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One-way streets set in downtown Holyoke PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

New one-way streets were established in downtown Holyoke Tuesday, Dec. 9. Emerson Street between Interocean and Campbell avenues (from Subway and the community activities sign to Holyoke General Store) is now a one-way street going east. Emerson Street between Interocean and Baxter avenues (from Phillips County Abstract office and First Pioneer National Bank to Bank of the West) is now a one-way street going west.

City Superintendent Mark Brown cited general public concerns for traffic safety on these blocks as the reason for setting the new one-way streets. Brown said the one-ways had been planned for awhile, and the city had to order signs and will be adding additional “Do not enter” signs on the far ends of the one-ways as well. 

 —Enterprise photos

Holyoke Enterprise December 18, 2014
School board fine-tunes superintendent search process PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

Wording for the formal advertisement and timelines for the process were identified by the Holyoke School District Board of Education when discussing the superintendent search at a Dec. 11 work session following the regular board meeting that evening.

The position will open July 1, when current superintendent Bret Miles assumes the executive director role at Northeast BOCES.

The advertisement will be finalized and posted by Friday, Dec. 19, with candidate interviews set for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 27-28.

Board members had received input from three work sessions on the search topic. They met with administrators and district office staff Dec. 8, and with Standard of Excellence and Budget Facilities committees and later with district employees Dec. 10. Another district employee session was held Dec. 16.

“There’s been lots of congruence in the three sessions we’ve had with people,” said board member Dennis Herman at the Dec. 11 work session.

The focus group meetings will be key in identifying strengths desired in a superintendent for Holyoke School District.

Consideration for hiring Colorado Association of School Boards as a search consultant in this process was reviewed, with the board determining at this point to conduct its own search.

At the Dec. 4-7 CASB convention, several local board members attended a session about CASB’s role if hired to conduct the search.

Herman said CASB would facilitate focus groups without the board being present. He said he feels the board can do a good job for the district in the search. Another big take-away he grabbed from the CASB convention session was, “Whatever you do, do it thoughtfully.” Don’t rush.

Linda Jelden said the way CASB checks references intrigued her. She emphasized the board will need to be mindful of checking references in a consistent way for each candidate they’re pursuing.

Jelden pointed out that CASB has been successfully used before in a superintendent search. However, she noted the district was in a different place, with shorter timelines.

A standard CASB search could run about $7,000. Without having CASB conduct the entire search, the district could still submit interview questions through the CASB legal process.

Pat Wiebers said the CASB convention session helped her decide that the district definitely doesn’t need to spend $7,000-$10,000 for CASB to conduct the search.

Herman noted that if CASB conducts it, they assign a lead consultant, and they do a good job. If at any point in the process, the district doesn’t feel comfortable, they can jump in.

Nici Akey also cited the common thread they heard from the focus groups in what people want in a superintendent. “People like where we are, and the culture is something everybody thrives in. Those things will guide us in finding someone to continue the culture but also be open to new ideas.”

The superintendent position will be posted on the Re-1J website, CASB website, Colorado Association of School Executives website,, and (formerly Teach in Colorado).

Extensive time was spent by the board in tweaking the wording for the advertisement. The first draft of a screening tool was also reviewed. It will be used when applications are complete to determine who to interview.

There will be some form of community involvement, with specifics to be further discussed at January work sessions.

Holyoke Enterprise December 18, 2014

Naughty or nice? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

Santa’s makin’ his list with help from millions of Elf on the Shelf scout elves this Christmas

“He’s making a list and checking it twice. He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Santa Claus is coming to town.”

This 1934 classic Christmas song reminds girls and boys that Santa’s always watching, and now — 80 years later — Santa Claus has more help than ever.

Scout elves all over the country are reporting back to Santa for his naughty and nice list as he prepares Christmas gifts during December. 

The wildly sought-after “Elf on the Shelf®: A Christmas Tradition” is a book and elf toy set that has snowballed in popularity since its release in 2005. This week it stands at No. 1 on the USA Today Best-Seller Book List.

A family tradition for co-authors Carol Aebersold and Chandra Bell — a mom and daughter duo — has now been adopted by millions.

Grace and Claire Hubbard, 7- and 5-year-old daughters of Gabe and Jill Hubbard of Holyoke, said their elf Nixon came from Santa in 2010. By reading the book, they learned all about their elf.

Grace Hubbard, at left, and sister Claire Hubbard are excited to jump out of bed each morning to find their elf Nixon, who is in a different spot every day. Here, he built a snowman by the Christmas tree.  

—Enterprise photo

From Dec. 1 to Christmas Eve, the elf watches over the girls and their 1-year-old brother Nolan to see if they’ve been good or bad. Every night, Nixon flies back to the North Pole to report his findings to Santa. When he returns, the mischievous elf is found in a different spot every day.

“He’s crazy!” giggled the girls, explaining how the other day he TP’ed the Christmas tree with toilet paper.

“You just never know where you’re going to find him!” said Jill.

