Superintendent's Corner

Welcome back to school, Eagle County

Hello, Eagle County. I'm delighted to be serving as Eagle County Schools' interim superintendent for the 2017-18 school year. This will be my 38th year in education. During those years, I've served as a classroom teacher, gifted and talented program teacher and supervisor, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent. The majority of my career was spent serving schools in the Colorado Springs community, completing my career as superintendent in Pueblo.

I'm honored to be able to step back into the educational arena in a district with so many exciting ventures underway. My introduction to the valley has shown me the dedication and commitment the community has for its children. In the past few weeks, I've had the chance to meet our talented staff and see that ours is a district of excellence. It is obvious to me as a newcomer that we're all here to provide the best educational opportunities for all kids.

My focus for this school year is to keep our Eagle County Schools ship steady and on its continued course. Former superintendent Dr. Jason Glass and the Board of Education have set clear goals for our district with the strategic plan as the centerpiece. We align our work as educators to the tactics specified in this plan. We are continuing work to incorporate project-based learning within every grade level, which will engage our students in hands-on, high-level critical thinking learning experiences.

Many of our teachers and principals attended the Buck Institute for Education this summer and got a chance to experience this hands-on approach to learning. The Institute provides teachers with a professional-development experience on how to design, assess and manage projects that engage and motivate students. This year, our school leaders will focus on bringing coherence to project-based learning practices across grade levels and subject areas.

I have been excited to visit many of the school construction and renovation projects that have been underway throughout the summer. We're grateful to the voters in our community for approving the bond initiative last fall, which supports renovation and new school construction throughout our district.

On my "moving the dirt tour," as I called it, I visited the major projects of Eagle Valley Elementary, Eagle Valley Middle School and Eagle Valley High School, as well as several of our smaller renovation projects. The amount of work being done, both large scale and deferred maintenance, such as new carpet, paint and technology upgrades, is creating fresh new spaces and opportunities for our kids. Many students will be entering schools that have truly been transformed this summer. Others will watch new structures and designs created as the year progresses. These are exciting times.
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Along with project-based learning, we have several other endeavors happening in our district. We continue to expand student participation in the Seal of Biliteracy program, where seniors are acknowledged with an award on their high school diploma for demonstrating academic proficiency in English and at least one other language.

Students in fifth and eighth grades are also recognized for their bilingual achievement. Last year, we launched a Student Advocacy Group with representative students from each of our high schools to insure that student voices, perceptions and needs permeated our work and future plans.

Our vision is to prepare all of our students to be global-ready graduates, who will be successful in their careers or college experiences and contribute to their communities in positive and effective ways. My personal background and experience has taught me that family engagement in education is critical to improving student achievement. Supporting teachers and school leadership as they work to expand opportunities to engage all parents and caregivers in what's going on in our classrooms will be a focus area this year.

As we begin the school year and welcome back our students, I invite you to come to our schools. Whether you are there as a visitor or volunteer, we want you to become a part of our school team and school community. I will be in the schools and look forward to meeting you. Please introduce yourself when you see me at the grocery store, at the coffee shop or walking one of our many beautiful hiking paths.

We are going to have a great school year.

Maggie Lopez, Ph.D., is the interim superintendent of Eagle County Schools. She can be reached at margarita.lopez@eagleschools.net.