United We Stand
At Mountain Valley School, our mission is to provide a welcoming, safe, and inclusive community while building relationships and supporting lifelong learning. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and beginning on the day Mountain Valley School closed its doors to in-person learning, we have followed six principles, along with our mission, to guide every decision we make.
Mountain Valley School Guiding Principles:
We will continue to support each other as well as our students, families, and community.
We will continue to provide free and equitable learning opportunities for our students and families.
We will continue to provide nutritious breakfasts and lunches for our families.
We will continue to provide opportunities for our certified and classified staff to participate in meaningful work that supports learning in our community.
As a school community, we will provide positive and loyal leadership through our teamwork, communication, flexibility, and problem-solving capabilities. Our actions will be seen by our parents, students, and community members. As educators, we are all community leaders, and we will make a difference in the culture of our community during this time. The expectation is that our leadership and the difference that we make will be positive and uplifting to our community.
We will be flexible, kind, and solution-oriented as we navigate these unchartered waters.
Stress can bring out the worst in people; however, it can also bring out the best in people. I have seen firsthand how the COVID-19 crisis has brought out the greatness of our school and community. I am proud of Mountain Valley School, and I am proud of our Saguache community.
I have been extremely impressed with how quickly and positively our staff at Mountain Valley School responded to the needs of our students and families. With less than a day’s preparation, every staff member jumped right in and found a way to provide remote learning opportunities as well as grab-and-go meals for our students.
School secretary Patty Williams serves her community with a smile.
Mountain Valley Teachers quickly tackled a steep learning curve and adapted lessons for remote learning during the school closure. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are certainly important; however, during the COVID-19 school closure and stay at home orders, connections and relationships are essential. As humans, we are hard-wired for connection and thrive when safe relationships and a sense of belonging are present. Mountain Valley staff has prioritized relationships before rigor and love before lessons. In an attempt to stay connected to our students, our staff has already logged over 1,000 calls and video conferences with students since the school closure.
AmeriCorps member Taylor Samples and kindergarten teacher Paula Christine prepare Easter goodie bags for students.
Providing nutritious and healthy meals for our students during the school closure is also a priority at Mountain Valley. No child should ever go hungry. Our foodservice department had worked diligently to ensure that all kids ages 0-18 have wholesome breakfasts and lunches. Currently, we have two grab-and-go locations, Monday through Thursday from 10-11 am, one at Mountain Valley School and one at the KV Clubhouse. We also offer home meal delivery options for our families.
Charlene Hammel, Olivia Zerger, Priscilla Lopez, Taylor Samples and foodservice director Julie Leathers ensure that our students have nutritious meals during the school closure.
AmeriCorps member Talyor Samples delivers meals with a smile.
The Mountain Valley School transportation department has been busy during the school closure ensuring that all students have access to learning materials, nutritious meals, and adequate technology resources. Although our transportation team is no longer transporting students, they are making a huge difference by providing equitable access to academic and nutritional services. Meals are delivered daily while educational content, computers, and supplies are delivered weekly.
Bus driver Ed Johnson prepares to deliver meals, learning materials, and supplies to Mountain Valley students.
The Ciello division of San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative has partnered with Mountain Valley School to ensure that all students have equitable access to the internet and remote learning opportunities. During the COVID-19 epidemic, Ciello has waived installation fees, equipment fees, and contract length obligations for our families without connectivity. Mountain Valley School is matching this contribution by paying for internet service through the remainder of the school year. To date, we have been able to provide internet access for 15 families in our district who previously lacked adequate internet connectivity.
Ciello installing the internet for one of our Mountain Valley families.
During the past few weeks, I have been amazed at the resilience, compassion, and kindness of our staff, students, and the Saguache community. In a time when it would be easy for our worst to come out, the greatness of our community is shining brightly. I have never been more thankful or proud to call Saguache my home.
In the Arena
The administrative team at Mountain Valley School District recently started a study of Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead book about brave work, tough conversations, and whole hearts. Meetings that used to be primarily informational have been transformed into learning opportunities not only for individuals but for our team as a whole. We are improving every day and working towards developing the leadership qualities of everyone in our school.
What does it take to be a leader? Brené Brown defines a leader as:
"A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential."
A leader can be loosely defined as anyone who takes responsibility and has the courage to develop potential. We can all be leaders regardless of titles: students, teachers, custodians, bus drivers, community members, everyone.
We all have the potential to lead; however, not everyone chooses to be a leader because it requires courage to show up and face the unknown. Former President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt summarized this best in what has become known as the Man in the Arena portion of his Citizenship in a Republic speech that took place in Paris, France on April 23, 1910.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
In today’s world, where disconnection and social media are prevalent, it is easy to be a critic without ever showing courage and getting into the arena. Choosing to lead and put yourself in the arena takes courage, and as Brené Brown reminds us:
"If you choose courage, you will absolutely know failure, disappointment, setback, even heartbreak. That’s why we call it courage. That’s why it’s so rare."
As Marcus Aurelius stated, “What stands in the way becomes the way.” The true underlying obstacle to brave leadership is how we respond to our fears. It takes courage to challenge the status quo and cultural norms that inhibit growth and development.
When faced with uncertainty, it is important to remember that courage and fear are not mutually exclusive. Doing what is right takes courage, especially when we are afraid of failure. Are we willing to take action and get into the arena regardless of the outcome?
As we continue our Dare to Lead book study, it is clear that educators must strive to lead with courage. Although it is easy to be a critic and never risk failure or defeat, our students deserve courageous leaders who face their fears, climb into the arena, and dare to lead.
Buzzing with Excitement at MVS!
It is hard to believe that the new school at Mountain Valley has been up and running for over three months now, and what a great three months it has been! The new school is filled with natural light and the surrounding beauty of Saguache. Additionally, fresh air is constantly circulated throughout the building. These simple changes make a huge difference in the school and working environment for both students and staff. In the mornings, students are excited to come to school as they are greeted and welcomed by the staff. It is great to see the students arriving at school with smiles on their faces as they enter their state-of-the-art learning facility. Every morning, the commons area is buzzing with excitement for the new day, and it is priceless to see everyone building positive relationships in such a welcoming and nurturing environment. I am proud of our students. I am proud of our staff, and I am proud of our new school.
Construction, abatement, and demolition are ongoing as we prepare for our new track and field that will be completed in late spring or early summer. The new transportation and maintenance building is complete and tucked away in the southwest corner of school property, safely creating a separation between school vehicles and students. The old middle school has been dismantled and repurposed, leaving amazing views of Mt. Blanca for our neighbors to the west. Asbestos abatement in the old high school and elementary has been ongoing since mid-October, with an expected completion date of February 6, 2020. Once abatement is complete, the old school will be demolished to make way for the new 6-lane double-bend cinder track, which will surround a field that will be used for PE, football, pee-wee sports, and other school/community activities. Twenty fitness stations will be located around the track, as well as an intergenerational playground, inviting students, staff, and our community to stay active and healthy.
Without a doubt, the opportunity provided by the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Grant is changing lives in Saguache and our greater community. I would like to give a big THANK YOU to the Colorado Department of Education’s Capital Construction Board as well as our community. None of this would have been possible without the support of our local citizens. I am honored to be part of a community that values education and prioritizes our future-our students of today and leaders of tomorrow.
Safe Zones at Mountain Valley School
With social and emotional health needs increasing at unprecedented rates, schools now have a much larger role than simply teaching the traditional subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Suicide is the leading cause of death in Colorado for 15 to 24 year-olds and the fourth leading cause of death for younger children. These statistics are alarming and create an even greater sense of urgency when LGBTQ suicide rates are considered, which can be four times the suicide rate for heterosexual students.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 2017
Last week, over half of the Mountain Valley staff voluntarily attended a Safe Zone training after hours to help create inclusive and welcoming spaces in our school. I am so proud of our staff for going above and beyond to meet the social and emotional health needs of our school community. At the end of the training, everyone agreed to work towards creating Safe Zones at Mountain Valley School by affirming and signing the following pledge:
As a staff member at Mountain Valley School, I understand that it is everyone’s responsibility to be an ally for all students while creating an inclusive and welcoming environment. All staff members should demonstrate integrity and respect for the school community while recognizing that discrimination will not be tolerated. No excuses. It is our responsibility to safely intervene in situations where discrimination has occurred. I will do what is right, not what is easy.
Display a Mountain Valley Safe Zone sticker on my office or classroom hall door and/or any other place where students will see that my space is a Safe Zone.
