Ann Marie Awad | KUNC

Ann Marie Awad

Ann Marie Awad's journalistic career has seen her zigzag around the United States, finally landing on Colorado. Before she trekked to this neck of the woods, she was a reporter and Morning Edition host for WRKF in Baton Rouge, Louisiana's capitol. In a former life, she was a reporter in New York City. Originally, she's from Buffalo, so she'll be the judge of whether or not your chicken wings are up to snuff, thank you very much.

Outside the newsroom, Ann is a comic book nerd, coffee snob, fledgling outdoorswoman and adventurous eater.

Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

School may be out for the summer, but principals and superintendents across the state will be hard at work to make sure schools are staffed up for the fall. An estimated 3,000 teachers are needed to fill vacant positions from Durango to Denver. Meanwhile, the state is graduating nearly 25 percent fewer certified teachers -- and a third of teachers will be eligible for retirement within the next five years.

Robert D. Tonsing / Colorado Public News

It’s that time of year -- time to air out the camping gear, grab a fresh pair of sneakers and bask in Colorado’s outdoors. But depending on the day, you may have a hard time catching your breath. That’s likely due to higher levels of ozone, an air pollutant formed when certain types of emissions -- think car exhaust -- react with sunlight. Levels spike in the summer due to warm weather and it’s important to stay informed on ozone levels in your area.

Clemens v. Vogelsang / Flickr

Colorado has some homework to do. A bill sponsored by Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, recently signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper, requires the state to study the causes and possible solutions to its chronic teacher shortage. Some of these causes are already known in education circles: declining salaries, sharp rises in housing prices and Colorado’s knotty school finance system. McLachlan, however, offers one more guess.

“Well, it’s probably politically incorrect to say,” she says, “but I don’t think Senate Bill 191 helped.”

Courtesy of Colorado State University Photography

Starting this fall, college students in Southwest Colorado can pursue an agriculture degree at Adams State University in Alamosa. The program, a first for the San Luis Valley college, is thanks to a recently announced partnership between the school and Colorado State University.

Dave Herholz / Flickr

When it comes to the percentage of students completing high school within four years, Colorado is not making the grade. That’s according to a recent report by GradNation, an alliance of education-focused organizations.

Seventy-seven percent of Colorado’s class of 2015 graduated within four years. That’s compared to the national average of 83 percent. GradNation’s goal is to encourage states to reach 90 percent by 2020. According to the group, Colorado needs 7,847 more graduates in the class of 2020 to meet that goal.

Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

Trust an architect to hop on board a flat bed trailer and paint a vivid picture of a sustainable -- if not snug -- future house.

Standing atop the donated trailer behind Glenwood Springs High School, Steve Eaton points out where there will be a grilling station, french doors and a loft bedroom -- all to be built by his students this fall.

Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

School funding was one of the key issues tackled by Colorado lawmakers in the 2017 legislative session. The state’s long-standing funding model has forced public schools to operate at a deficit since the recession. But lawmakers have not only committed to a study of the state’s school funding model, but also gave schools a small per-pupil cash bump for the next fiscal year.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Newly minted U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue marked his first day on the job this week by relaxing school nutrition standards that had been implemented under the Obama administration. The change offers “regulatory flexibility” when it comes to whole grains, sodium and milk. But many food service departments along the Front Range say this changes nothing, and that the older, more stringent nutritional standards will remain in place in their kitchens.

Angie Garrett / Flickr

It’s no news that Colorado’s schools have faced a funding crunch in the years since the great recession. And the same is true across the nation. To fill the gap, schools have increasingly turned to their teachers to foot the bill for classroom supplies -- in fact, most teachers are now asked to do so. As this practice has become more common, so too has another: crowdfunding for that money.

In its first ever report measuring this phenomenon, crowdfunding giant GoFundMe found that 91 percent of teachers across the country used their own money to pay for school supplies last year.

Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

With mere days left in Colorado’s legislative session, lawmakers on the Senate Education Committee took up what started out as a rather slim school finance act, the bill that sets funding levels for all of the state’s 178 school districts each year. Because next year’s budget hasn’t been pinned down, part of the bill’s debate hinged on the uncertainty of funds. But the bill still left the committee, weighed down with an unexpected amendment -- one that would require school districts to share funds from voter-approved property tax hikes and bond issues with their charter schools.