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Youthentity column: Simple exercises to teach kids about money

Families are spending more time than ever together at home. While this certainly presents its challenges, the opportunities to teach kids life-applicable skills are abundant. Financial literacy is one of those skills that has never been more important or more relevant, and increased time spent with our kids each day presents an opportunity to teach them about money handling and basic concepts that will serve them into adulthood. We’ve rounded up a few exercises that are easy to integrate into daily life, and which reinforce other concepts such as math skills, critical thinking and decision making.

• Counting Cash: This is a simple skill that is increasingly overlooked as society has shifted to credit cards. With less exposure to cash than previous generations, cash-counting skills need to be taught. For younger elementary aged children, third grade and below, use $10 as five $1 bills and one $5 bill. Prompt them to count the cash back to you in different amounts. You can start with $5 then increase the amount they should count back. For older students, use $100 as four $20 bills, one $10 bill, one $5 bill, and five $1 bills. Have them count back different amounts to you using different combinations of the bills provided.

• Small Grocery Budget: Give your child a small budget for a portion of your regular grocery shopping. For example, if you typically spend $10 per week on snacks, give your child a list of snacks they can choose from and charge them with meeting that budget. For younger children, write down prices rounded to whole dollars and have them put together a list based on those prices. Encourage them to utilize coupons, sale items and generic products to enhance the lesson. Aside from simple budgeting, they’ll learn to make responsible choices and to reduce expenses.

• Price Shopping: Ask your child to shop for the best price on a certain item you need to purchase online and give them a few websites to use to search for the item. For older children, be sure to have them include shipping and sales tax in the price comparison. You can add another layer to the lesson if you don’t restrict the item to a specific brand. In that case, encourage your child to read reviews before purchasing and do research to determine which brand is best.

• Allowance: This activity will vary based on your family’s principles and values. An allowance is a great way for students to learn about income and financial decisions. Giving an allowance in exchange for completing assigned chores is a great way to enforce a work ethic and teach children about the exchange of time and money. If your family prefers not to enforce earning an allowance, consider creating a savings challenge in which your child sets a savings goal for an item they’d like to purchase and a date they’d like to purchase it by. Help them calculate how much they will need to save from each allowance payment to meet their savings goal. If you have more than one child, siblings can race against each other to see who meets their savings goal first.

Whether you notice or not, your child is paying attention to your financial situation and will likely model themselves after you. Research has proven that children pick up on money talk as early as preschool; it is truly never too early to start teaching kids about money. Get creative and customize these activities to your child’s age and learning style — over time, these money lessons will form habits that last a lifetime.

Kirsten McDaniel is executive director of Youthentity.

Ryan Fideldy new principal at Elk Creek Elementary

Last week the Garfield School District Re-2 School Board approved Ryan Fideldy as the next leader at Elk Creek Elementary effective July 1.

Fideldy has been with the district since 2006, holding teaching positions at Roy Moore Elementary and Cactus Valley Elementary before transitioning to an academic coach at Graham Mesa Elementary School in 2012. 

Fideldy replaces Lisa Pierce, who resigned earlier this year to assume the assistant superintendent role at Garfield Re-2.

“Having the opportunity to lead in Garfield Re-2 is something I’ve aspired to do. To follow a close friend and mentor of mine in Lisa Pierce at Elk Creek Elementary is a great honor,” Fideldy said according to a news release.  

The two worked together at Roy Moore Elementary/Cactus Valley Elementary for six-years prior to taking other positions. 

“A lot of my enthusiasm for instruction and education was cultivated by Lisa. I look up to her in a lot of ways,” he said.

Fideldy said that he is excited to begin forming relationships with the Elk Creek Elementary students, staff and community and is ready to take on the challenges of helping determine what the coming year, in the era of COVID-19, will look like.

“I really want to get to know everyone — every single student and every staff member. As an administrator, the number of people you get to know and care for grows and you can see the ripple effect, in a positive way, throughout the school,” he said. “I enjoy problem-solving to put people in their best possible position to succeed. I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the New Castle and ECE communities.”