Advocate for the right of students to grow, learn and develop in a healthy and supportive environment, free of prejudice, intolerance, bias, and discrimination.
Support the building of a safe, supportive and welcoming environment for everyone, including LGBTQ people, at Mountain Valley School.
Maintain a high level of confidentiality for those who seek support through the Safe Zone program.
Be non-judgmental when discussing issues impacting LGBTQ individuals’ lives.
Work to change false and inaccurate beliefs or oppressive attitudes.
Be supportive and accepting of sexual and gender diversity.
Continue to educate myself on LGBTQ concerns.
Do what is right, not what is easy.
Mountain Valley School will be offering more Safe Zone training opportunities in the near future as we work towards educating everyone about the importance of creating safe, welcoming and inclusive spaces in our community. If you or your organization is interested in attending a Safe Zone training, please contact Mountain Valley School at 719-655-2578.
No Place for Hate
At Mountain Valley School, creating a positive culture and climate is at the forefront of our work. This year, staff members have been focusing on self-care while building positive relationships with each other as well as every student at our school. The adults in the building set the culture of a school, and I couldn’t be more proud of Mountain Valley staff. They are kind, caring, and compassionate while holding each other accountable for doing what is best for kids.
In today’s society, public displays of hate are on the rise. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that students learn the expectations of positive behavior as they become productive citizens of our community. Students, educators, and family members all have a role to play in combating bias, bullying and the escalation of hate. Through cooperation and education, we can make our world a better place.
I am pleased to announce that Mountain Valley School has been officially designated a No Place for Hate school. No Place for Hate is a school climate initiative designed to combat bias, bullying, and hatred, leading to the creation and maintenance of positive school culture. Mountain Valley received its No Place for Hate designation by working hard towards building inclusive and safe communities where all students can thrive. With respect as a goal, we strive to empower students, staff, administration, families, and community members to take a stand against hate and bullying. Mountain Valley is sending a clear, unified message that all students have a place to belong.
Our school counselor Lisa Powers is taking it one step further by training Mountain Valley staff and community in QPR. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer-the 3 simple steps anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide.
Last week was a proud moment as I watched over 40 community members attend Lisa’s training and learn how to save a life through the key components of QPR, which include:
How to Question, Persuade and Refer someone who may be suicidal
How to get help for yourself or others
The common causes of suicidal behavior
The warning signs of suicide
How to get help for someone in crisis
Training our staff and community in QPR is urgent and important work. According to the Colorado Health Institute, Colorado suffered 1,175 deaths in 2017 due to suicide. This is the highest number in the state’s history, and suicide continues to increase at alarming rates. In 2017, Colorado lost 20.2 people per 100,000 residents to suicide, which is up from 14.1 per 100,000 in 2000. While suicide is the nation’s tenth leading cause of death, suicide ranks even higher at seventh in Colorado.
If you are interested in learning more about Mountain Valley School’s QPR training and how you can help save a life, please contact Lisa Powers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-655-2578. Together, we can make a difference.
Building for the Future
New school construction at Mountain Valley is progressing at an amazing pace, leaving students buzzing with excitement about the future. Looks of awe and wonder abound during student tours, and the kids can hardly wait for their new PreK-12 school to open in October 2019.
Mountain Valley first grade students tour their future school.
I recently had the privilege of going on a construction site tour with the second and third graders. As I watched them marvel and dream about their future in the new school, I was struck with emotion and felt honored to be a part of the next chapter of Mountain Valley history. The Mountain Valley School District community, who supported the new school and made all of this possible, should feel proud of this state-of-the-art learning facility and the difference it will make in the lives of our students. It truly takes a village to raise a child, and I am thankful to live in such a caring and supportive community.
Mountain Valley second and third graders get all geared up for safety and head out on a construction site tour.
The new school construction project began with asbestos abatement and demolition of the old cafeteria and woodshop, followed by the recycling of the old bus barn, which was auctioned. Substantial dirt work was required to adequately separate the new building from the high water table in Saguache, as well as create a proper grade for site drainage. Footer preparation, underground plumbing and electrical, concrete slab, and structural steel framework quickly followed. The structural concrete masonry unit (CMU) block for the main and auxiliary gymnasiums was completed by our masons, which was followed by the placing of steel roof joists by a giant crane.
FCI construction superintendent Troy Sergesketter leads student tours.
Current work on the first floor of the academic wing includes wall backing/blocking, exterior rigid and foam insulation, exterior liquid armor/flashings, exterior CMU veneer, as well as the hanging and finishing of drywall. The second floor of the academic wing is quickly transforming as roof carpentry, EPDM roofing/flashings, overhead electrical, overhead mechanical, overhead plumbing, interior steel stud framing, and wall backing/blocking work progresses.
View from the first-floor academic wing corridor.
Progress is also evident in the athletic wing, which consists of the main gym, auxiliary gym, stage, locker rooms, cafeteria, kitchen, culinary arts, woodshop, and metal shop areas. The work currently in progress includes roof joists/decking, liquid armor/flashings, rigid insulation, exterior steel stud framing, roof carpentry, EPDM roofing/flashings, and CMU veneer wainscotting.
Wood ceiling finishes at the main entrance of the school.
After a cold and snowy winter, I am happy to announce that the Mountain Valley new school construction project is on schedule with an anticipated ribbon cutting in October 2019. I would like to give a big THANK YOU to our construction crews for their countless hours of hard work, dedication, and time spent away from families. There are often over 80 workers on site helping to make this dream a reality. As work progresses, I have no doubt that the new Mountain Valley School is going to be a special place for our students, staff, and community. We are building for our future, and nobody deserves it more than our kids.
The Evolution of Happiness
One of my previous blog posts, The Pursuit of Happiness, explored long-term happiness and its greatest determining factor: quality relationships. Money, shiny new cars, and fame might bring happiness for a while; however, these feelings of satisfaction are brief and fleeting. It turns out that a fulfilling and happy life is much more likely to be found through the development and nurturing of close relationships with others. At first, this seems too simple, but if we dive a little deeper and study the evolution of happiness, it begins to make a little more sense.
Let’s start out by rewinding history 70,000 years or so to the Cognitive Revolution. According to Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, the Cognitive Revolution marked a time in history where humans quickly improved communication and social skills, leading to increased cooperation and more complex relationships. Back then, small groups of hunter-gatherers foraged for food, and trusting relationships were critical. Without the cooperation of tribal members, lone individuals would quickly fall prey to sabertooth tigers and the like. The combined efforts of the tribe were essential for survival, and tight-knit groups were the backbone of ancestral hunter-gatherer societies.
Around 12,000 years ago, with the arrival of the Agricultural Revolution, hunter-gatherers began to settle into a sedentary agrarian existence. Farming allowed for larger and larger societies. With increased population growth, cities and towns began to dot the landscape. Consequently, t
re humans any happier than they were 70,000 years ago? The answer may be in the statistics.
Badge of Honor
Mountain Valley School, nestled between the foothills of the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges, is located at the northern end of the San Luis Valley in Saguache, Colorado. The name Saguache is derived from a Ute word with several contested translations including “blue earth,” “blue water,” “green place,” and “sand dunes.” Regardless of the exact meaning, Saguache stands out as a beautiful place full of history and culture.
As we look to the future and build our new school, Mountain Valley hopes to integrate some of Saguache’s history in the process. Recently, the Board of Education approved an insignia that captures both historical and geographical perspectives of the area.
Mountain Valley School Insignia
According to tribal history, the Utes are the oldest residents of Colorado, having inhabited and traveled through the Saguache area for thousands of years. The Mountain Valley School insignia, which was inspired by Ute artist Kree Lopez, portrays the silhouette of a Ute rider on horseback. The Utes were one of the first tribes in North America to acquire horses from the Spaniards in the early seventeenth century. Consequently, the horse quickly became an integral part of Ute culture and one of their most prized possessions and symbols of wealth. As the Utes developed into expert riders and big game hunters, they began to dominate the landscape, traveling across large portions of Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.
Ute warrior and youth in the Rocky Mountains. Photograph, July 1871, by E.O. Beaman on John Wesley Powell’s survey of the Rocky Mountains.
The symbol also incorporates seven black feather tips representing the seven Ute bands (Caputa, Mouache, Yampa, Parianuche, Sabuagana, Tabeguache, and Weeminuche) that inhabited Colorado and traveled through the Saguache area.
The path in the center foreground of the Mountain Valley design signifies the Ute trail system around Saguache, which later became known as the North Branch of the Old Spanish Trail.
