Underwater murals brighten Marshdale Elementary halls

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

An octopus, hammerhead sharks, dolphins and clownfish are among the undersea animals awaiting Marhsdale Elementary School students — in the form of two huge murals painted on the school walls.

The brilliant oranges, blues, reds and greens are a treat for the eye. The murals “are phenomenal,” said principal Christy Frost.

Artist and Marshdale parent Alicia VanAusdall created the murals over a two-week period in July.

“This has made coming to work really fun,” Frost said. “Each day I find out what new creatures have appeared in the murals.”

VanAusdall, a graphic designer, recently moved into the mural-painting business. She auctioned off a section of mural work at a Marshdale fund-raiser last year. The next thing she knew, she was being asked to paint two 25-foot-wide, 9-foot-tall murals at the school.

“It blossomed,” she said. “The project got a little bit bigger and a little big bigger. I was thrilled to do it.”

VanAusdall’s work can be seen at the Aspen Perk coffee shop in Aspen Park, and she paints murals in children’s rooms.

For the Marshdale murals, the school gave VanAusdall a theme and let her run with it. She used books as guides to draw the animals, the coral and plants.

Cohen starts as director of RMAE

Dan Cohen, the new director at Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen, says he’s excited about the job, which he started on July 1.

“I have the same butterfly feeling in my stomach that I had when I started my first teaching job 25 years ago,” he said. “Who can reach 50 (years old) and still have that excited feeling starting a new job?”

Cohen, who moved to Evergreen two years ago with his wife and two daughters, just left a position as head of the middle school at Graland Country Day School, a private school in Denver.

Before that he was head of the middle school at Seattle Country Day School, and he has held other positions at private schools. This is his first time running a school like Rocky Mountain Academy, which is a charter school with oversight by Jefferson County Public Schools. It’s not a private school, but it’s not a traditional public school.

Cohen said that RMAE touts its small class sizes, and one of his goals is to make sure those class sizes are being used to their utmost advantage by teachers, so students are getting the best education possible.

“We need to walk the talk of the benefits of fewer students in classes,” he said.

Cohen said he’s looking forward to seeing the entire staff in, as he put it, full swing, and to meeting RMAE families.

New head of middle school at Montessori

Christian Kingsbury has been named to a new position at the Montessori School of Evergreen. He is now head of the middle school, a position created to help free up the school’s director, Beth Heller-Atencio.

Kingsbury, an Evergreen resident, moved here after working as the principal at Basalt Middle School on the Western Slope. He took a year off while his wife returned to work for a Denver law firm.

“Everything just fell into place,” Kingsbury said. “It was perfect timing.” He was ready to find a position at a school, and the Montessori school was looking for someone to oversee its middle school, which has 44 students.

Heller-Atencio said that having Kingsbury on board will give her more time to focus on the Montessori preschool and elementary grades.

Kingsbury said he’s looking forward to getting to know the Montessori community.

“My impression is that things are going well in the middle school,” Kingsbury said. “I hope to build on that.”

Have tips about schools in Evergreen? Contact Evergreen resident Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com.