By Kate Cocchiarella
"If you have done your job as a leader, you can walk away from an organization and it will just get better," a wise friend said to me recently. This comment has given me a lot to think about and a lofty goal to strive for. Eagle County Schools has been blessed to have the leadership of Dr. Maggie Lopez, interim superintendent, for the past year. Mere words are inadequate to express the depth of my personal gratitude for her service, her wisdom and her genuine love for students.
I reached out to the leadership team to enlist their help in acknowledging the excellent work that Dr. Lopez has done for us. I would like to share some of their comments here:
Maggie is tenacious. She is an authentic listener who makes decisions based on what is best for kids. One year can be a short time to make an impact, but Maggie has accomplished that. She is supportive and empowering, kind and generous. She is thoughtful, wise and eager to help. Maggie seeks to understand and wants true input in order to determine next steps. We are thankful for her perspective. Never underestimate the determination of a quiet leader.
My personal favorite thing about Maggie was seeing the sparkle of joy in her eyes when Eagle County surprised her. After 37 years in public education, a new and fresh experience is a delight to her. Eagle County is a unique place, and we were able to delight her often.
The generosity of this community was usually the spark that triggered her amazement. "This is a special community," she would say again and again. The beauty of our county also often stunned her. I try to be mindful never to take this incredible place for granted, and Maggie has helped me see our vistas through a newcomer's eyes.
Wise friends. I am lucky to have them. I am especially grateful for my year working alongside Dr. Lopez. I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who inspire me to be my best self, people who challenge my thinking. The young ones enlighten and brighten; they help me find a fresh approach. The older ones bring calm and deep understanding that only years provide.
My peers make me feel that I am not alone — we all have the same worries, struggles and triumphs along our journey. In the end, it all comes down to the basics. We must seek to understand others' points of view. We can help each other achieve more, live better.
Strong leaders make others stronger around them. They lead by example, they lead with inspiration, they lead with intellect, they lead by listening to others. Mentors make a difference, collaboration is essential, humility strengthens us. I am thankful for Dr. Lopez's time with us. I am beholden to those who have served before me and to those who will serve in the future. Our organization is teed up for growth and improvement with a new leader ready and waiting to start. Maggie has done her job well.
Kate Cocchiarella is the president of the Board of Education of Eagle County Schools. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.