The North Branch of the Old Spanish Trail followed ancient Ute trails from Saguache, across Cochetopa Pass, and on through Gunnison.
Geographically, the insignia depicts the San Juan Mountains in black and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains tipped in red with the San Luis Valley in the foreground. Mountain Valley School colors of cardinal red, black, and white are also included.
In transitioning towards the future and a new school, we desire to create a respectful and welcoming environment at Mountain Valley. One that accurately represents the history and culture of our area, a badge of honor for our students, our school, and Saguache.
The Pursuit of Happiness
During the cold and short days of winter, happiness can often be elusive. For many, the pursuit of happiness is frequently a journey without a destination. Like a ship blown off course, so too are people searching for happiness, often times through consumerism, materialism, and social media.
Thousands of daily advertisements and Facebook posts lead us to compare ourselves with others and believe that we are inadequate. Consumerism tells us that we need to have the latest and greatest gadgets to be happy. When we buy something new, it can temporarily bring us joy, but the feelings of contentment quickly fade, leaving us unsatisfied and longing for more. Photoshopped celebrities with big smiling faces lead us to believe that our appearances just don’t measure up to Hollywood standards. Consequently, fashion, fitness, and skin care industries are booming as people strive for unattainable perfection. Likewise, our “friends” on social media always seem so happy, living lives full of excitement. Rarely are trials and tribulations captured in selfies and posted on social media. These media-driven expectations can quickly lead to feelings of unhappiness.
So what is the secret to happiness? A brain scientist would probably say dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, or endorphins. It is true. These brain chemicals can and do produce feelings of happiness, but that’s not much help when it comes to finding your happy place. Jay Harrington, author of The Single Most Important Factor in Leading a Happy, Fulfilling Life—According to Science, explains that long-term happiness comes down to a single factor: the quality of our relationships. True happiness does not come from money, fame, or good looks—it’s about the people we choose to surround ourselves with and how well we nurture our relationships with them. Plain and simple, quality relationships lead to happier and healthier lives.
At Mountain Valley School, we strive to empower and prepare every student for lifelong academic success and personal growth. Quality relationships are the foundation of our work. Early on in my administrative career, the focus was on building positive relationships with all students, but something was missing. I realized that I had been neglecting other important areas, self-care and quality staff relationships.
Since then, I have learned to ask three important questions at the beginning of meetings and conversations with staff:
What are you doing to take care of yourself?
What are you doing to take care of each other?
What are you doing to take care of kids?
This focus on self-care and building quality relationships, not only with students but among staff, has led to a happier, healthier and more positive school culture at Mountain Valley. During my six years at Mountain Valley School, I have never felt more proud of the cohesive work we are doing as a staff. Thank you, Mountain Valley staff, for taking the time to nurture positive relationships with each other and with our students. You are making a difference in the pursuit of happiness!
The Field of Dreams
Athletic director Larry Joe Hunt asked me to give out a special award at the Mountain Valley/Moffat Fall Athletic Awards Banquet last week-the Field of Dreams Award. I was honored. This award has a special place in my heart and symbolizes overcoming obstacles, specifically the "You can't do that" obstacle that is often heard when new and innovative ideas are brought forward for the first time. As I thought about the meaning of the award, I was compelled to tell a story about the history of the Field of Dreams from my point of view. Here is that story, as told at the awards banquet.
Before I give this special award tonight, I want to tell you a story about a dream that began two and a half years ago when I became the superintendent of Mountain Valley School District. I had a vision and a desire to create a better learning environment for our students, our staff, and our community.
When I shared the dream of a new school with a former Mountain Valley administrator, he quickly responded, “You can’t do that.” To which I replied, “Why?” He answered, “This is Saguache.” I asked, “What do you mean?” He curtly answered, “You’ll figure it out.”
Instead of taking his advice, I talked to the Mountain Valley School Board, and they believed in the dream. I started visiting with the community, and they believed in the dream. I talked to the Colorado Department of Education Capital Construction Board. They believed in the dream and ranked Mountain Valley School as the number one new school construction project in the state of Colorado, awarding $27 million for a new school in Saguache.
In order to receive the $27 million, our community had to approve a $3.7 million matching bond. When I started talking about the bond, once again I heard the familiar words, “You can’t do that. The Saguache community will never vote to increase taxes for a new school.” I did not take that advice either. Instead, I found about 30 people who believed in the dream and we started the Mission Possible campaign committee. Many of these people are in the room tonight. The committee worked hard and found more and more people who believed in the dream, and on November 7, 2017, Mountain Valley School District voters approved the $3.7 million bond to build a new school.
As we were designing the new school, someone asked me, “What about football?” I answered, “What about football?” They said, “You can’t play football at Mountain Valley for two years. You won’t have a field to play on.” I quickly realized that I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I was told that we would have to cancel football at Mountain Valley or send our athletes to Center to play for the Vikings. These alternatives were not in the best interest of our students.
I remember standing on the old football field trying to come up with a solution. There were cow pastures to the south and hay fields to the east. Another dream was born and once again I heard, “You can’t do that! Those fields are too rough and uneven”
I found out who owned the fields, Corey and Aubrey Hill, and in no time Corey Hill, Coach Johnson and I were out walking in the cow pastures, kicking rocks, stepping off distances, and imagining the 2018 football season. We were all hooked on the dream!
Shortly after that meeting, Corey and Aubrey Hill agreed to let Mountain Valley use their hay field east of the school for football games and practices. Do you know what a few people said? “You can’t do that. That is conservation trust land.”
We began working with the Colorado Cattlemen's Association. They believed in the dream and said we could play football on a conservation trust pasture. The dream was still alive.
I remember watching with pride as our young men and women worked the pasture with rakes and shovels building their very own Field of Dreams. I watched Scott Alexander smooth out the high spots with his tractor. I watched our construction superintendent Troy Sergesketter shoot and mark the corners of the football field. I watched Anthony Salaz watering and preparing the field. I watched Larry Joe Hunt measuring and marking the lines. I even watched a last-minute goal post go up. I watched all of this with pride.
As the adage goes, build it and they will come. We built the Field of Dreams, and I watched a community come together like never before. I watched a team go undefeated on the Field of Dreams, a team that had only won two games the year before and zero games the year before that. I watched five all-conference awards come from the Field of Dreams. I watched four all-valley awards come out of the Field of Dreams. I watched three player-of-the-year awards come from the Field of Dreams. I watched three coach-of-the-year awards come out of the Field of Dreams. Most importantly, I watched a group of young men and women come together on the Field of Dreams and say. “We can!” when others were saying, “You can’t!”
The award I am presenting tonight is the Field of Dreams Award. It is a reminder to follow your dreams and surround yourselves with others who believe in that dream. When others say, “You can’t,” remember, “You can.”
Tonight, the Field of Dreams Award goes to a couple who made all of this possible. Without their generous support, the Field of Dreams would have been just that, a dream.
Thank you, Corey and Aubrey Hill, for making the Field of Dreams a reality!
A Reason to Cheer
An August filled with tragedy and heartache made for a rough start to the 2018-2019 school year. At a time when we needed a reason to cheer, a distraction from life’s trials and tribulations, the Mountain Valley/Moffat athletes did not disappoint.
The Mountain Valley/Moffat high school volleyball team. Photo by Cassidy Cheyenne Photography.
As spectators and fans, our community did not disappoint our athletes. Attendance during sporting events was the best I have ever seen. I was proud of the way everyone cheered for and supported our teams whether they were winning a big game or losing a tough one. It is with sincere appreciation and gratitude that I send a big THANK YOU to all of our amazing fans who supported the Mountain Valley/Moffat athletes during the fall sports season.
The Mountain Valley/Moffat high school football team. Photo by Cassidy Cheyenne Photography.
Many fond memories were made this season; however, a favorite memory for many of our fans was the sound of our school song echoing off of S Mountain at the end of a tough game.
Cheer, cheer for Mountain Valley High
Keep up the courage, we will stand by
Send that ball right down the field
For it’s the score we’re waiting for!
We never fumble, we never fall
We’ll check the score right up on the wall
As our loyal team goes marching
onward to victory!
RAH! RAH! RAH!
The Mountain Valley/Moffat middle school volleyball team. Photo by Cassidy Cheyenne Photography.
The fall sports lineup for Mountain Valley included high school volleyball, high school football, middle school volleyball, and middle school football. Our neighboring school in Moffat hosted both middle school and high school cross country.
The Moffat/Mountain Valley cross country team. Photo by Jessica Phillips Bella Photography.
