Cortez school board debates new grad guidelines

M-CHS backs career tracks amid concerns

Sam Green/Cortez  Journal

Confetti flies as the Montezuma-Cortez High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal Confetti flies as the Montezuma-Cortez High School class of 2016 celebrates their graduation.

Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 school district board members put proposed new high school graduation guidelines through the gauntlet at their meeting Tuesday.

The Colorado State Board of Education approved graduation guidelines in September 2015 that focus in part on preparing students for life after high school. They’re designed to give students a “menu of options” for their four years of high school, according to the Department of Education website.

Districts across the state are required to adopt guidelines that align with the state’s by this fall.

“We want to make sure graduates have more than just a high school diploma,” Montezuma-Cortez High School Principal Jason Wayman told board members.

Currently, M-CHS students take at least 23 credits to graduate. Those include four in English, three each in science, social studies and math, half a credit each for physical education and health, and nine credits for electives.

Under proposed guidelines, the 23-credit requirement would stand, but incoming students would choose one of eight four-year tracks to prepare for college, military service or the workforce.

Some school board members balked at the requirements during a discussion on the subject Tuesday. The board will need to vote at a meeting on whether to adopt or reject the proposed guidelines, but they did not vote on Tuesday.

Board member Sherri Wright questioned the rigor of the guidelines.

“We’re asking a lot of our freshmen,” she said.

Later in the discussion, though, she said the more demanding requirements would help underclassmen focus more on the future.

Though students would be able to change graduation tracks at any point during their high school years, Board President Jack Schuenemeyer said he was concerned about asking students to commit to a career path.

“I worry about people getting into boxes that they can’t get out of,” he said.

Board member Pete Montano said some people will inevitably change areas of interest later in their careers, regardless of what they study in high school or college. He said his own career spanned four different areas, including welding and restaurant ownership.

Board Vice President Eric Whyte said rigorous academic programming at district elementary schools and Cortez Middle School prepared students for more demanding roles as high school students.

District Superintendent Lori Haukeness said the proposed guidelines require a “bottom-up, top-down” approach. High school students need to build up their post-graduation portfolios from the start by doing what’s required of them, she said. At the same time, teachers and administrators need to supervise students and make sure students have what they need to graduate, she said.

Wayman said no career path a student might choose would be discounted over others in the proposed guidelines. Though board members had concerns, Wayman stood by the need for the new requirements.

“We should already be doing this,” Wayman said.