Facing a nearly 5% state funding decrease, Roaring Fork Schools implement pay freeze in next year’s budget

Roaring Fork School District employees will take what is effectively a pay cut for the coming school year as part of a trimmed-down $73 million general fund budget approved by the school board on Tuesday.

But no positions are being cut, at least for this next school year.

The budget for 2020-21 includes more than $1.8 million in direct budget cuts, prompted by a 4.8% decrease in Colorado per-pupil funding to district schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

That reduction was due to state budget cuts for K-12 education in response to the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The district will use nearly $2.2 million in one-time reserve funds and $592,000 in one-time rural sustainability funds to help buffer a $4.6 million budget shortfall, said Nathan Markham, finance director for the district, during the board’s special video-conference meeting Tuesday morning.

The board — reluctantly but with little choice given the financial realities of the ongoing public health crisis — unanimously approved a budget that is to include a total appropriation of roughly $111.2 million.

By far the biggest impact was the decision to freeze teacher salaries and to suspend cost-of-living increases for other staff.

Teachers and staff would have been due pay increases averaging 1.8% this coming year. The salary freeze alone will account for $859,000 in budget reductions for 2020-21, Markham said.

“This will actually result in a reduction in net pay for all staff due to a state-mandated increase in the employee contribution to PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association) of 1.25%,” Markham noted in his budget summary.

That contribution amount is increasing from 8.75% of salary to 10%, affecting all district employees, he said.

The pay cuts signal an abrupt change in direction for the local school district, which in early March had been discussing a possible mill levy override election this November to address low teacher pay.

“The reduction in take-home pay of all district employees is a step backward from the progress we were hoping to make in 2020-21,” Markham said, pointing to a “challenging school funding climate in Colorado and the related impact on teacher salaries, which lag about $7,000 behind the national average.

“This fact is amplified for all staff in RFSD, where the cost-of-living significantly exceeds state and national averages,” he said.

However, the mill levy proposal was taken off the table as the economic impacts of the coronavirus started to hit.

“While the mill levy override was put on hold, the goal of paying a living wage to RFSD staff remains a top priority, and work toward this goal will resume as soon as the economic outlook improves,” Markham wrote in his budget summary.

As it did across the country and around the world, the public health emergency in Colorado also forced school buildings to close in late March, and for learning to shift to an online delivery format for the remainder of the semester.

Roaring Fork Schools received $3.6 million in federal CARES Act relief funds to deal with the cost of those impacts. But, those dollars are “supplementary in nature,” and cannot be directly used to backfill the budget shortfall, Markham also explained.

They could, however, be used to create opportunities for teachers and other staff to earn extra income to offset the wage freeze, through student tutoring and other areas where the funds are allowed to be spent, he said.

An alternative to the wage freeze would have been to use employee furlough days to offset the budget shortfall, outgoing Assistant Superintendent and Chief Financial Officer Shannon Pelland said. But the consensus in discussing the options with teachers and others through the Interest-Based Bargaining Committee process was to freeze wages for the year and see where things stand going into 2021-22, she said.

The use of one-time reserves and other available funds for this coming year will likely make the following year even more difficult to budget for, Markham also advised.

“Given the potential for additional cuts in 2021-22, the district will work with staff, parents and the community next year to develop a long-term sustainable plan to address funding reductions,” he said.


Summit 54 returns with scaled-back ‘Summer Success’ program serving Roaring Fork elementary-aged students

When a successful summer school program in the lower Roaring Fork Valley was canceled a month before classes were to start due to the coronavirus, organizers put their thinking caps on to salvage some type of meaningful alternative.

The result was the start last week of Summit 54’s free “Summer Success” program at several unique tutoring locations in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

The scaled-back summer session limited its reach to 200 upcoming first through fifth graders — including 140 in Glenwood Springs alone — using a variety of mostly outdoor teaching sites.