I want to thank all of our coaches and athletic directors for the extra hours logged for our athletes. Thank you, Beth Schroeder, Jessica Phillips, Joel Johnson, Justin Wilson, Elaine Flick, Kelsey Hammel, Larry Joe Hunt, Michael Roberts, Crystal Wade, and Dale Harrison. You make a huge difference in the lives of our students!
The Mountain Valley/Moffat middle school football team. Photo by Cassidy Cheyenne Photography.
During the fall sports season, so many people gave up valuable time in support of our athletes. Thank you to all of our referees, line judges, chain crews, bus drivers, and maintenance staff. Thank you to everyone who helped film games, run concessions, take gate, print programs, run clock, and supervise games. Thank you, parents, for supporting your children and being their greatest fans.
Cross country headed to Regionals. Photo by Dale Harrison.
In closing, I would like to thank our athletes for their dedication and commitment. It was fun watching everyone improve through hard work and determination during practices and games. It is not easy to balance school, life, and sports. Thank you, athletes. Thank you for giving us a reason to cheer!
Respect Is Earned
On a recent bus ride to Manzanola, Colorado with our high school volleyball and football teams, I started thinking about respect and how I hoped our athletes would represent themselves as visitors from Mountain Valley School. I was hoping they would earn respect, not only as athletes but as individuals. I was not disappointed as our teams worked together and exhibited unparalleled sportsmanship.
The word respect is derived from the Latin word respectus, which literally means to look back. The Oxford English Dictionary defines respect as “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”
Over the years, as an educator, I have seen people demand respect without ever trying to earn it. You can demand respect; however, true respect has to be earned. How else can you elicit feelings of deep admiration from others? As we make daily decisions with integrity, always working towards self-improvement and growth of our abilities, respect is slowly earned. Earning respect, like depositing money in a bank, can take years of hard work and dedication.
Conversely, as demonstrated by many professional athletes, celebrities, and politicians, respect can be destroyed in a heartbeat through deceit, dishonesty, or corruption. Scholar and author C.S. Lewis reminds us that “integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” If we follow these words of wisdom, we will never be in danger of losing hard-earned respect.
As I reflect on this school year at Mountain Valley, respect comes to mind. I am proud of our staff who continually build positive relationships not only with students but with each other. I am proud of our students who overcome obstacles daily while treating others with dignity and compassion. I am proud of our families who dedicate so much time and energy to their children. And I am proud of our community for continually supporting Mountain Valley School.
It is with pride and respect that I say thank you. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for earning respect.
Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes.
At Mountain Valley, building positive relationships is a priority, and our entire staff has been working hard to create an amazing school culture. In fact, every staff member at Mountain Valley School is participating in a book study, which involves reading, discussing, and applying lessons learned through Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes by Jimmy Casas.
Casas defines the word Culturize as follows: To cultivate a community of learners by behaving in a kind, caring, honest, and compassionate manner in order to challenge and inspire each member of the school community to become more than they ever thought possible.
My day is always better when I get a chance to hang out with our students!
Simply stated, if we want to improve student behavior and improve the culture of our school, we must first begin by changing the adult behavior. This means all adults-teachers, secretaries, administrators, bus drivers, custodians, food service employees-everyone. We all play a big part in building school culture. As adults, our attitudes are contagious. We can choose to be awfulizers and bring people down with negativity, or we can choose to be awesomizers and lift people up with positivity. I choose to be an awesomizer.
I call it the boomerang effect. By investing time and energy in each other, even through the simplest of interactions, we can play a part in helping everyone become better. Somewhere along the way, we become better, too. Casas goes on to explain that “we are blessed every day with the opportunity to help change the course of someone’s life with our words, our actions, and our belief in their abilities. By changing our perspectives, we can change lives.”
As a school and community, we have the opportunity to become champions for all students, not just kids who are likable and helpful but struggling and resistant ones as well. In fact, these students need someone in their corner more than others. I firmly believe that it takes just one responsible and caring adult to make a difference in the life of a child. Will that person be you?
Without a doubt, everyone can be a leader, and everyone can help shape the culture of a school, a town, or a community. Your interactions with others matter and people will remember how you treated them. Choose awesome over awful, and make a positive difference in someone’s life today.
Saguache Grieves, Saguache Believes
August of 2018 was an incredibly hard month for the small community of Saguache. In that short timespan, hearts were broken over and over again by the passing of so many loved ones. I have seen the tears flow freely lately, and I struggle to make sense of it all. I do know that living in a small community is a blessing, a place where you are more than just a number, more than just a face in the crowd. In Saguache, people are deeply connected and their lives touch each other in unique ways.
While Saguache grieves, it also believes in compassion and kindness. I have witnessed an amazing outpouring of comfort, support, and love these past few weeks during community vigils, memorials, athletic events, and daily interactions between caring people. I am proud to call Saguache my home.
In Honor of our Lost Captains, Christian “Chooch” Arredondo and Ryker Poor. Photo by Ceedric Harrison
This weekend I watched our high school students come together and dedicate football and volleyball games in honor of friends and former teammates that were taken from this earth much too soon. Their dedication, cooperation, and effort produced some remarkable results. For the first time that I can remember, both teams won with impressive shutouts. The volleyball team won the match against Primero in three straight games (3-0), while the football team beat the Bulldogs by a score of 58-0. The human spirit never ceases to amaze me.
The Mountain Valley/Moffat volleyball team during pregame warmups against the Primero Bulldogs.
I was equally impressed by the community support at our first home games against the Primero Bulldogs. The sizeable crowd was loud and proud as they cheered for the Mountain Valley/Moffat Indians. The games were so exciting that even the construction workers building our new school could be heard cheering from the platform west of the football field. After the games, as I was walking home, the construction crew stopped me and asked if I could get them some Mountain Valley shirts. It appears as though our athletes have some new fans!
Workers cheer for Mountain Valley from the construction platform. Photo by Troy Sergesketter
At a time when our community needed something positive, the “Field of Dreams” was completed just before our first football contest with Primero, allowing us to host home games in Saguache. I am so thankful that our community has chosen to stand up for our kids. Corey and Aubrey Hill, as well as the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, graciously allowed Mountain Valley to utilize the land east of the school as a football field for the 2018 season. Athletic Director Larry Joe Hunt, Facilities Director Anthony Salaz, and FCI Construction Superintendent Troy Sergesketter have put in countless hours prepping the new field. Joel Johnson, Justin Wilson, Michael Roberts, Scott Alexander and the football team also worked hard to help build their very own “Field of Dreams.” Thank you, Saguache!
The Mountain Valley football team during their first practice on the “Field of Dreams.”
It is my hope and prayer that we continue to rally around each other, not just during times of grief and struggle, but always. We are a stronger and more compassionate community because of the past few weeks. As we move forward, I hope everyone continues to focus on building positive relationships, connecting with neighbors, and supporting those in need. Together, we can and will make a difference.
When One Door Closes
You have probably heard the famous quote, “When one door closes another opens.” Scientist, inventor, and innovator Alexander Graham Bell is credited with this quote; however, what he actually said is a little longer and a bit more meaningful. The full quote reads like this: “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
Life is constantly changing as we experience growth and improvement, as well as loss and suffering. During my lifetime, I have had many doors close, and new ones have always opened up. Oftentimes, these changes did not make sense to me and I would spend my time looking at the closed door trying to understand the situation, always ignoring the possibilities of new doors opening up. In retrospect, as I get older (and hopefully wiser), I can clearly see why doors of the past have closed, always leading to open doors full of personal growth, improvement, and lessons learned along the way.
Just recently, a new door opened for us, a door that will forever change our lives. On May 15th, 2018, our daughter Avery Ann Jenine was born. After months of anxiety, fear, anticipation, and excitement, Amy and I have a new baby girl and we are blessed beyond belief. I had worried that the door to my life as I knew it was closing; however, the moment Avery was born, it was love at first sight and that little girl stole my heart. It seems as though I spent a lot of time worrying about the closing door without even realizing how amazing it would be to step through the open door.
Photo by Stephanie Buechler
During my five years at Mountain Valley School, I have seen many doors close and open. After the door closed for me as a teacher at Sargent School, I became a 6th-grade teacher to a class full of awesome kids at Mountain Valley. That door closed and a new door opened as PreK-12 principal of Mountain Valley School, where I had an entire school full of amazing students! Shortly thereafter, the principal door closed and the superintendent door opened. I miss the daily interactions with kids that I used to have as a teacher, but I am honored to work towards improving Mountain Valley School District for our students, families, and community.
