3 mountain principals joining team to improve district schools

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

The Jeffco school district has tapped three mountain area principals to take new achievement director positions at the district level.

Dr. Mike Musick from Conifer High School, Matt Walsh from Evergreen High and Kristopher Schuh from Evergreen Middle will finish the current school year before taking their new positions. Searches already are under way to find new principals.

“I know this is disruptive to the communities that are losing their principals,” said Jeffco Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. “I am sad for the Evergreen and Conifer areas. On the other hand, (the principals’) strengths, skills and knowledge will help (the district) be better overall.”

The new positions are part of a reorganization called the School Innovation and Effectiveness Division. The district will be divided into three areas: schools in the north, central, and the south and mountains. Each area will be assigned a team of four to five achievement directors plus a supervisor.

These 16 administrators are expected to be in schools about 80 percent of their time, helping principals become more effective, Stevenson said.

“What we are trying to do,” Stevenson said, “is be very targeted on what skills our principals need to (help) lead to better student achievement. We want to teach our principals to have those skills. That’s a huge part of it.”

Each team has at least one person with experience as an elementary, middle and high school principal.

Musick will be assigned to the central team, while Walsh and Schuh will be assigned to the north team.

These teams will have several responsibilities, including helping principals improve their schools, filling in gaps in principals’ training, and helping to implement education reform legislation that takes effect in the 2013-14 school year. The legislation aims to improve teacher effectiveness by boosting accountability.

Approved by the legislature in 2010, the measure requires that half of teachers’ evaluations be based on their students’ academic growth, and half of principals’ evaluations be based on the growth of the entire school. This, in turn, will affect teacher and principal pay.

Stevenson said that of the 16 people on the team, seven already were at the district level, including the district’s four community superintendents. Three were appointed, including one retiree who agreed to spend one year in the position, and Musick, who had already agreed to work with curriculum at the district level.

The remaining six positions were advertised within the district. Walsh and Schuh applied and were selected from 22 candidates that Stevenson called an “unbelievably strong pool.”

She said the six were chosen because of their deep knowledge of instruction, strong leadership, interpersonal skills and problem-solving strengths.

Stevenson estimates that the reorganization will cost between $200,000 and $300,000 per year, and the money is coming from federal Title II funds that are to be used to improve the performance of teachers and principals.

She wants to allay fears that money is being pulled from the property tax increase approved by voters in November. She said the 3A/3B money is not being touched for this project.

Stevenson envisions the positions lasting one to two years, and as many as five years, depending on the group’s effectiveness and the district’s future budget issues.

“Between 2008 and 2013, I have seen more change, more accountability and increased expectations (from schools) than I have seen in my entire career,” Stevenson said. “This is a time of huge change, and in times of huge change, more support (for principals and teachers) is really important.”


Principal selection process under way

The selection process has begun to find candidates for the principal positions at Conifer and Evergreen high schools and Evergreen Middle School.

The district has a pool of candidates interested in being principals. These candidates already have been interviewed by the human resources and community superintendent offices. Once the candidates are in the pool, they may apply for principal positions at specific schools.

Each school creates a committee to interview the candidates. The committee consists of two staff members, one classified staff member, two principals from area schools, two parents, the community superintendent, who in this case is Dan Cohan, and the executive director, who is Debbie O’Neill.

Parents and staff are asked to fill out the “Principal Characteristics Look-For” form, and it was sent to parents at all three schools. They are asked to identify what they would want in the new principal in terms of leadership, community building, instructional leadership and management.

The committee interviews candidates based on the information in the forms. After a candidate has been selected, Superintendent Cindy Stevenson conducts a final interview. She either accepts the recommendation or declines it. If she declines the candidate, the process begins again.

Conifer High School

• Meeting for parents and community members was April 1.

Interviews are tentatively scheduled for April 19. 

Evergreen High School

• Meeting with parents and community members to provide input at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, in the school library, or drop off or e-mail comments to Margi Masquelier, principal’s secretary, at mmasquel@jeffco.k12.co.us.

Interviews are scheduled for Friday, April 26.

Evergreen Middle School

• Meeting with parents and community members to provide input at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, April 17, in the school library, or drop off or e-mail comments to Carol Miner, principal’s secretary, at cminer@jeffco.k12.co.us.

Interviews are tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, April 23.