The program is a tailored version of the popular Summer Advantage program that normally serves upwards of 600 students in that same age group each summer.

It provides academic enrichment and tutoring to keep students on track through the summer, plus nutritious snacks and a lunch, and a special emphasis on social-emotional support.

“Studies show that children are experiencing greater levels of stress and worry due to Covid-19 and need social/emotional support more than ever,” Summit 54 Executive Director Terri Caine said. “When students are worried, their brains are blocked. We need to help them relax to be able to learn.”

The school district and Summit 54 made the joint decision in mid-May not to proceed with Summer Advantage this year due to concerns about opening school facilities to large numbers of children, teachers and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the program’s champions weren’t about to give up, Caine said.

Summit 54 partnered with Focused Kids to adopt a curriculum using mindful exercises to start the day. Children learn about the brain and use calming activities to support self control, she explained.

Once in that place mentally, students are provided with 90 minutes of literacy support, followed by a break with a healthy snack and exercise, then 60 minutes of math instruction. Each child is then sent home with a nutritious lunch.

Small groups with low student-to-teacher ratios not only serve the purpose of maintaining social distancing requirements, but provide better one-on-one support for students, Caine said.

Health screens involving a forehead thermometer scan are done with each student before the day begins to make sure none are showing symptoms of the virus. 

“Summit 54 didn’t want to just leave kids without any academic support, so we kept as many components of Summer Advantage that we could and developed Summer Success,” she said.  

Caine worked with her co-directors, Elaine Grossman and Tracy Bethell, to begin contacting parents who had previously enrolled their children in Summer Advantage. Valley Settlement’s bilingual staff worked with Spanish-speaking families to inform them about the outdoor tutoring program and help them register.

Once registration closed, students were grouped by grade level and neighborhood to create small groups. Teachers and teaching assistants were then paired with student groups, each with a bilingual speaker, and locations were assigned in each of the three communities.

“Finding 22 different tutoring locations turned out to be more difficult than expected,” Caine said.  “We need bathroom access and shelter from sun, wind and rain.”

All but two of the tutoring sites are completely outdoors, using park gazebos and pavilions. The two indoor locations were donated by Youth Zone in Glenwood Springs and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in Carbondale.

The school district agreed to extend its daily grab-and-go meals, which continue into July for all students in the district, to the Summer Success program.

After meeting several technical requirements, the program hired 50 educators, many of whom had counted on Summer Advantage for employment through the summer months.

“We were very fortunate that school leaders, who have worked with Summer Advantage in the past, agreed to fill management positions for Summer Success,” Caine added.  

Kyle-Leigh Berry, who has managed Summer Advantage for many years, agreed to fill the same role for Summer Success. Glenwood Springs Middle School teacher Justin Baum is the Glenwood Springs lead, and Kennady Nickell is the Basalt lead.  

“They all worked incredibly hard to pull this off so quickly,” Caine said. “We were happy we could support our local economy by providing summer employment for our educators and free childcare for working families.” 

A primary goal of the summer school program is also to help children who have fallen behind and experienced extra stress during the COVID-19 school closures, she added.

“It is truly rewarding to see so many not-for-profits pull together to help our children,” she said. 


CMC trustees pass $69.3M general budget for 2020-21

Colorado Mountain College Trustees have approved a $69.3 million operating budget for the coming year.

Meeting in Aspen on Wednesday — the board’s first in-person meeting since the coronavirus outbreak began in March — trustees voted unanimously to approve the college’s fiscal year 2020-21 budget.

The budget includes $69.3 million in general fund expenditures. Of that total, nearly $55.9 million is for personnel costs, plus $7.6 million in general operating expenses, according to a budget summary that’s available on CMC’s website.

In addition, the budget includes a capital fund (including reserves) of $8.4 million, auxiliary funds of $9.9 million and financial aid funds of $10.5 million.

