence, new programs, new teachers and a whole new grade of students.

The first thing you’ll notice is the new principal, Katherine Lange, who’s been the school’s assistant principal for the past two years and a special education teacher. The school’s founding principal, Betsy Hill, retired at the end of the last school year.

The next thing you’ll notice is the presence of eighth graders. Last year, the school added a sixth and seventh grade, and this year, they’re adding an eighth grade ” making Stone Creek a full kindergarten through eighth grade school.



The middle school grades here will be small classes ” which can be a really good thing for adolescents, said Mark Fitzwater, a the new eighth grade teacher who just moved here from Delaware.

“You can do a lot more individualized lessons, have much smaller groups, and it makes it easier to control behavior,” Fitzwater said.



Fitzwater comes from a school in Delaware that had four or five classes of eighth grade science with 28 to 30 students a class. An environment like Stone Creek will allow him to spend more time each student, he said.

“You get to know everyone a lot more, and that makes it all a little easier,” Fitzwater said.

Lisa Goldstein, the new seventh grade teacher, said she’s looking forward to introducing more community service activities to the students and is excited about heading to the mountains for things like nature walks and hikes.



The school will try a new P.E. program this year. In the past, each teacher did P.E. and health activities on their own with the kids. Now, the school will have a half-time P.E. teacher dedicated to providing a more organized health and fitness curriculum to supplement daily recess.

Lange said the school’s scores on the Colorado Student Assessment Program, known as CSAP, were better than state averages this year. Stone Creek will start using a new assessment, called the NWEA, which students take a few times a year to see how much they’re improving. It’s a system that’s been used and liked by teachers in the Eagle County School District.

“It helps you keep track of students,” Lange said.

The school has hired a reading specialist, who will help students falling behind in reading, and has hired a new half-time Spanish teacher for the sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

Most people seem to feel more comfortable with the school’s financial situation, Lange said. The school has been having to wade through a large amount of start-up debt, but after a rocky year of figuring out how to pay it off, Lange said it’s not the big, panic-inducing worry it used to be.

“We have a five-year plan with projected enrollments and projected budgets,” Lange said. “We’re writing grants and doing a lot of fundraising.”

One new initiative the school is trying is having only one class of students per grade instead of two, which is more economically efficient. The only exception is second grade, which has a large number of students.

“I’m just excited that this charter school is starting to take off after all the problems “

everyone’s starting to believe this school is here to stay,” said Michael Rindone, a parent at the school.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

Leaders at Stone Creek School say they’re proud of second batch of Colorado School Assessment Program scores. The test, known as CSAP, examines student skills in math, reading, writing and science in grades three through 10.

Students at Stone Creek easily beat all state averages, but didn’t necessarily perform as well as they did last year. According to the Colorado Growth Model, which analyzes how much students improve from one year to the next on the CSAP, students at Stone Creek are improving just as much or better than most students in the state, but in writing and math, aren’t improving as much as they did the previous year.

To view Stone Creek’s CSAP scores and the Colorado Growth analysis, visit the Colorado Department of Education on the web.

http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdeassess/documents/csap/csap_summary.html#2008

And for the Growth Model, visit

http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdeedserv/GrowthSummaries-2008.htm and click on “Charter School Institute.”


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