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Rest of the Story: Ponderosa High School Funding

Dr. Steven Cook, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education, shared the following message with the Ponderosa community regarding funding for the 2016-2017 school year

May 1, 2016

Dear Ponderosa Community:

It is hard to believe there are only a few weeks left in the school year. Graduation will quickly arrive and before we know it, the 2016-2017 school year will begin.

As you may be aware, there has been some discussion in the Ponderosa community regarding "drastic cuts of 60% of PHS highly impacted funding" for the next school year. I wanted to reach out to you to provide context and add clarity to this situation.

Each year, the Douglas County School District provides the opportunity for schools to apply for additional dollars to supplement their site-based budgets, known as highly impacted funding. These funds are budgeted annually and awarded as one-time money to support schools that can demonstrate significant needs or special circumstances which would warrant available supplemental funding.  

As the assistant superintendent of secondary schools, I review requests from middle and high schools that apply for these funds. Using a process that weighs multiple factors (including special program needs, school size, percentage of the request that goes directly to classrooms, program priority, school carryover and more), I then make decisions to determine the most appropriate manner to allocate these additional dollars to secondary schools (DCSD Assistant Superintendent for Elementary, Ted Knight, does the same process for our elementary schools). For example, a school with significant intervention needs may be selected to receive additional funding to ensure the appropriate staff support is in place.

This year, several of the middle and high schools in DCSD applied for highly impacted funding during November-December 2015, totaling $1.4 million in requests. In January-February 2016, I analyzed each request and had multiple conversations with principals to gather as much information as I could regarding their respective requests. Using the above-mentioned process, I then determined the most appropriate use of these funds. Schools were notified in late March 2016 whether or not they received highly impacted funding for the next school year. I have the budget authority each year to allocate a total of $200,000 in highly impacted funding. For the 2016-2017 school year, I selected three schools to receive this needed additional funding: Mesa Middle School, Highlands Ranch High School and Ponderosa High School.

Ponderosa received $76,827 of highly impacted funds to add a teacher for the 2016-2017 school year. I recognize that this is a decrease in highly impacted funding for PHS compared to previous years. In the last few years, Ponderosa received highly impacted funds totaling approximately $200,000 - which essentially was the entire budgeted amount for all 21 neighborhood secondary schools in the district. This year’s decisions that led to the allocation for PHS were based upon a number of factors including a growing student population at Ponderosa and additional carryover at the school. Decisions were also influenced by significant needs that exist at the other schools receiving highly impacted funds.

These decisions regarding highly impacted funding are not decisions I take lightly. My focus is on supporting the most acute secondary school needs as possible. Please remember, there is a chance, as in previous years, that additional funding may become available once the 2016-2017 budget is finalized.

If you still have questions regarding these decisions, please feel free to email me directly. Also, several district personnel, including myself, are attending the Ponderosa SAC meeting on Tuesday, May 3, at 4:30 p.m. at the school to discuss this and other concerns identified by the SAC for PHS. 

I appreciate your partnership and look forward to another great year at Ponderosa High School.  



Dr. Steven Cook
Assistant Superintendent - Secondary Education