For the three South Jeffco principals leaving their schools next year to become achievement directors for the Jeffco district, one word sums up their feelings: bittersweet.
Powderhorn Elementary’s Mike Freeman, D’Evelyn High’s Terry Elliott and Red Rocks Elementary’s Wanda Hamilton will begin serving in the new positions next school year. Each will work with 10 to 12 schools to provide support and coaching for administrative staff and teachers.
All three principals said the excitement generated by the opportunity to help students and principals on a larger scale is tempered only by having to leave the schools where they’ve built treasured relationships with staff and students.
“It was through tears I told my staff I was leaving,” said Freeman, who has been principal at Powderhorn for the last six years. “When you’re doing it right, you’ve created a family. You’ve created a school that’s just a center of the community. … It takes awhile to build that; it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of time and treasure and blood and sweat.”
Freeman spent two years at Powderhorn as the assistant principal before taking over the top job. He started out as an aid for special-needs students before spending nine years teaching fifth and sixth grades.
During that time, Freeman said, he learned that leadership from the principal’s office is critical to the success of a school and its students.
Hamilton, who has 17 years of experience as a principal both in Colorado and Virginia, has been at Red Rocks for the past eight years. While in Virginia, Hamilton served on her district’s administrative team as a special-education coordinator.
“It’s a different role, absolutely. I have absolutely loved being a principal, but I see that this new position can be just as rewarding,” said Hamilton. “It’s going to be intense work but also great work in providing extra support for our schools. And the whole goal is helping students achieve.”
Whether as part of the administration, as a principal or as a teacher, Hamilton said the ultimate goal has always been helping students achieve in and out of the classroom.
D’Evelyn’s Elliott likes the idea of impacting students on a larger scale. He has spent the last three school years as principal of the junior-senior high school, and says that, with more support, area principals can help their students achieve more.
“It’s the impact the (achievement director) can have and how that will benefit lots of students,” Elliott said. “You may be out of the spotlight of being principal, but that doesn’t mean you’re not having a significant impact on students and their ability to thrive. I take comfort in that fact, that I can indirectly affect their lives.”
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