Elves can be as different as the families who have adopted them, from silly and funny to calm and sweet.

Jessie Owens, daughter of Randy and Joan Owens of Holyoke, has found her elf sneaking some candy and eating fruit in the fridge.

The one rule, explained the 9-year-old, is that no one can touch her elf Chippy or he will lose his magical powers.

The Elf on the Shelf book said, “There’s only one rule that you have to follow so I will come back and be here tomorrow: Please do not touch me. My magic might go, and Santa won’t hear all I’ve seen or I know.”

Unfortunately, Joan accidentally touched Chippy when he was by the phone, and Chippy had to go back to the North Pole for a couple days. “At our house,” said this mom, “I guess no one can touch him because I get in trouble.”

After finding her elf in a box of mandarins, Jessie Owens is careful not to touch Chippy because that would make him lose his magical powers.

—Enterprise photo

The whole family has been on their best behavior since they adopted their elf last year. Chippy did not come from the Elf on the Shelf book set, but Jessie learned about his magical powers from watching the Elf on the Shelf Christmas special DVD.

She got the privilege to give him a hug last year before he left with Santa when he dropped off the presents on Christmas Eve. The rest of the year, elves are busy making toys and helping out at the North Pole.

By coming to families as scout elves, they help lessen Santa’s load in the month of December. The elves can also deliver kids’ letters to Santa.

The local Dirks and Brinkema families are two others who have adopted elves from Santa-approved adoption centers.

Max, age 10, Marren, age 8, and Mylee, age 6, children of Jeremy and Brooke Dirks, have accepted the challenge and decided to name their elf Elfee. Their cousins Ridley, age 4, and Alex, age 2, sons of Ross and Aly Brinkema, also have an elf named Chippy.

“All December it’s a great way to get them out of bed,” said Brooke. Elfee has been leaving clues of his whereabouts every day, and the kids have fun racing around the house to find him.

Making snow angels out of cocoa powder and weaving an entire roll of string around the house are just two of the shenanigans Elfee has gotten into this year.

Elfee is just Santa’s helper, explained Mylee, so even if kids don’t have an elf, they will still be able to get presents for Christmas.

Brooke added that when Advent started after Thanksgiving, everything they do to celebrate Christmas points them toward a celebration of Jesus’ birthday. “Nothing takes precedence over Jesus’ birthday,” she said.

A trail of marshmallows leads the Dirks kids to their Elf on the Shelf, pictured at top right, who is chilling in the fridge to remind him of his home at the North Pole. Cousins are pictured from left, in front, Max Dirks, Ridley Brinkema, Alex Brinkema and Mylee Dirks; and in back, Marren Dirks.

—Enterprise photo

Because of the popularity of Elf on the Shelf, other ideas have popped up on store shelves, like “The Christmas Angel,” who encourages giving, or even the “Mensch on a Bench,” the Jewish version for Hanukkah.

The approximately 8-inch-tall Elf on the Shelf grew to new heights in 2012 in his first appearance as a high-flying balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. His vintage red and white outfit couldn’t be missed as the tallest parade balloon — at 64 feet tall — gliding down the parade route.

In addition to the Elf on the Shelf book sets, children also enjoy elf pet reindeer and even scout elves for birthday traditions. Elves can be purchased as boys or girls and with either dark or light skin/hair colors.

The website has lots of fun games and activities for kids as well as a photo gallery so families can see what other elves have been up to.

And Elf on the Shelf is not just for families anymore. Icicle is an elf who has been adopted by Kerri Gardner’s kindergarten classroom at Holyoke Elementary School.

“Everybody’s having lots of fun with her,” said Gardner, who read the book with her kindergartners at the beginning of the month. When the kids are being naughty, she can simply remind them their scout elf is watching and will report back to Santa.

From eating candy canes off the Christmas tree to perching on top of the projector, who knows where Icicle will end up next!

Holyoke Enterprise December 18, 2014

Use of $60,000 from reserves authorized by school board PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

Noting they hope it’s the last year they’ll have to approve spending funds from the beginning fund balance, Holyoke School Board members authorized the use of $60,000 from reserves for a one-time staff salary payment as they approved the 2014-15 final budget.

Very few changes were noted from the budget that was adopted in June, noted Superintendent Bret Miles at the Thursday, Dec. 11, School Board meeting.

Prior to adopting the 2014-15 budget, the board reviewed and accepted the 2013-14 audit report from Scott Szabo of Lauer, Szabo & Associates, PC.

Szabo noted a variance of only $14,797 from the projected to the actuals in the $5.3 million general fund budget. He said this indicates the district planned and developed a very realistic budget, and the board and administration stayed within that budget.

General fund expenditures exceeded revenues by $68,735, leaving a fund balance at year-end of $1,328,998.

Szabo also reviewed the bond redemption, construction, food service, trust and agency, and pupil activity fund balances for the year.

Following Szabo’s audit report, board member Michelle Van Overbeke commended the work of Sharon Thompson, director of budget and finance for the district.

