Latest News – May 11

Students’ Spring Art Show Inspires and Impresses

By Mary Jelf, Leadville Today Contributor

Another Spring Art Show transformed the Lake County Intermediate School gym last Friday night, May 5 into a celebration of creativity and generosity.  Instead of working to make their heart beat faster with physical exercise, kids can let their hearts shine through creativity.  The annual tradition highlights work by all students from preschool all the way through Lake County High School (LCHS) seniors.

A kaleidoscope of colorful creations were on display – and for sale – at the Annual 2017 Spring Art Show for the Lake County School District. Photo: Leadville Today/Mary Jelf.

“Some kids work all semester on their projects,” said LCHS art teacher Erin Farrow.  “They worked hard, and I think it was hard for some of them, but they did it.”

Volunteers met at 8 a.m. on Friday to begin setting up for the evenings event, but most of the artwork and materials were already organized and in storage thanks to the skills and guidance of the Lake County School District’s art teachers.  Walls were thoughtfully covered with banners of artwork, and pedestals were placed to show ceramics.  Helpers unwrapped treasure after treasure from the protective wrappings in preparation for the art staff to curate the displays.

Aryha McNamee is a LCHS senior and put in a 13 hour workday to help make the art show a success.  Why was she willing to work so hard for this event?  “I like that the community visits and supports the arts,” she explained.

Original artwork by Leadville student Aryha McNamee.

McNamee had three photography pieces hanging in the show, including two self-portraits and an accompanying poem.  Her work uses computer software to combine the images she takes of herself with other images she has taken into a single piece with deeper meaning.  She is planning to study photography in college and may combine this with a business degree to round out preparations for a future career.   

“I really have Ms. Farrow to thank for that, which is kind of funny since we didn’t see eye to eye early on,” McNamee confides.

McNamee values art as a part of a well-rounded education because, “art opens children’s minds.  It makes them more creative and allows them to think in different ways because these are endless possibilities,” she stated. “Art shows the character of the artists more than other subjects.” 

This colorful ceramic giraffe created by student artist Miah Velasques was a real crowd pleaser at the Spring Art Show on May 5. Photo: Leadville Today/Mary Jelf.

She is very happy the arts are becoming more supported and noticed in school now.  “When I was in middle school and my freshman year (before the new high school was built) the art room was really small and it didn’t have good equipment.  Not very many kids signed up for art then.  Now because of the art show and the better supplies, many more kids take art,” said McNamee.

The ceramics sale this year included pieces made especially to raise funds for the Mission Wolf Foundation.  Proceeds from these special pieces will directly support the refuge, which is located near Colorado Springs, Colo.  A group of students will visit the facility in person next week to hand over the money and see the wolves.

As she was walking through the crowd, greeting families and thanking volunteers, teacher Erin Farrow said, “I am overwhelmed with gratitude both for the kids who love and make art, and the community members who show up and support them.  What I love is when I get a kid in young, as a freshman, and they show some interest.  Then I can watch their skills develop all the way up until they are a senior.”  Now that art is a part of learning in all buildings of the school district, that love of creativity and the development of skills to express it can begin even earlier!

LT Contributor Mary Jelf practices living joyously in the high country. She relies upon beginner’s luck and the kindness of strangers. Some days she turns thoughts into words to share to make the world a better place.

Become a Spring Art Show volunteer! Many hands make light work! Contact Erin Farrow at or 719-486-6838. Photo: Leadville Today/Mary Jelf.


Legislative, Accountability Clock: Time’s Up!

By Joyce Rankin, Leadville and Lake County’s Rep on the State Board of Education

State Board Representative Joyce Rankin

This week will end the 2017 legislative session. As of May 7, there were 61 bills addressing K-12 education issues. Of these, 25 did not pass, 23 passed and 10 are pending.  I’m sure we will hear more as the month comes to a close and we understand their impact. One of the bills still being discussed at length is the Sustainability of Rural Colorado, Senate Bill 17-267.  This bill has a lot of moving parts including capital construction, K-12 school finance, higher education, state revenue and budget, and transportation.

While legislators are looking forward to the end of the session, the State Board of Education is busy with decisions regarding our lowest performing schools and districts. This is all because of the School Accountability Act of 2009. Statute holds state school districts and public schools accountable on “statewide performance indicators”.  In other words, accountability. It recognizes and rewards areas of success, while also identifying and compelling change for areas that need to improve. The State Board must make decisions for dramatic change in these lowest ranked schools and districts.

Understanding accountability measures created by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) is the first step in this process. Stick with me here, CDE created a primary accountability tool called the District and School Performance Frameworks (DPF/SPF). Accountability includes: academic achievement, growth, and post-secondary and workforce readiness. Based on the assessments one of four basic classifications are assigned to each school: 1) Performance, 2) Improvement, 3) Priority Improvement, and 4) Turnaround. Beginning in 2010 any school that remained on 3) Priority Improvement or 4) Turnaround status for 5 consecutive years (one year was paused because of an assessment change) will be evaluated by the Commissioner and the State Review Panel (a body of experts in the field of education). They, along with the school or district will present their plans for dramatic change which the State Board can either approve or can make a different final recommendation. By law the final determination can be: change in management, Charter School conversion, Innovation status, school closure or, in the case of a district, reorganization. This is the first year for this review process.

All of the 12 schools and 5 districts that are currently identified must have a hearing and final determination must be made by June 30. The hearings began in February and can take up to three hours each. Extra meetings have been held in order to accommodate two hearings a day and include up to a thousand pages of reading. The final determination is made at the next scheduled board meeting. There’s a lot of background study involved.

Believe me when I say I’m not complaining, however, with the close of the legislative session this week and a two day board meeting, I’m ready for a little time on the Western Slope.

Thank you for the honor to serve.

Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in her district.  The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol. She is also a Legislative Assistant for Representative Bob Rankin.


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