We are headed toward the future of Mountain Valley School, and doors are opening and closing at a rapid rate. Abatement and demolition projects will begin in early June, starting with the cafeteria, woodshop, and bus barn. The Groundbreaking and Blessing Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, May 23rd at 2:00 pm. Mr. Hanley Frost from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Culture and Education Department will be on campus to share Ute history of Saguache and bless our new school. FCI Constructors, Treanor HL Architects & Engineers, and NV5 will be on site as well. Everyone is invited to join us as the new Mountain Valley School construction doors open and we begin building the future!
As the school year ends and we begin summer break, change will be inevitable. Remember Alexander Graham Bell’s advice and take some time to reflect and enjoy the past while looking optimistically towards the future.
Graduation, Groundbreaking, and More
May is the busiest month of the year for educators, and this month is no exception. May 7-11th is Teacher Appreciation Week. Please take some time to thank a teacher for making a difference in the lives of children. We have a great staff at Mountain Valley School, and I want to give all of our teachers a big shout out and THANK YOU! I would like to personally congratulate the following staff members for their recent awards: Mountain Valley School Teacher of the Year: Andrew Virdin, Mountain Valley Employee of the Year: Patty Williams, I Love Kids Award: Peggy Williams, Above and Beyond Award: Renee Hazard, Continuous Creativity Award: Mimi Dolan, and Awesome Attitude Award: Eileen Wilfong. Congratulations and thank you for all of your hard work!
The Mighty Minds Spring Concert and Art Show will be taking place on Thursday, May 10th at 6:00 pm in the Mountain Valley School gym. Mrs. Wilfong, Mrs. Hansen, and all of their classes have been working hard preparing for this event. Please join us for a fun-filled evening of music and art for the whole family.
New School Update and Board of Education meetings will take place at MVS on Tuesday, May 15th at 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm, respectively. Bring your questions and get the latest updates on the progress of the new Mountain Valley School.
The Class of 2018 graduation will be held on Saturday, May 19th at 10:00 am. Come on out to Mountain Valley School and help us welcome the Honor Class of 1968 and congratulate the 2018 graduates. Once again, the “future graduates” from preschool to 11th grade will kick off the graduation ceremony.
I am excited and proud to announce that the Blessing and Groundbreaking Ceremony for the new Mountain Valley School will take place on Wednesday, May 23rd at 2:00 pm. The time is finally here and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe will be blessing our new school. Mr. Hanley Frost, Southern Ute Cultural Education Coordinator, will conduct the blessing ceremony, which will be followed by the Groundbreaking Ceremony. This is sure to be an event to remember, so mark your calendars and join us on May 23rd!
Have a great week and enjoy this beautiful spring weather!
The Future is Here
Great things are happening at Mountain Valley School! As we look towards the future and preparing students for jobs that don’t even exist, it is critical that a variety of choices, experiences, and opportunities are provided. I am proud to announce that Mountain Valley School is working with Trinidad State Junior College to get an aquaponics program started for the 2018-2019 school year. Furthermore, our Colorado Shines quality rated preschool program just received their aquaponic fish tank and garden. It looks like our youngest students will begin delving into aquaponics at a very early age!
The new preschool fish tank and aquaponic garden.
In addition to aquaponics, shop classes will soon be offered at MVS, allowing students to work with their hands while exploring vocational careers. Life skills will continue to be offered at Mountain Valley School, along with art, music, physical education, and various internship opportunities. Our junior and senior students already enjoy visits to trade schools, junior colleges, and universities across the state. Last, but not least, I am excited about our new virtual job shadowing program, which allows students of all ages to explore various career opportunities around the world.
Our Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Night was a huge success thanks to the hard work and dedication of our high school science teacher Yvonne Morfitt and our school health professional Amy Norris. Over fifty community members enjoyed a free dinner and explored STEM while participating in the creation of elephant toothpaste and lip balm! Additionally, the oobleck tank, which was produced with over fifty pounds of corn starch, slime creation, and microscopic mitosis were big hits. A giant THANK YOU goes out to everyone who made Mountain Valley’s STEM Night a huge success!
High school Science Club and physics students preparing Oobleck for the community STEM Night.
Our Prevention Bingo Nights have also been a great success. So far, we have had two of these events and have had excellent attendance. I even had to add two extra tables at the last one! During prevention bingo, students, parents, and families learned all about the benefits of making positive choices when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. Of course, it is always fun to yell “BINGO” and claim a great prize. Hopefully, we will have one more prevention bingo event before the end of the year. I would like to take a moment to appreciate Amy Norris, MVS staff, and the community for making Prevention Bingo Night so popular! It takes a village to raise a child, and we have a pretty awesome village! Thank you!
Upcoming events include a New School Community Meeting to discuss the forward progress that has been made towards our new school. Things are really starting to come together as the design phase heads towards the construction phase. Our new school is going to be an amazing addition to our community that will benefit many generations of students! Be sure to attend the community meeting at Mountain Valley School on Tuesday, March 27th at 5:00 pm.
Additionally, Mountain Valley School will be teaming up with Aventa Credit Union to present a Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft and Fraud Seminar. This great opportunity is free to the community and will take place at Mountain Valley School on Wednesday, March 28 at 5:30 pm. Adult education and lifelong learning help build strong communities. Remember, stay informed and protect your identity!
As always, if you have any questions regarding Mountain Valley School, please contact me at email@example.com or 719-655-0268.
Have a great spring break week!
All Change is Hard at First
“All change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.” This quote by author Robin Sharma defines the struggle of change, a struggle that we all encounter at one time or another in our lives, a struggle that is real. During my life, I have faced unexpected change and adversity many times. In retrospect, I have a better understanding of my life’s challenges. Despite the struggle, they have all made me stronger or my life better in one way or another. I have found that change always has its purpose.
As we move forward with the building of a new school in our community, change can be uncomfortable and downright hard for some people. Things will no longer be as they have been for over fifty years at Mountain Valley School. We will have a state-of-the-art building for our students, staff, families, and community; however, our campus layout will physically change. The new school will be built on the east end of our property and the athletic track and field will be on the west side. This arrangement will allow students to attend school in their current location while the new school is built, eliminating the need for displacement during construction.
Architectural rendering of the new Mountain Valley School as seen from the intersection of Pitkin Avenue and Third Street.
My goal as superintendent of Mountain Valley School District has always been transparency while doing what is best for kids and our community. Over the past year and a half, numerous community meetings have been held in various locations, all with the intent of disseminating and gathering information regarding the new school at Mountain Valley.
A team of around 18 volunteer community members, known as the Design Advisory Group, has worked hard to design a site and school that will meet the needs of our students, families, and community for many years to come. Every decision has been made focusing on what is best for all stakeholders. In the end, we will not only have a new school to adequately prepare our kids for the future, we will have a welcoming community space for people of all ages.
The latest floor plan of the new Mountain Valley School.
Mountain Valley School District, through a competitive and transparent bidding process, has assembled the best possible team of professionals, including architects, engineers, surveyors, and contractors. I am confident that our team will build an amazing school for our students while addressing the needs of the community.
Lately, the discomfort of change has led to a lot of misinformation in our community. If you have questions or concerns regarding Mountain Valley School, please don’t hesitate to visit with me personally. I will provide honest and accurate information. Remember, all change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end. I am sure that the struggle of change will produce beautiful results when our new school opens during the fall of 2019!
Please feel free to download the architectural rendering and floor plan below.
Have a great week!
New Mountain Valley School Update
The Design Advisory Group (DAG) for the new Mountain Valley School met for the fourth and final time on Wednesday, January 24, 2018. The DAG, which was comprised of 16 community members, was responsible for helping to design the layout and site plan for the new school. I am so proud of all of the hard work that the DAG has put into designing a school that will be a perfect fit for our community.
Watch the following video to see detailed slides from the DAG meeting #4.
Additional site plan and school layout information will be available during a community meeting that will be held at Mountain Valley School on Wednesday, February 7th at 5:00 pm.
Latest site plan for the Mountain Valley School campus.Updated first-floor layout.Updated second-floor layout.Architectural rendering of the new school from the parking lot entrance.Architectural rendering of the main entrance to the school.Architectural rendering of the cafeteria and gym exterior.Architectural rendering of the new school as viewed from Pitkin Avenue.
These renderings and plans are the basic building blocks of the new school and will continue to evolve as the various user groups take over refining the design process.