The 2014-15 budget that was accepted by the board projects an ending balance of $1,268,998 on June 30, 2015.

Budget appropriations for 2014-15 were adopted as follows:

General Fund $5,884,699

Bond Redemption $636,145

Construction $101,842

Food Service $228,000

Trust and Agency $393,384

Pupil Activity Fund $373,402

Total Approp $7,617,472

A total mill levy of 38.823 mills for property tax year 2014 was also approved at last week’s board meeting.

This includes 27.0 mills for the general fund, 7.5 for mill levy override approved by voters in 2010, 0.323 mills for abatement and 4.0 mills for bond redemption.

Due to refinancing and other factors, the board was able to lower the bond redemption from from 4.25 to 4.0 mills. Next year, that will reduce to just under 2.5 mills.

The assessed valuation for Holyoke School District as certified this month is $63,630,357, which is up almost $4 million from a year ago.


Personnel changes noted

Several personnel changes were approved by the local school board last week.

Andrea Kammer’s resignation as a sixth-grade teacher was approved, effective Dec. 19. She will be assuming the elementary principal role in Wray at the first of the year.

Other resignations and staff additions involve extra-duty assignments. Resignations were accepted from HS girls’ assistant basketball coach Kia Kassman and HS head cheer coach Jennifer Philips.

Approval was given on a 5-1 vote for HS girls’ basketball assistant coaches Victoria Timm and Greg Wakeman to split the assistant coach stipend. Casting the dissenting vote, Nici Akey said her concern is for more communication, as she has concerns about an overlap of coaching responsibilities in the same season. She emphasized her vote had nothing to do with the individuals involved.

Abby Einspahr was hired as the HS cheer coach, Sherman Kage as HS head boys’ baseball coach and Jesus Hermosillo as HS volunteer wrestling coach.


CASB convention reviewed

Board members recapped the sessions they attended at the Dec. 4-7 convention of the Colorado Association of School Boards.

Linda Jelden said one of the more interesting sessions was a panel discussion on technology. She especially enjoyed the input from the specialist in infrastructure.

Dennis Herman cited the Saturday afternoon session with legislators, saying he thinks the tone at the legislature will be different this year.

Pat Wiebers said another technology session was very beneficial to her in looking at the direction needed for progress. She cited the importance of communication, educating the community and bringing students on board.

Akey appreciated the breakout session on websites addressing college application direction. She said she also learned a lot in the legal and board member communication sessions.

From the rural cafe sessions, Wiebers said she feels the Holyoke district is miles ahead of others in the knowledge of what’s coming with graduation requirements and more.

Herman said from a session with CASB executive director Ken DeLay and Commissioner of Education Robert Hammond, there was a very warning attitude about districts choosing to opt out of requirements. Superintendent Bret Miles said Boulder and Cherry Creek are the first two on the line for opting out.

Jelden said the input from the student strand is always a hit with her. This year, HHS junior Danielle Brandt participated in the student strand. Several board members commented on her input from the session. Board president Kris Camblin said perhaps the local board should choose a project for the student council to get feedback from the students.

It was also noted that the art exhibit at the convention included work from local students Monica Dominguez, Brian Beltran and Kylie Purkeypile.


Trumper addresses board

Bob Trumper had several questions that he addressed to the board at last week’s meeting.

He asked if Miles, Camblin and Herman had a meeting at Highline Electric and if they thought this was in violation of the Sunshine Law. It was first emphasized that such a meeting didn’t happen.

However, with regard to the Sunshine Law, Miles clarified that two board members and a staff member can meet within the law. Three or more board members cannot meet to discuss public business without announcing the public meeting. The Sunshine or Open Meetings Law impacts elected officials, not staff.

Citing discussion from the Dec. 1 board retreat on the superintendent search, Trumper asked for clarification on several topics. He asked what Miles felt was progress in the district, what was meant by matching the district culture, what was the reasoning behind asking a superintendent candidate how he/she would handle and manage critics of athletic programs, if there’s concern for low test scores, and who would be key community members to possibly be part of the superintendent search process.

Progress in classrooms, with the budget, with facilities and with employees who are pleased were cited. With regard to the athletic program, Miles said this is a typical topic dealt with by superintendents in every district. Asking a candidate about examples of handling such situations could be beneficial.

Van Overbeke cited the district’s approach to drilling down on each student’s test scores to assess individual areas of need. “We feel good about the potential we’re seeing, and we need the community to understand” about drilling down actual scores, she added.

Trumper asked about students attending other districts and was told the CDE website reports specific information on the number of local students attending other districts, as well as the number attending this district from neighboring districts.

Trumper concluded by saying he doesn’t feel Miles should be involved in the search for a new superintendent.


Other business

In other business Dec. 11, the Re-1J board:

—acknowledged gifts of a sound system in the old gym from the Dragon Fan Club and Dragon Hoopsters; and a new camera from the Hoopsters.

—approved second reading of repealed board policies presented in September.

—noted a Day at the Capitol is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 28.

Holyoke Enterprise December 18, 2014