Glenwood’s Sopris Elementary launches visioning process
After dramatic staff drain, parents and teachers hope to renew mission
Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood Springs is about to launch a future “visioning” process to direct the future of the school.
“The big plan is to establish a vision for Sopris,” Assistant Principal Carrie Hassel told the Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education Wednesday.
The “Future of SES” initiative will begin Jan. 31, with a community feedback session at 8:20 a.m. and another at 5:30 p.m. Both sessions will be available in English and Spanish, and childcare will be provided.
Sopris hopes to have the vision statement and implementation plans ready by the end of the academic year in May.
Sopris is part of Colorado’s Turnaround Network for schools due to declining test scores on state assessments in recent years. The state in December suggested now would be a good opportunity to establish a new vision for the school.
For many parents, the visioning process is critical for the future of the school they love, according to Jasmin Ramos, parent of a third-grade Sopris student and member of a number of parent associations.
With a new administration and many new teachers from outside the community, Ramos views the visioning as a chance for the school to unite around a common mission.
“Sopris has been in our family a long time,” Ramos said in an interview. “My siblings that are now in college went to Sopris. My son’s first-grade teacher was my brother’s second- or third-grade teacher. So, Sopris is dear to our hearts.”
Hundreds of students left Sopris for the Riverview School two years ago, and about two dozen teachers were displaced when the new school was built. Some found jobs with Riverview and elsewhere in the district. In addition, many Sopris teachers were replaced with people from elsewhere in the state, Ramos said.
The old teachers were such a part of the school and community that it left a hole in the school’s direction, she said.
“That was really difficult,” Ramos said, adding Sopris was a close-knit community of parents and teachers, and Ramos hopes to build that relationship back up while reaching out to new communities.
The school administration has developed teacher teams to lead the instructional priorities over the past year and a half, with some good results, Hassel said Wednesday.
The school focused on improving the English Language Acquisition growth scores – a measure of how students learning English as a second language progress from year to year. They brought the median growth percentile for the school from 30 in 2017 to 50 for 2018. That came with a tradeoff: Math scores dipped slightly in 2018.
As an example of teacher involvement contributing to the success, Sopris teacher Stephanie West told the school board that she saw teachers across embrace a new instructional method.
Students in every class were encouraged to speak in complete sentences whenever they answered a question, to improve their thinking and language skills.
“It really helps our [English Language Development] kids with their vocabulary and to practice grammar correctly,” West said. Native English speakers improved, as well, she said.
Across the school, teachers immediately started encouraging students to answer in full sentences, whether it was a math question, a reading question or just “how was your day.”
“It’s the first time I’ve seen every teacher in the building jump on board day one. We had a training Wednesday; it was in classrooms Thursday,” West said.
Outreach to the Latino community is part of Ramos’ goals for the school, as is bringing in teachers and others in the community.
“We’re eager to bring in other people into our school to hear what they see is the future of Sopris,” Ramos said.
The good news is that the parents are pleased with Principal Dave Lindenberg, who took over mid-2017.
“We spent our first year gaining a deep understanding of Sopris Elementary, which puts us in a good position to take advantage of the opportunity to have a formal conversation about the school’s future,” Lindenberg said in a statement.
Lindenberg has a child at Sopris, as do many teachers, which encourages Ramos that they will do what’s best for the school. Ramos plans to send her 14-month-old daughter there in a few years.
“This visioning process is really for us to build, to remember what our mission is, and to sort of start fresh to know we’re all working toward our goal,” Ramos said.