Excluding one-time stimulus funds received through the state related to impacts of the COVID-19 response, and compared to fiscal year 2019-20, the balanced general fund budget includes an overall increase in operating expenses of 2.3%, which is near annual inflation, according to a college news release announcing the budget approval.

Other details can be found in the budget summary that’s included on the website.

“The Wednesday meeting was held under strict public health protocols and social distancing requirements,” the college noted in a news release calling attention to the budget approval.

“Per state and local health orders, and as a practice run for the upcoming fall semester, all participants and guests in the meeting completed a health screening, wore masks and stood or sat at least 6 feet apart,” the release stated.

Building and meeting room occupancy was also closely monitored to comply with Pitkin County group-size restrictions, the release said.

Anna Cole to head Roaring Fork Schools-based Family Resource services

Anna Cole, who has served as the interim director of Roaring Fork School District family services through the social impacts brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, will continue on as the full-time director.

Cole has 20 years of experience working in education as a teacher, consultant, and in other specialized roles.

She has been serving as the family services interim director since former Director Sarah Fedishen resigned in late March, just as Colorado health officials ordered schools closed to in-classroom learning in the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

“Anna transitioned to the acting director role in the most difficult of times, just as the world and our own communities were seized by the pandemic,” said Rob Stein, superintendent of district schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

“Anna has offered tireless, resourceful, compassionate, creative leadership to her department, to the district, and in the broader community,” Stein said in a news release announcing the appointment.

The shift to online learning for the remainder of the spring semester significantly increased the workload for family services, as the district sought to assist with family health, financial, nutrition and learning support needs in the three communities.

Cole joined the Roaring Fork Schools in 2017 and has helped coordinate various teams during that time, including the district’s wellness, equity and student services teams.

“She has worked in the family services department, which partners with families, schools and communities to strengthen student health, wellbeing, and academic achievement, and has been a strong advocate for family voice and equity,” the release stated.

“I am looking forward to continuing to support the hardworking and talented Family Services team, our Roaring Fork valley families, and our many community partners,” Cole said of her new position.   

Roaring Fork Schools anuncia nuevo director de servicios familiares

El Distrito Escolar Roaring Fork ha nombrado a Anna Cole la nueva directora de servicios familiares. Cole tiene 20 años de experiencia trabajando en la educación como profesora, consultora y en otras funciones especializadas, y ha estado trabajando como directora interina de servicios familiares desde que la antigua directora Sarah Fedishen renunció a finales de marzo. 

“Anna hizo la transición al papel de directora interina en los momentos más difíciles, justo cuando el mundo y nuestras propias comunidades se veían afectadas por la pandemia”, dijo el Superintendente Rob Stein. “Anna ha ofrecido un liderazgo incansable, ingenioso, compasivo y creativo a su departamento, al distrito y a la comunidad en general.”

Cole se unió a las Escuelas Roaring Fork en el 2017 y ha ayudado a coordinar varios equipos durante ese tiempo, incluyendo los equipos de bienestar, equidad y servicios estudiantiles. Ha trabajado en el departamento de servicios familiares, lo cual colaboran con familias, escuelas y comunidades para fortalecer la salud, el bienestar y los logros académicos de los estudiantes, y ha sido una firme defensora de la voz y la equidad de la familia. 

“Es un gran placer para mí continuar apoyando al equipo de servicios familiares, a nuestras familias del Valle del Roaring Fork y a nuestros numerosos socios de la comunidad”, dijo Cole sobre el nuevo puesto.   

Garfield Re-2 2020-21 budget approved

After months of financial uncertainty and navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, the Garfield School District Re-2 School Board on Tuesday approved a budget resolution appropriating $77,692,596 for the 2020-21 fiscal school year.

“This is a big moment because I think when I got here in the middle of March, this was probably a very distant dream,” interim Chief Financial Officer David Trautenberg said during the Tuesday school board meeting. “We are actually in good shape.”

