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For 25 years, D’Evelyn Jr./Sr. High School has provided a rigorous academic environment

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By Deborah Swearingen

When Jennifer Ford moved to the Denver-metro area, she worked as a substitute teacher at a variety of schools while searching for a permanent home that felt like the perfect fit.

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She might not have known it at the time, but she was waiting for D’Evelyn Jr./Sr. High School.

“I was looking for a school, where the students are really invested and where academic rigor is expected and where parents are really involved,” Ford said.

The school, which is now celebrating its 25th year near South Kipling Street and West Quincy Avenue, is known for its consistently high test scores, its classic liberal arts education and its unique blend of the public and charter school methodologies.

But for those who attend the school and work there, D’Evelyn is much more than that. It’s an educational home.

“It is the only place I’ve ever known,” said principal Josh Griffin, who worked his way from interim girls swim coach to teacher to assistant principal before landing his current job.

D’Evelyn offers grades seven through 12, and students are selected through a lottery process. Admission is not based on test scores, but students are instead chosen through a lottery that is based on a variety of prioritizations. In a world where educational trends come and go, D’Evelyn sticks to the classics.

“We are the school you went to when you went to the regular public high school, but that school doesn’t exist anymore,” said physics teacher Briant McKellips, who also was a founding teacher at the school.

Teachers expect a lot from D’Evelyn students, but most say that’s precisely why the school is successful. When a lot is expected, students rise to meet the challenge no matter their natural abilities.

A place where everyone has a say

Unlike other Jeffco Public Schools, D’Evelyn has a steering committee comprised of the principal, teachers and parents that makes decisions based on the school’s founding document. D’Evelyn was founded by a group of parents who were unhappy about education’s future and determined to do something about it.

As such, it continues to be a place where parents are involved and have a say in the decision-making process.

“Parents are really instrumental in this school in helping with hiring, helping with curriculum, helping with even evaluating the principal and most importantly helping make sure that this school stays true to this founding document,” said Melinda Bochner, who has daughters in ninth and seventh grade at the school.

A place where learning thrives

Most of all, though, D’Evelyn is a place where everyone loves to learn. It’s an environment that thrives on mutual respect.

“(Teachers) respect us and so they expect a lot from us,” said senior Emily Smith, 17. “They respect our discussions in class, and we respect their time when we come for extra help. It’s a really safe community for that.”

Gina Coco, a parent and steering committee member, agreed.

She was first attacted to D’Evelyn for its academic vigor but likes that students are engaged and inspired to do well.

“I love that the peer pressure is very positive, so it’s cool to be a good student here,” she said.

Because of this, many staff members agree that D’Evelyn is a teacher’s heaven.

Ford appreciates teaching the classics in an environment where students not only read the book but enjoy doing it; math teacher Cory Ryckman values the respect; and McKellips understands that it all works together to produce a successful learning environment.

“We spend our days teaching, not babysitting and not putting out fires. We spend the days teaching, and the kids spend the days learning. And it’s … a very healthy, fun environment,” he said.

Interested in attending D'Evelyn? To learn more about D'Evelyn's lottery process or to attend one of the school's enrollment nights, visit http://www.develynjags.org/our_school/enrollment. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that students are selected through a lottery process, which prioritizes students based on a number of factors. 

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.