If you have any comments or questions regarding the latest campus layout and new school design, please feel free to contact any DAG member (Amber Johnson, Aubrey Hill, David Hammel, Kathy Hill, Lacy Reed, Lisa Jaminet, Bobbie Baughman, Marilyn Fenton, Mark Hammel, Mona Lovato, Paula Lujan, Peggy Williams, Yvonne Morfitt, Eric Frey, Chuck Tidd, and Travis Garoutte).
Don’t forget to join us for the new school community meeting at Mountain Valley on Wednesday, February 7th at 5:00 pm.
I hope to see you there!
Click on the links below to view and download DAG #4 minutes and slides:
What’s Your Passion?
The word “passion” is thrown around a lot these days. I’m passionate about this. I’m passionate about that. What are your passions? Before you answer, let’s take a closer look at the true meaning of the word passion.
Passion is a Middle English word, from Anglo-French, derived from Late Latin passion and passio, meaning suffering or being acted upon. Passion’s earliest origins begin with the Latin word pati, to suffer. So, let’s take it way back and use a little Latin. What are you passionate about, or for what are you willing to suffer?
I immediately think of my family. I am willing to suffer for my family. Interestingly, the word “family” originates from the Latin word famulus, meaning servant. Now, when I use Latin and say I am passionate about my family, I might be saying that I am willing to suffer as a servant.
Educators are servants. They are an extension of the family. In fact, the legal term in loco parentis (also Latin) is used in education and quite literally means “in place of a parent.” The school environment is filled with servants who are passionate about kids. When I say this, I mean all staff members, from maintenance to foodservice, transportation to administration, and of course, teachers. Passionate people make a difference in the lives of children.
The short video Every Opportunity produced by Atlanta Speech School shows the importance of positive interactions, especially with students. Simple interactions make a difference, and we should take every opportunity to put our best foot forward and build meaningful relationships. Even when we are grumpy and having a bad day, it is important to let our passion show and serve the people who need us most, our children.
When I ask about your passions, I hope they include answers related to personal growth, family, and community. If you are an educator, I hope your answers include children.
With that said, what are you passionate about? Some things are worth suffering for; others are not.
New School Site Plan at Mountain Valley
After a month of brainstorming and planning, the Design Advisory Group (DAG) is getting close to finalizing the site layout and floor plan for the future Mountain Valley PreK-12 School. There is only one more DAG meeting left, and everyone is getting excited to move from the design phase to the construction phase, which is expected to begin in late May or early June of 2018.
Starting from the west side of the property, the site plan below shows a regulation 1600 meter track with a field inside. This area will be large enough to accommodate an 80-yard field for 6-man football or a 100-yard field for 8 and 11-man football. A regulation-sized soccer field will also fit inside of the track. The track and field will be utilized for various community activities and sporting events, as well as allow for future expansion of athletic programs at Mountain Valley School.
The PreK-12 School is located just east of the track with educational and community use areas. The wing to the west will be utilized for both school and community activities and events. The two-story north wing will house most of the academic classroom spaces.
This site layout allows for increased security on campus, protection from prevailing winds, and southern sun exposure on all approach sidewalks, parking lots, and playground areas.
The preschool playground will be placed off of the preschool classroom, and the elementary playground will be southeast of the track. Transportation facilities and additional athletic event parking are shown on the west side of the property.
Adequate parking, secure student drop off areas, and separate bus loading and unloading zones will increase safety on campus during the busy morning, lunch, and afternoon hours. School plazas and memorials will be located around the school. The community garden and geodesic dome greenhouse will remain on the south side of the property.
The first floor of the school is shown with elementary, media center, team center, administration, art, and weight room areas throughout the north wing. The west wing houses the gym, auxiliary gym, locker rooms, concessions, cafeteria, home economics, vocational education, performing arts, and storage spaces. Community engagement and access are important at Mountain Valley School. Consequently, the media center and most spaces in the west wing will be available for various community activities and events.
The second-floor layout has the high school and middle school areas separated by the media center. A science deck will look out over the beautiful views from Saguache. The two gymnasiums, performing arts spaces, and a hidden mechanical area will be at a two-story height as well.
If you have any comments or questions regarding the campus layout and new school design, please feel free to contact any DAG member (Amber Johnson, Aubrey Hill, David Hammel, Kathy Hill, Lacy Reed, Lisa Jaminet, Bobbie Baughman, Marilyn Fenton, Mark Hammel, Mona Lovato, Paula Lujan, Peggy Williams, Yvonne Morfitt, Eric Frey, May Engquist, Chuck Tidd, and Travis Garoutte) or stop by Mountain Valley and visit with administration. For even more information on the DAG process, click on the links below to view the minutes and slides from all three of the previous meetings.
Mountain Valley School Design
The design process for the new PreK-12 school at Mountain Valley is underway! We have assembled a fantastic team and are quickly making progress towards realizing the hopes and dreams for the future of our school and community.
Design Advisory Group member Bobbie Baughman shares her thoughts on school site use and placement.
After a transparent and competitive interview and bidding process, Mountain Valley School District has hired NV5 as owner’s representatives, TreanorHL as the architectural and engineering firm, and FCI Constructors. This team is a great fit for our school and community, and I am excited to be working closely with them during the design and construction of our new school.
Eric Frey discusses site design with the Design Advisory Group.
Additionally, over 15 community members have volunteered to serve on the Design Advisory Group (DAG). The DAG met on December 6th for around three hours and discussed hopes, dreams, goals, visions, opportunities, and challenges around the new school design. It was a great first meeting full of enthusiasm and optimism as possible school placement and designs were discussed and modeled.
The Design Advisory Group (DAG) process will be completed in four or five meetings.
One of the responsibilities of DAG members is to solicit feedback from various stakeholders in the community and relay that information to the design team. If you would like to share your thoughts and ideas before our next community meeting, please contact one of the following DAG members: Amber Johnson, Aubrey Hill, Julia Hammel, Kathy Hill, Lacy Reed, Lisa Jaminet, Bobbie Baughman, Marilyn Fenton, Mark Hammel, Mona Lovato, Paula Lujan, Peggy Williams, Yvonne Morfitt, Eric Frey, May Engquist, Chuck Tidd, or Travis Garoutte. It is important that the new school design includes input from all stakeholders. In the end, we want a school that meets the needs of our students and community.
The Design Advisory Group examines various school models and layouts.
These are exciting times for our students, staff, and community. I encourage everyone to visit with DAG members, attend community meetings, and take an active role as we design and build a new school at Mountain Valley.
Have a great week!
Travis Garoutte, Superintendent
Together, We Can Make a Difference!
Thanks to our supportive community, Mountain Valley School is well on its way towards realizing the district goals of relationships, innovation, and rejuvenation. Relationships with all stakeholders is critical, and district residents are trusting Mountain Valley to create innovative and engaging learning environments, as well as multi-use community and athletic spaces as we design and build a new school that will serve our students, families, and community for many generations to come.
Throughout this process, transparency is key. My hope is that everyone has access to accurate information and ample opportunities to share thoughts and ideas during the design and building phases. Our first new school facility community meeting with owner’s representatives NV5 and architects TreanorHL was held on Wednesday, November 29th at 5:00 pm at Mountain Valley School. Over 40 residents were present and met the NV5 and TreanorHL teams that will be working closely with the Mountain Valley community during this process. Topics covered during this meeting included Transparency Diagram, Design Advisory Group Process, High-Level Timeline, Community Input Process, Design Philosophy – Designing within Context, and Open Dialogue regarding Community Vision, Hopes, Dreams, and Fears.
On the construction side of the project, Mountain Valley received proposals from four construction companies: GE Johnson, GH Phipps, Haselden-Diesslin, and FCI. GE Johnson has completed 124 PreK-12 School projects, including BEST schools in the San Luis Valley for Center, Sangre de Cristo, and South Conejos. GH Phipps has built schools throughout Colorado, as well as projects at Adams State University, San Luis Valley Health, and the Rio Grande Hospital. Haselden-Diesslin has completed over 130 PreK-12 schools, including Moffat School, Salida High School, and Longfellow Elementary School in Salida. Over the past five years, FCI has built over 120 educational facilities, including Ignacio High School, Ignacio Middle School, and Sanford School.
A six-member selection team worked hard to score the proposals from the aforementioned construction companies. This was no easy task, as the proposals ranged from 45 to 68 pages, and each construction company was highly qualified. Proposals were scored on the following criteria: Cover Letter; Firm Qualifications; Project Experience and References; High Performance/Sustainability Expertise; Team Structure, Experience, and Resumes; Cost Estimate; Project Schedule; and Project Approach. After the scoring was completed, the top-ranked construction companies were invited for face-to-face interviews at Mountain Valley School on Monday, December 4th. The interviews were scored and Mountain Valley is currently working to select a construction company to join our team and help build the new PreK-12 school in Saguache, Colorado.
