The mountain area principals went back to school last Thursday — and not just to one school, but to 11.
The principals, a few Jeffco administrators and the two Outdoor Lab School principals boarded what they named “the magic school bus” and took an all-day 80-mile tour of seven elementary, two middle and two high schools. They started at Parmalee Elementary, went to the Conifer schools and then to Evergreen, ending at Evergreen Middle School.
The trip — and the time spent together on the bus — was a way for the principals to become acquainted with one another and with all of the buildings. At each stop, the school’s principal gave a quick tour and provided some personal information. Each participant had a “passport” to stamp at the stops along the route.
It was the first time the principals had participated in such a venture. The idea for the tour came from Bergen Meadow principal Peggy Miller and Parmalee principal Ingrid Mielke. The two have been principals here the longest, 12 years and 14 years, respectively, and they decided it was time for everyone to get together.
“We have seen so much change in principals and leadership in the mountain schools that we felt like we were getting fragmented,” Miller said. “It’s typical for mountain people to take care of each other, and that’s harder to do when we don’t know each other. This was an opportunity for us to get together so we can support each other.”
Conifer High, Marshdale Elementary, Evergreen High and Evergreen Middle have new principals this year.
Achievement director Debbie O’Neill called the trip a good way for the principals to connect. O’Neill, who was principal at West Jeff Elementary School several years ago, said: “They can begin to get to know each other on this trip.”
At each stop, the principals talked a bit about family, his or her past and what drives their work.
Mielke showed her colleagues the construction in progress in front of Parmalee’s building to replace the septic system and beautify the yard. She told the group about her children, both of whom are competitive swimmers and soccer players. As her blast to the past, she brought her letter jacket from Green Mountain High School, where she graduated in 1986.
As to what drives her as an educator: “I’m deeply committed to the district,” she said as she handed everyone a lottery ticket. “The tickets represent that I feel I have won the lottery because — no offense to the rest of you — I have the best staff in the state. I’m so proud to be here.”
Ryan Lucas, the Elk Creek Elementary principal, was still working on his presentation as he made his way to the schools. He said he didn’t get the e-mail with his assignment, so his presentation would be more impromptu.
Joelle Broberg, the new principal at Evergreen Middle, told the group about her dog, Segundo, a miniature Australian shepherd, about how dancing has always been a part of her life, and about her leadership style, which is leading with her heart and intuition.
Beth Elmgreen, the Bergen Valley principal, showed the group her dad’s camera, because he was always taking photos of the family when she was growing up, and a pair of cowboy boots, because her children were born in Texas.
She then showed everyone some Lifesaver candy because she sees herself as a life raft for the teachers at her school this year as they navigate changes instituted by the state legislature.
Robb Gneiser, principal at Windy Peak Outdoor Lab School, did not get to show off his school to the rest, but he did put together a presentation about himself. He brought a photo of a race he and his family ran in honor of Emily Keyes, who was killed in 2006 at Platte Canyon High School. Gneiser had been one of Emily’s teachers when Emily was at Fitzsimmons Middle School.
He also brought a sign that said, “Happiness is being married to your best friend.”
And finally, he brought a book that his grandmother gave him.
“My parents didn’t graduate from high school,” Gneiser said. “My grandmother appreciated education, and she recognized the importance of education. Education is not just about learning; it’s about inspiring others.”