Board of Education Recap: New Spanish Curriculum, ESSER Funding Update

On Monday evening, the Lowell Area Schools Board of Education met for their monthly work session. Tom Kaywood was absent, but all other board members were present for the meeting.

Public Comment

Retired teacher and longtime Lowell resident Kim Lum said the word she was there to speak about was “relationships.”

She spoke about how in elementary school, the teacher is “the builder of a community,” and part of their job is to help students get along with each other and form relationships. Lum said that once students reach middle school, they no longer have just one teacher and one classroom of peers with whom to get along; they have many classes with many different students and many different teachers. Lum thought that this could lead to students not feeling heard and seen as individuals and struggling as a result.

Lum added she wanted everyone to think about relationships and the relationships between school staff and students, in particular. Here she quipped, pointing out Board Secretary Pat Nugent, “…you’re my kid forever, Pat Nugent! Third grade math!” Lum concluded by saying, “…even when (students) grow up, we really need to be aware of them and have contact with them. And I think Lowell can do that even better than they do it now.”

LAS bus driver Tami Griffeth was next for public comment and shared that she has been a bus driver for Lowell schools for 35 years. She said that, “…I have agreed with pretty much everything Stefanie Boone has said about what’s going on in the schools. I think the only thing is that she believes it can be fixed.” Boone is an Ada resident whose children attend LAS through the schools of choice program and frequently gives public comment at board meetings. She was served a cease-and-desist letter by LHS Principal Steve Gough which asks her to “stop directly referencing staff in her social media because of her repeated posts that staff receive as derogatory, disparaging and disrespectful.”

Griffeth continued by saying that she knows several LAS staff who have retired “…because of the direction schools are going…” and added, “It blows my mind what’s being put in to the heads of students. I don’t want that in my own head, and I don’t understand how anyone thinks it’s ok in a child’s head.”

Griffeth ended her public comment by adding, “I don’t have pronouns, but if I did they should be ‘we’ and ‘us.’ I don’t need to wear a rainbow…or a safety pin, or a ribbon, or put stickers on the bus to show I’m safe. If a student doesn’t know that I’m safe from my interactions with them, then I have greatly failed.”

New Middle and High School Curriculum

The Spanish language resource that has been used by both middle and high school Spanish classes will soon be discontinued, and a new curriculum will be needed for next year. After meeting with company representatives and reviewing samples of various options, Spanish teachers are recommending a new resource by a company called Klett World Languages. In January, the new curriculum was brought before the curriculum council which approved and recommended the new learning materials be used for the 2024-2025 school year.

At the May regular board meeting, the board will be asked to vote to approve the new resource at a cost of about $24,000 for materials for both the middle and high school Spanish classes for the next three years.

Also at the middle school, the subscription to the resource that had been used for sixth through eighth grade math for several years was expiring. Rather than renew, the math department decided to pilot a new math program this year. The new curriculum, Reveal Math, was piloted and then adopted for K-5 math last year, and now the middle school is looking to do the same. The board will be asked to vote at the May board meeting to approve Reveal Math for the middle school for the next six years at a cost of about $111,000.


Director of Human Resources Dustin Cichocki said that he formally met with the teachers’ union, the Lowell Education Association, last week to begin negotiations for next year’s contract. There will be several more formal meetings in the next few weeks to discuss and then wrap up the contract for the 2024-2025 school year.

ESSER Funding Update

Superintendent Nate Fowler said some of the questions residents have about the May 7 bond proposal are related to school funding and the different funding schools receive.

ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds are federal dollars given to school districts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly focused on addressing learning loss.

Some of the positions and projects LAS established with ESSER funding are:

  • Elementary Math Coordinator
  • Literacy Coordinator
  • After school tutoring programs
  • Summer school
  • Middle and high school mental health support groups

Fowler said work is currently underway to determine how successful the programs and projects initiated with ESSER funds have been and whether they can be maintained when the ESSER funding is gone. Some of the programs and positions may continue with funds from the district’s general fund, and some may be able to continue if there are new grants that support the work.

“We’ve known for three years that some of these positions have been very beneficial, and we’re going to try to do what we can to keep them moving forward,” Fowler said.

Though ESSER funds have paid for some productive approaches to address learning loss, it is not funding that can be used for things like new heating and cooling systems, a Cherry Creek Elementary renovation, or for major building repairs. For those types of projects, the district relies on bond proposals like the one being requested in the May 7 election.

All items paid for with ESSER funds can be found on the LAS website under the “Budget & Salary/Compensation Transparency Reporting” option on the Business Office page.

Board Summaries

Fowler said he was trying to think of ways to keep LAS staff and the community more in the loop when it comes to board of education meetings and current district events. Fowler said that his assistant, Sonja DeDonado, reminded him that many years ago, they used to write a one page summary email about board meetings that would go out to staff and to the community following meetings. Fowler presented the board with a sample summary and asked the board for their input.

Jen Dougherty said of the summary, “I like the layout and I like that it’s a little bit more in depth…sometimes the meeting minutes are very basic and quick…this is kind of nice because it allows a little bit of expansion and it’s just an easier read.”

Fowler said he would confer with DeDonado about whether or not to send out an email summary.

Superintendent Evaluation Training

Fowler said that recent changes to the evaluation law for school districts requires board members to undergo training prior to their annual evaluation of the superintendent. Fowler thought that this would be something the board could participate in through a training that would be offered by the Kent ISD sometime in the future.

The board went into closed session for negotiations at 6:45 pm. The next board of education meeting will be held on Monday, May 13, at 7 pm in the administration building.

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