These are exciting times for our school and community! As we begin designing the new school, please attend the community meetings and share your input. Together, we can make a difference at Mountain Valley School.
Travis Garoutte, Superintendent
Designing the Future at MVS
I am so proud of our community and its support of Mountain Valley in passing bond issue 3B for a new PreK-12 school in Saguache, Colorado. It is with great excitement that I look forward to the future of Mountain Valley School District and the positive impact this will have on our students, our community, and our future. As our journey continues, Mountain Valley is dedicated to working with all stakeholders to design and build a new school that will meet the needs of our students, families, and community. Together, we will make a difference in the lives of children. Thank you for supporting Mountain Valley School District and making this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity a reality.
After visiting Saguache and Mountain Valley School last month, eleven architectural firms throughout Colorado and New Mexico submitted proposals. The proposals were assessed and scored by a six-member selection team, and the top four firms were invited for a face-to-face interview in Saguache on November 8, 2017. After a day of rigorous interviews, TreanorHL was selected as the architectural firm to design the new PreK-12 school at Mountain Valley.
With over 50 years of experience in educational facility design, it is clear that TreanorHL is passionate about designing state-of-the-art active learning environments for PreK-12 schools. In addition to experience on the front range, TreanorHL has designed schools in the rural mountain towns of Lake City, Buena Vista, Leadville, Gunnison, Crested Butte, Carbondale, Basalt, Glenwood Springs, and Steamboat Springs.
Chad Novak, TreanorHL Principal-in-Charge, stated, “I’m excited about designing a space that is grounded in Saguache’s unique history, culture, and landscape, allowing the community itself to become an extension of the classroom.”
Chad Novak, TreanorHL Principal-in-Charge for the new PreK-12 Mountain Valley School project.
Project Manager Adam Braunstein is “excited about working with folks that really care about what’s happening in the community and have a genuine goal of creating a place that empowers and prepares every student for success.”
Adam Braunstein, TreanorHL Project Manager for the new PreK-12 Mountain Valley School project.
Project Architect Scott Dangel said, “Schools, particularly in smaller, rural areas play a crucial role for the community, often serving as a communal gathering place. I’m excited that the district wants to create a life-long learning center for everyone.”
Scott Dangel, TreanorHL Project Architect for the new PreK-12 Mountain Valley School project.
As we begin working with TreanorHL to design a new school that meets the needs of our community, a Design Advisory Group (DAG) will be formed. The DAG will consist of 10-15 members, including students, parents, community members, MVS staff and administration. The DAG members will attend DAG meetings, solicit feedback from all stakeholders, attend larger community input meetings, and help ensure that the new school is designed and built to meet the needs of our students, staff, and community. There will be a continuous cycle of DAG meetings and larger community input meetings to ensure that the new Mountain Valley School is a perfect fit for our community. If you are interested in the design process and serving on the DAG, please contact me at Mountain Valley School.
I am looking forward to working with TreanorHL and the DAG to design our new school at Mountain Valley!
Travis Garoutte, Superintendent
Mountain Valley Students Deserve Informed Voters
Mountain Valley School District has been awarded a once-in-a-lifetime $27 million Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Grant to build a safe and secure 21st-century learning facility for our students, our community, and our future. To receive this BEST Grant, voters who reside in our school district must approve a matching $3.7 million bond. Voting ballots have been mailed and the official election deadline is Tuesday, November 7, 2017. Many residents have attended community meetings and received accurate information. However, some misinformation has recently surfaced and I would like to revisit the most frequently asked questions in detail. My hope is that all citizens will have factual information when they vote on ballot question 3B.
Mountain Valley’s main building is over 50 years old and beyond its useful life. The current middle school was built in 1995 and will be repurposed as a transportation and maintenance facility.
WHAT IS THE BEST PROGRAM?
Building Excellent Schools Today legislation was passed in the spring of 2008 for the purpose of assisting school districts with low property values in upgrading facilities to a minimum standard of safety and functionality. Without this BEST funding, low property value school districts, like Mountain Valley School District, would never be able to build safe and modern school facilities for our students, families, and community.
HOW MUCH WILL THE PROPOSED NEW SCHOOL COST?
The total cost of a new PreK-12 school facility presented in the Mountain Valley School BEST Grant proposal was just under $31 million dollars. Last May, Mountain Valley School District was awarded a $27 million BEST Grant. To receive this BEST Grant, it will be necessary for district residents to match about 12% of this cost by approving a $3.7 million bond during the 2017 election. The State of Colorado will be providing 88% of the approved BEST project funding costs.
Architectural drawing of possible new school layout. The final design will be determined by Mountain Valley students, staff, administration, and community.
WHAT WOULD IT COST TO SIMPLY RENOVATE OUR CURRENT FACILITIES AT MOUNTAIN VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT?
A 2009 facilities assessment by the Colorado Department of Education found almost $17 million worth of needed repairs at Mountain Valley School District. Since that time, conditions at the school have only deteriorated while costs have escalated. With a bonding capacity of only $3.7 million, Mountain Valley School can never repair the existing problems without funding assistance. Due to the current condition of our facilities and cost to renovate, remodeling was never a feasible option. The Colorado Department of Education’s Capital Construction Board ranked Mountain Valley’s new school construction project as the highest need in the state of Colorado and awarded a $27 million BEST Grant to build a new state-of-the-art school facility for our community.
NV5 Technical Engineering and Consulting Solutions estimated renovation costs using the formula $250 per square foot x 75,000 square feet = $18.75 million for buildings alone + additions + grounds improvements + temporary learning spaces for the students. NV5 also noted that the $3.7 million matching bond would still be required, and the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) would not support renovations with Mountain Valley’s Facilities Cost Index (FCI = cost of needed repairs/value of the property) of 72.21%. Sarah Lara from NV5 stated, “In Mountain Valley’s case a new school makes the most sense, from a financial & safety/security standpoint for students and staff. Mountain Valley School was one of the highest needs schools that submitted an application, so that says a lot about the level of concern from CDE about the current buildings.”
Wold Architects and Engineers was asked for a professional opinion on renovation as well. Job Gutierrez from Wold stated, “Even if Mountain Valley fixed all of the current deficiencies at $16-18 million for system replacements (actual project costs would be higher), they would still be left with an old and antiquated school layout, not a modern 21st Century school with flexible learning spaces and project-based learning space opportunities. The $3.7 million matching bond would still be required.”
WHY DOES THE MOUNTAIN VALLEY SCHOOL COST MORE THAN THE MOFFAT SCHOOL?
Moffat’s new school was completed in August 2015, four years ahead of Mountain Valley’s scheduled completion of August 2019. According to NV5, the owner’s representatives for Moffat during their project, school construction costs have escalated more than 10% per year for rural and mountain communities. That is at least a 40% increase in construction costs. The Moffat School’s final cost was close to $18.3 million for 47,000 square feet of space or $390 per square foot. When current construction cost escalations are factored in, projected costs for Moffat’s school would be much higher in today’s market. Mountain Valley’s $31 million project is 67,000 square feet and works out to $462 per square foot. The Mountain Valley School will have additional student and community spaces, which include a gym and auxiliary gym, weight room, stage, media center, community garden, football field, rubberized track and a fitness trail. The new facility at Mountain Valley will be more than a school for students; it will be a welcoming space for our community and families.
WILL WE KEEP ANY OF THE BUILDINGS WE ALREADY HAVE?
The Mountain Valley School District Facilities Action Plan allows the Middle School building to be repurposed as a Transportation and Maintenance facility.
HOW DISRUPTIVE WILL THE CONSTRUCTION PROCESS BE TO THE EDUCATION PROCESS?
The Mountain Valley School District Facilities Action Plan shows that the new school will be built and opened before vacating the old buildings.
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO DO THIS NOW? ARE OUR CURRENT BUILDINGS NO LONGER SAFE?
During the 2017 BEST Grant application process, Mountain Valley School District was the top-ranked school in the state needing new educational facilities. Our buildings currently exhibit numerous safety, electrical, plumbing, HVAC and roofing issues, as well as other urgent needs. In addition, there is only a limited amount of BEST funding available for projects like the one Mountain Valley School District has been awarded. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime funding opportunity to provide a much-needed new PreK-12 facility for our students, families, and community. With a bonding capacity of only $3.7 million, our district will never be able to improve our facilities situation and provide both today’s and tomorrow’s students with the safe and modern facilities they deserve. This $27 million BEST Grant funding opportunity may never be offered to Mountain Valley School again. Moffat, Creede, Sanford, South Conejos, Sargent, Alamosa, Monte Vista, Sangre De Cristo and Centennial schools have already built new and modern facilities with BEST funding.
