Las Animas Superintendent Scott Cuckow has been pleasantly surprised by the surge of new students into the district.
"We gained 50 kids from the first of the year (January 2008) until now.
We hope to see that trend continue," Cuckow
"We are happy about that and want to celebrate it."
noted the school's excess capacity easily absorbed the student influx, which was spread out among the grade levels.
"I think it reflects on our staff and teachers.
Our teachers are working very smart and harder than ever before to take care of each student's needs."
said most of the population gain was in the lower grades, which gives hope that an ongoing increase in students will garner the district more state funding from the annual student count.
"We can use the extra money to pay teachers better and keep positions here...
I do not think the answer is to have property owners pay a higher burden.
"I think the community is seeing the advantages of what we have to offer," Cuckow
Interviewed in early December, Cuckow
reflected on how quickly the first semester was coming to a close.
"I can't believe Christmas break is almost here.
"I see a lot of happy students, happy teachers.
Morale is good.," he
noted that a small district has to struggle to pay the bills.
'It is so unfair that a big city school district can raise $1 million with a 2 mil tax increase.
For Rocky Ford to raise $600,000, they have to increase taxes by 21 mils."
said the district needs to improve its cafeteria, gym, FFA building and the hallways.
But even so, a school district has to invest in more than its campus facility.
noted that staff development has been important in the past year as teachers focus on improved strategies for engaging students in education.
And the district - which won a Colorado Department of Education award two years ago for its improved reading scores - continues to emphasize reading in the early grades.
said the district has also "shored up" its teaching of math in the middle school.
All of these steps to improve teaching are more important than ever, Cuckow
noted the state accreditation model gives the school "a sense of urgency - we have to show some growth in each and every student."
Meanwhile, Cuckow reports far fewer referrals for disruptive behavior this year.
To promote better behavior, the school launched a community wide program which rewards students for good behavior when they interact with the broader community.
"Everyone is jumping aboard on that," he