Trautenberg presented two options for the school board, one with a “steps and lanes” salary adjustment increases and one without.

Using the lyrics from Rolling Stones, Trautenberg said, ‘You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might just find you get what you need.’

After conservative projections, the district finance team and the state announced last week that per-pupil funding is estimated at $7,789 for Garfield Re-2.

“Now, why is that important? It’s not in the bag or a guarantee, but we are going to be somewhere between $125 to $170 higher in funding than our conservative estimates,” Trautenberg said. “We are still at risk in our per-pupil count, however with this additional money that comes in conservatively we are probably looking at getting about another $700,000 to $800,000.”

Trautenberg stressed that it is critically important that the partners at Collaborative Solutions (interest-based negotiations body of the district), the community, stakeholder, and all of the employees understand the risks. 

“With zero clarity in financial forecasting, but the legislative council is estimating being down another 11.1% next year, which would be another $300 million in reduction,” Trautenberg said.

After careful consideration, the board moved to adopt the resolution including the steps and lanes plan. 

Board members Anne Guettler, Katie Mackley, Meriya Stickler and Tom Slappey voted to approve the budget. Board member Kirk Wilson, whose wife is a district employee, had to abstain from the vote.

The room erupted in cheer as board President Guettler proclaimed the budget approval.

“It’s been a long haul to get here, but I think we are all excited,” Guettler said.

The board also passed the Capital Reserves Projects Fund of $1,369,000, which will go to fund an air filtration system at Rifle High School, interior doors at Rifle Middle School and Highland Elementary, modular leases at Highland Elementary, Cactus Valley Elementary and Coal Ridge High School, and slab work Cactus Valley Elementary.

In other business, the board agreed to move its meetings to Mondays for the 2020-21 school year; approved a resolution in support of a ballot measure to repeal the state’s Gallagher Amendment; and updated its virtual meeting policy.


Two Rivers School drops charter bid with Roaring Fork District, for now

The state-chartered Two Rivers Community School in Glenwood Springs is withdrawing its application to reauthorize under the local school district due to the uncertain school finance fallout from the pandemic response.

TRCS had applied last fall to be re-chartered under the Roaring Fork School District, while simultaneously re-applying with the Colorado Charter School Institute.

The state charter was reauthorized for the maximum five years in October 2019. But the school had continued talks with the school district into the late winter months, before the coronavirus forced school building closures across Colorado, and the negotiations were put on the back burner.

Head of School Jamie Nims informed the Roaring Fork District school board and administrators in a recent letter that the TRCS Board of Directors voted unanimously May 28 to withdraw the application.

“While we hope to reconsider our authorization options at some point in the future, we have concluded that with so much financial uncertainty related to public education in Colorado, this is not an appropriate
time to request authorization from Roaring Fork Schools,” Nims wrote.

Nims said previously that the six-year-old charter school could benefit from a partnership with the school district through shared resources, such as transportation services and possibly future tax dollars.

In February, the charter discussions were paused while TRCS worked to refinance its building debt. The school acquired $10 million in bonds in 2016 to purchase the former postal facility in West Glenwood and to remodel and expand the building.

“We were fortunate enough to close on our refinance with a rate of 2.48%, which will provide us a savings of $168,000 annually on our debt service,” Nims said in a follow-up interview. “With the state budget cuts for the coming school year, the timing for this refinance couldn’t have been better.”

In the meantime, the school will continue to review its options for authorization, he said.

“We decided that the best course of action was to withdraw our application with Roaring Fork Schools due to the significant economic uncertainties,” Nims said, adding, “We may reconsider reapplying when the economic outlook is more favorable.  

Two Rivers operates as a K-8 charter school, serving about 350 students from both the Roaring Fork and Garfield Re-2 school districts.

The school utilizes multi-age classrooms and a “place-based,” experiential learning model, with a focus on second-language acquisition and multicultural studies.