Freedle Auditorium, built in 1933, is in disrepair and well beyond its useful life. This building serves as the kitchen, cafeteria, office and storage spaces at Mountain Valley School.
HOW MUCH WILL THE NEW SCHOOL COST ME AS A TAXPAYER IF I OWN A HOUSE OR RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY IN THE DISTRICT?
If your property’s assessed value is $25,000, your tax impact will be about $2.34 per month or $28.02 per year.
If your property’s assessed value is $50,000, your tax impact will be about $4.67 per month or $56.04 per year.
If your property’s assessed value is $75,000, your tax impact will be about $7.00 per month or $84.06 per year.
If your property’s assessed value is $100,000, your tax impact will be about $9.34 per month or $112.08 per year.
If your property’s assessed value is $125,000, your tax impact will be about $11.68 per month or $140.10 per year.
If your property’s assessed value is $150,000, your tax impact will be about $14.01per month or $168.12 per year.
If your property’s assessed value is $175,000, your tax impact will be about $16.35 per month or $196.14 per year.
If your property’s assessed value is $200,000, your tax impact will be about $18.68 per month or $224.16 per year.
If your property’s assessed value is $225,000, your tax impact will be about $21.02 per month or $252.18 per year.
If your property’s assessed value is $250,000, your tax impact will be about $23.35 per month or $280.20 per year.
HOW MUCH WILL THE NEW SCHOOL COST ME AS A TAXPAYER IF I OWN COMMERCIAL OR AGRICULTURE PROPERTY IN THE DISTRICT?
For business and agricultural owners, the tax impact for every $100,000 of assessed commercial or agricultural property will be about $37.36 per month or $448.32 per year.
WHAT HAPPENS IF VOTERS DO NOT APPROVE THE 2017 BOND DURING THE NOVEMBER 7, 2017 ELECTION?
If the November 2017 bond fails, the $27 million BEST Grant awarded to Mountain Valley School District reverts back to the State of Colorado to be distributed to another school district that is willing to meet its BEST Grant match requirement. The first district in line to receive this money if we fail to pass our 2017 Bond is Mancos School District, which has already been selected by the BEST Grant Board as an alternate project should any project ahead of them fail to provide their match this November. If the bond fails, Mountain Valley School District will not have the necessary funding to address current safety issues and failing systems. BEST Grant funding is dwindling, and there is no guarantee that state funding will ever be available again to help our school.
NEED MORE FACTUAL INFORMATION?
If you still need more information regarding the new school at Mountain Valley, please stop by the school and visit with me. Factual information can also be found at BEST for MVS and The Superintendent’s Corner websites.
Thank you for taking the time to become an informed voter!
Travis Garoutte, Superintendent
Preserving History and Culture at the New Mountain Valley School
Cochetopa Pass Buffalos
It Takes a Village
At Mountain Valley School, our mission for the past four years has been to empower and prepare every student for lifelong academic success and personal growth. As I have grown and matured as an educator, I have realized that education in a small rural community has a bigger meaning, a larger and broader scope. Students need to be empowered and prepared, but what about our staff, families, and community? How can we empower and prepare everyone? We all know that it truly takes a village to raise a child.
Relationships. Our number one goal at Mountain Valley School is building positive and caring relationships, not only with students, but with each other as a staff, with parents and families, and with the greater Saguache community. Quality relationships drive the culture of a school. School culture can be felt the minute you walk through the front doors and can make or break an organization. We are continually striving for a welcoming environment where everyone feels safe, valued, and appreciated.
Innovation. Innovation is all about doing something new and better. At Mountain Valley, we want to avoid embracing the status quo and doing things the way they have always been done. The world of education is changing too fast to cling to the past. Students and staff are encouraged to take risks and step outside of their comfort zones while personalizing their learning. My hope is that Mountain Valley will become a learning center for our community. Can you imagine an environment where a school is as much about adult learning as it is about student learning, a gathering place for a community of lifelong learners?
Rejuvenation. After years of deferred maintenance, Mountain Valley School is focusing on rejuvenating outdated systems and facilities. Updated mesh WIFI at our school now allows students and staff the connectivity required to be successful in the 21st century. New Chromebooks have also been purchased for students and faculty. The resulting engagement, creativity, and critical thinking can be seen on a daily basis as personalized learning takes place in classes and during capstone projects. Our aging transportation fleet has been updated with a recently purchased route bus and two new activity vehicles. When our students are on the road, it is comforting to know that they are traveling in safe and reliable vehicles. Finally, Mountain Valley School has been awarded a $27 million Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Grant to build a new PreK-12 school for our students, staff, and community. If school district voters approve the required $3.7 million matching bond this November, we will have a safe, secure, and state-of-the-art learning facility at Mountain Valley.
Mountain Valley School is dedicated to achieving our relationship, innovation, and rejuvenation goals. We have made great progress in a short amount of time, and we are well on our way to empowering and preparing our community of lifelong learners!
Please share your thoughts on how Mountain Valley School can empower and prepare all stakeholders as we travel together on the path of continuous personal growth and improvement.
Travis Garoutte, Superintendent
Mountain Valley School BEST Grant Frequently Asked Questions
Relationships, Innovation and Rejuvenation
It is going to be another great year at Mountain Valley School, and I am excited to see students back in the building. I have truly missed all of the kids and the laughter and joy they bring. As we begin the 2017-2018 school year, MVS will be focusing on three main goals: relationships, innovation, and rejuvenation.
I believe that relationships drive the culture of a school. Not just relationships with students, but relationships with parents, families and the community. It is also critical to foster quality relationships between staff members as we work towards continuous improvement. This year, we will continue to build positive relationships with each and every student, family and the greater community. My hope is that everyone can feel the welcoming atmosphere at Mountain Valley the minute you walk through our doors.
Innovation is also a priority this year. Not just doing something new, but doing something new and better. Teachers and students will be encouraged to take educational risks, experiment, fail, learn and repeat the process. True learning takes place just outside of one’s comfort zone. Individualized student capstone projects, technology integration, and staff-driven professional learning are some areas of innovation this year at Mountain Valley. Experts say that human knowledge is doubling every 13 months, and we can no longer afford to do what we have always done. Educational reformist John Dewey said it best when he stated, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”
Transportation, technology, and facilities are all focuses of rejuvenation this year. Our aging transportation fleet was in desperate need of attention, with most vehicles logging close to 200,000 or more miles. In order to provide safe transportation for our students and staff, Mountain Valley School recently purchased a route bus as well as two activity vehicles. Technology improvements at MVS include quality mesh WIFI throughout the entire school, which has completely solved our past connectivity problems. Additionally, teachers and students now have up-to-date Chromebooks and will be integrating technology throughout the curriculum.
As you have probably heard, Mountain Valley School District has received a twenty-seven million dollar BEST Grant to build a new school and athletic facilities for our students and community. This grant requires a twelve percent match, which will come from a $3.7 million bond to be voted on in November 2017.
Drawing of possible new school, which includes the following community spaces: Community Garden, Fitness Trail, Rubberized Walking Track, Stage, Media Center, Main and Auxillary Gyms, and Meeting Spaces.
I am excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve our school while providing a modern and updated educational facility for our community. Our school is the heart of the community, with numerous events taking place at MVS throughout the year.
In a 2009 site assessment, it was estimated that Mountain Valley School had almost $17 million in needs with a bonding capacity of only $3.7 million. Since that time, our needs have only increased. We currently have countless plumbing, electrical, roofing, HVAC, and security issues, with several components of our facilities well beyond their useful life. Without help from the BEST Grant, we will never be able to improve our situation or sustain our school district facilities in the future.
We will be having BEST Grant and 2017 bond election community informational meetings regularly to help inform and educate school district citizens regarding facilities issues and concerns, the $27 million BEST Grant that Mountain Valley School has been awarded, and the $3.7 million matching bond that is required to build a new school. During these meetings, we will celebrate our success in obtaining the BEST Grant, review the proposed plan for the new school, discuss the 2017 bond election, answer questions, and seek community input.
EVERYONE is invited! We welcome and need everyone’s input!
I hope to see you at our BEST Grant and 2017 bond election community meetings!
Travis Garoutte, Superintendent