BRIGHTON — A few new faces have been meeting and greeting students in School District 27J as the 2014-15 academic year kicks off. Three new principals and four new assistant principals have joined the 27J administrative team and are quickly settling into their leadership roles at their respective schools.
Principal Andra Ramsay and Assistant Principal Elena Mendoza are looking forward to watching students at North Elementary School learn and grow, both as students and as individuals. Ramsay has 25 years of experience and comes to North Elementary School from the Garfield School District, where she worked as an assistant principal.
Mendoza, who graduated from Brighton High School in 1999, made the move to North Elementary School from Northeast Elementary School where she had been working as a literacy resource teacher for the last three years.
Both administrators are most excited about working with parents and members of the community, so North can become a “community school,” which means parents, members of the community, organizations and businesses get involved to focus on academic growth and positive relationships within the community.
One of the reasons Mendoza was selected as assistant principal – a new position for the school – was because she has relationships and resources in the area that will be needed to create and sustain a community school. Ramsay said creating the assistant principal position gives her a teammate who will be able to free up her time a little bit more so she will be able to work, coach and observe teachers on a more regular basis.
Mendoza said she’s “excited to get started” and wants to ensure that staff are doing their best work. She said you know everybody is ready to go for the year when its Friday and they still have energy.
Ramsay said she’s also excited to see the staff pull together and that collectively, staff are excited about the school year and the goals they’ve set for student achievement.
“As staff, we’re really excited about a new year and we’re looking forward to continuing traditions and creating new ones,” she said.
The school year is off to a great start, according to Thimmig Elementary School’s Principal Candice Reese. She said staff had a full week of professional development before school began and that they were able to work together to create a strong foundation. She said it lead to a very smooth transition on the first day of school and is hopeful its a sign “that it’s going to be a very smooth school year as well.”
Reese comes to Thimmig from Denver Public Schools, where she attended school as a child, and worked for the last 16 years, with experience as a teacher, literacy coach and as an administrator. She lives in Brighton with her family, and her daughters were the reason she decided to work for 27J.
“Something I guess I am very excited about, is that we were able to bring back art for our students,” she said. “In looking at the budget over the summer, we were able to create an extra time-slot that would be available to add art so all of our students have the opportunity, at least once a week, to attend art classes and that’s something they haven’t had in a number of years, so we’re really excited about it and the parents are excited about it too.”
Reese says that one area they’re going to spend more time paying attention to is writing. TCAP results showed writing was an area the district didn’t score as high in and Reese pointed out that Thimmig was below both the district and the state average in the writing category. Additionally, she would like to be in the classrooms as often as she can and interact with teachers, find out what’s working and discover where additional support is needed.
She expects that change will take three to five years for the school but emphasizes that at Thimmig staff believe in the motto “every child, every day.” She said their goal is for all students to make at least a year’s growth in all content areas and that she would like to see a year and a half’s worth of growth for students who are below grade level, so they can catch up and close the achievement gap.
Stuart Middle School
After 20 years of working for Aurora Public Schools, Rich Patterson is transitioning into his role as Stuart Middle School’s new principal. Patterson has spent many of the past years working in administration, but he found he really missed the school atmosphere and being with students and teachers.
He was intrigued by the data, school and the community and was curious as to why achievement wasn’t as high at the school as it should be. He was wondering what challenges the school was facing and after talking with staff at the end of last year, he learned it was the level of accountability and expectations.
“That’s been my big push for this school year in the sense of coming in as a new principal,” he said. “We really are changing how we do school on a daily basis and one of the ways we’re doing that is through content area plan-times twice a week, we’re looking at creating common formative assessments through the professional learning community structure and then we’re also embedding multi-tiered systems of support, which is from the EDC.”
He said during those professional community times, staff will be looking where students are at and how to begin making decisions about how best meet the needs of the students. According to Patterson, they’re putting into place something called the “Stuart System,” which includes raising achievement for all students, closing the achievement gaps and ensuring a safe environment for kids.
Patterson said the staff and community have been great. He said they grilled over 500 hotdogs during the schools back to school barbecue last week. During registration night he heard from parents about traffic problems at the school and now he, along with the school’s dean of students, is out there in the mornings directing traffic.
He said Stuart Middle School seems to be in a really healthy place and that he’s happy to be there.
“I love being in 27J. It’s been such a great introduction to a new school district,” he said. “For 20 years all I knew was one school district, so coming here has just been refreshing.”
Turnberry Elementary School
Toby Karr is joining the Turnberry Elementary School staff as the school’s Dean. Karr has 12 years of experience working for RE-3J Public Schools, the last six of them as an assistant principal.
Karr, who lives in Reunion, said he made the move to School District 27J because he wanted work in the community he lived in and find a way to be more engaged in the community. He says that everyone he’s met so far has been welcoming him with open arms to the building and the community. Karr said he really enjoys working with Principal Brett Minne as well as the school’s staff.
“My goal for the year this year is really just to try to know the students here at Turnberry and the staff and the community and really become a part of the Turnberry community,” he said. “There’s a lot that comes with that – it’s getting to know how Turnberry operates, it’s getting to know the ins and outs of our families...just understanding the needs of the students and how I can best serve those.”
Robb Steven has made the jump from teacher to administrator, as he will be serving as Dean for Brantner Elementary School. The 2014-15 academic year marks seven years of work with the district for him.
Steven started his tenure in the district as the 6th grade math teacher when Turnberry Elementary opened and then transitioned to Brantner Elementary School last year, where he taught fourth grade and had a “great experience.” He’s hoping to have a great experience at Brantner
“I am excited to continue to grow and learn with the wonderful students and amazing staff here at Brantner,” he said. “With my new school right around the corner, I look forward to developing new relationships with our families and community.”
Prairie View High
Heath Wilson is also new to School District 27J this year. Wilson, who has worked at Lochbuie Elementary School Principal for the last three years, is taking over as Prairie View High Schools Athletic Director and Assistant Principal. Wilson believes his experience as principal will help him in his role and that his main goal as an athletic director is helping student-athletes grow and succeed.
Contact Staff Writer Crystal Nelson at 303-659-2522, ext. 223, or firstname.lastname@example.org.