Youthentity launches its major summer fundraiser virtually starting Wednesday

Youthentity plans to proceed with its major summer fundraiser in a virtual format, for the benefit of the Carbondale-based nonprofit’s financial literacy education and career readiness programs for youth.

Youthentity is set to launch its Virtual Pig Roast Fundraiser at 7 a.m. Wednesday at Youthentity.org with an online auction and raffle for online guests.

According to a news release, up for grabs are several luxury hotel stays, artwork, guided snowcat skiing, private chef experiences, high-end liquor and wine, restaurant gift cards, sporting goods and more.

The raffle entry is $5, and the opening bid for one of the higher-end auction items is $4,400 for a seven-night trip to London.

“Though disappointed to cancel our in-person event, we’re excited to try this new format for the annual Pig Roast Fundraiser,” Kirsten McDaniel, executive director for Youthentity, said in the release.

“We know that our network believes in our programs and wants to help; the online format is an opportunity for anyone to get involved and help further our mission. Our auction and raffle offers something for everyone, from car washes and veterinary services to (snowcat) skiing trips and room nights at the Little Nell.”

The auction closes at 10 p.m. Friday. Guests may also buy “tickets” to the event for $100, which would go as a direct donation to Youthentity programs, or a $150 Super Supporter ticket that includes a $50 gift card to one of Youthentity’s partner restaurants — The Pullman, Phat Thai, Allegria, Izakaya, and Ski-Co owned outlets.

During the three-day event, additional information will be shared via email newsletters and social media. Youthentity will also release videos testimonials from alumni, current students, program facilitators, volunteers, board members and others who have been involved in Youthentity’s youth development programs.

Proceeds from the direct appeal will go to support Youthentity’s Career Academy and Five Year Life Plan programs, which are aimed at helping high school students to think critically about their future, according to the release.

Launched in 2019, Career Academy offers students the opportunity to earn high school class credits while gaining experience in a chosen field, including architecture, culinary arts, hospitality and construction. And, new this year, Youthentity is offering a new track, Animal & Human Health Services, where students can explore the health care and veterinary science fields.

Youthentity’s annual Pig Roast Fundraiser provides almost 25% of the organization’s operating budget, the release states. Its programs serve approximately 4,000 youth on the Western Slope.

Phased plan begins Monday to resume athletic activity on Roaring Fork School District grounds

Student-athletes in the Roaring Fork School District may resume voluntary sports workouts using outdoor school facilities starting Monday, but with strict health precautions in place to protect against coronavirus spread.

School district officials announced Friday that they have developed a phased plan to return to athletic participation, based on local and state health and safety requirements and recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The plan was reviewed by the public health departments in Garfield, Pitkin, and Eagle counties, according to a district news release. It will involve a tiered return to sports activities through the summer, leading up to a tentative start to formal practices in August, depending on where things stand at that point.

Athletic participation during phase one this summer for schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt will require: 

  • All coaches and students to be screened for COVID-19 signs and symptoms before participating in each workout. 
  • All workouts will be held outside; there will not be access to locker facilities, weight rooms and gyms. 
  • All activities must adhere to a maximum of 10 people, reflecting the most restrictive local requirement currently in place (This number may change as public health requirements change.)
  • All workouts will be conducted in student cohorts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 
  • Social distancing must be maintained, and masks must be worn unless the activity is exempted (swimming, distance running and high-intensity aerobic activity)
  • All participants must use their own equipment for ball sports; all shared equipment, such as weights, must be sanitized before and after use. 

The full plan for resuming school sports activities can be viewed here.

“Plans for phases two and three become increasingly less restrictive in conjunction with the continued reopening and expansion of activities in our community,” the news release states. “The district reserves the right to change the restrictions and requirements outlined in this document as needed to support the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, and the broader community.” 

All summer workouts are voluntary for students, per Colorado High School Activities Association bylaws, and coaches. Students who choose to participate in RFSD athletic activities over the summer must complete a waiver