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El Paso County Colorado District 49

New principals in D 49

Students returning to school this fall will be greeted by new principals at five Falcon School District 49 schools.Dr. Mary Guinn, D 49 deputy superintendent, said vacancies were created by principals either retiring or accepting other positions. She said the openings have provided an opportunity for the district to identify leaders with like minds who can support and execute the district’s mission to raise student achievement.Guinn said that academic achievement in the district has remained the same for several years. “We believe our students and community can do more,” Guinn said.During the interview process, Guinn said district administration looked for candidates who could provide leadership to increase the academic status within the schools.”The (principal’s) primary responsibility is to identify high quality teachers, motivate existing staff and encourage and motivate students and families,” Guinn said.Each of the new principals spoke to The New Falcon Herald about goals and expectations. Sean Dorsey, Sand Creek High SchoolSean Dorsey said he has lived near Sand Creek High School for many years. When the principal position opened, he jumped at the chance. “I’m excited to work in my own district and excited to get started,” he said.Currently principal at Wasson High School in Colorado Springs District 11, Dorsey has overseen a transformation at the school. He said he focused on creating a safe and orderly learning environment and improving classroom instruction. WHS was removed from academic probation and met the state-mandated Adequate Yearly Progress in reading, he said.Dorsey said he is learning about the school and has met with department heads. “I want to know what good thing I need to support as principal – what’s working for students and for student achievement,” he said.”My top goal is centered on student achievement – it’s the No. 1 reason we’re there.”He said changes in teaching and student learning can be affected by consistent, constructive feedback and valuable, applicable professional development for teachers. On the student end, he said clarifying learning objectives can create consistent growth over time.Bob Felice, Vista Ridge High School“I’m extraordinarily enthusiastic,” Bob Felice said. He is ready to move forward at Vista Ridge. “I bring a spirit of competition to the fields and courts and to student achievement.”Felice said next year Vista Ridge will graduate its first class of seniors. “We’re treading new ground,” he said. As the new principal, Felice said he will focus on developing systems to propel students toward graduation, and he’s already planning VRHS’s first-ever commencement ceremony.He said leaving Falcon Middle School is bittersweet, but he hopes to bring the lessons he learned at FMS to VRHS. “My leadership style brings people together, creating a community feel with staff, teachers, students and parents,” he said. “It’s important people love each other and treat each other well.”Felice said he will concentrate on student achievement and making sure critical systems, such as Response to Intervention programs, are in place to keep students moving forward and ensure that VRHS meets state accountability requirements.”Anything we choose to do – we’re going to be the best. That’s the expectation and that’s the battle cry,” Felice said.Drew Cleveland, Falcon Middle SchoolDrew Cleveland will replace Bob Felice as principal of Falcon Middle School. He is currently assistant principal at Fox Meadow Middle School in Harrison District 2.Cleveland said he was attracted to Falcon District 49 because it is a growing district with opportunity to continue moving student achievement forward.”I like Dr. Schoeppey’s vision for the district,” Cleveland said. “We are going to continue to improve student gains and become Colorado’s premier district.”Cleveland said he toured FMS and met with staff. “I got a sense of a positive culture that has been established,” he said. Cleveland said he plans to carry on in the same spirit as he takes over the administration.”I’m student centered, have a caring personality,” Cleveland said. He said he brings strong leadership skills and an understanding of how to teach and implement improved teaching practices.”This is not just a supervisory role,” Cleveland said. “I’ll be working with kids and teachers in the classrooms.”Theresa Ritz, Ridgeview ElementaryTheresa Ritz is currently principal at Stetson Elementary. She has been in administration or teaching at Stetson for 11 years. Ritz said D 49 administration approached her to move to Ridgeview Elementary as their new principal because her leadership strengths matched Ridgeview’s needs.Ritz said it is hard to leave Stetson Elementary, but she is excited for a new challenge. “I love people, I’m looking forward to meeting the new community,” she said.Her top priority as incoming principal is student achievement. Ritz said achievement scores at Ridgeview are good but stagnant. “The task is to make sure kids are reaching their fullest potential. I’m not happy unless they leave for middle school on grade-level or above,” Ritz said.She said another goal is to build strong relationships with the staff and community. “That’s how education is different from corporations,” Ritz said. “Without the strong relationships, you won’t get as far.”The reason I do this job is all about the kids. I want to impact the future through the kids.”Mike Pickering, Stetson Elementary SchoolAfter three years as assistant principal at Stetson Elementary School, Mike Pickering is taking over as principal. He is replacing Teresa Ritz, who is moving to Ridgeview Elementary.”Teresa has done a fantastic job,” he said. “I want to maintain the community atmosphere among teachers, parents and students.”Pickering said to maintain a strong sense of community, it’s important to be available and flexible. “It fosters better relationships,” he said.This year SES launched the Positive Behavior Support program – a D 49 method that rewards good behaviors, Pickering said. He plans to strengthen the program and its implementation. “I’ve seen improvements in our common areas – the playgrounds and lunch room. It aligns classroom expectations to all areas of the school,” he said.School rules and expectations that are posted throughout the school and assemblies reinforce expectations, Pickering said. “PBS has helped the whole school get on the same page,” he added. “It’s a data-oriented way to look at school behavior and culture.”Pickering said his third priority is to focus on student growth. “We have good levels of achievement at Stetson,” he said. “I want to increase them and increase the growth rate.”

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