When members of Evergreen High School’s senior class arrived for school in August 2008, new principal Matt Walsh greeted them. He was the fourth principal in four years at EHS. Their freshman class principal retired at year-end. Their sophomore class principal, despite prior successes and high expectations, was not a good fit and lasted just one year. Their junior class principal was a retired administrator who stayed one year in an interim capacity.
No students and no school should be subjected to the turnover that the EHS class of 2009 encountered. Thanks to both EHS’s institutional excellence and the preparation that the students had received during their K-8 years, the class succeeded despite the revolving door in the principal’s office. And while things didn’t fall apart with four principals in four years, it was time for some stability.
Quite simply, no one could have filled the void better than Matt Walsh. There was no doubt that he was committed to doing a very difficult job very well and that he intended to stay for much longer than a cup of coffee.
To students, he was the school’s leader who quickly knew EHS’s almost 1,000 students and showed an interest both in their high school activities and preparing them for the future. For a faculty and staff that had been whipsawed by principals with different styles and different agendas, he was a supportive administrator who demanded excellence but respected individuals abilities and expertise. For parents, he had a style that showed he cared how their kids were doing and an openness that reflected a willingness to accept comments and criticism to make a good organization better. And for community members, he reached out and opened his door. Evergreen demands that its schools be an important part of the broader community, and Matt Walsh both understood and relished the opportunity to fill that role.
After five years at the helm of EHS, Matt Walsh is moving on. He will be part of a new 16-member team to improve achievement across Jefferson County Public Schools.
Over the years that our kids were in Jeffco schools, I served as the chair of the accountability councils for the Bergen elementary schools and EHS. In those roles, I was part of several principal selection committees and participated with area administrators to evaluate several principals. I saw a wide range of abilities and styles in the various principals with whom I worked. I can say, without hesitation, that principals with Matt Walsh’s abilities and skill sets are few and far between.
It would be more than a little melodramatic to say Matt Walsh saved EHS. The school has a history of excellence that includes receiving the Colorado Department of Education’s John Irwin award every year the award has existed and being the first community high school in Colorado to receive a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Award in 2007. With that tradition, EHS did much more than just survive four principals in four years. But it’s no overstatement to say that Matt Walsh leaves EHS a much better place than he found, and that the kids, teachers, staff members, parents and community members with whom he interacted are better for having known him.
Thanks, Matt, for a job well done. Good luck with your new adventure.
Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.