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Commissioner's School Visits

Columbine Elementary School, Bruce Randolph Middle School and Manual High School

By Dwight D. Jones

March 20, 2008

Superintendent Michael Bennet takes a magic carpet ride at Columbine Elementary School.

There couldn’t have been a more perfect day to visit three Denver Public Schools. The weather was sunny and bright, the schools were immaculate and the students were all focused and busy in their classrooms. Traveling by car with Denver Public Schools Superintendent Michael Bennet and Special Assistant to the Superintendent Michael Gaither, our first stop was Columbine Elementary School. Principal Stephen Wera guided us to the gymnasium for a quick peek at teacher Kayla Lacko’s demonstration of how to exercise with a colorful parachute. Superintendent Bennet was quickly coaxed into the center and joined in the fun right along with the students.

These Columbine Elementary School children had no problem counting to 10.

Next we practiced our counting with jellybeans and Easter eggs. Counting never tasted so good! We went on to say hello to kindergarten classes led by Chris Blach and Stephanie Kless, then stopped in on a sixth grade class directed by English Language Acquisition resource teacher Jessica Robles. We had a special visit planned next, a stop at vocal music teacher Judy Hill’s classroom. Hill was celebrating her sixtieth birthday. Although we didn’t sing “Happy Birthday”, I know Ms. Hill felt appreciated!

Judy Hill doesn’t look a day over 42.

Bruce Randolph Middle School was a short drive away. Principal Kristin Waters’ quick wit and energy were infectious. Bruce Randolph completed their CSAP exams on March 19 with 100 percent attendance. Signs around the school read, “It’s Your Chance! Make the effort, make the difference, CSAP. Grizzly Pride.”

Catching up with "Frankenstein" at Bruce Randolph Middle School.

Our first stop was Valeri Kershaw’s language arts class. Students barely noticed our presence; their heads were buried in “Frankenstein.” The signs in the classroom asked, “What is a monster?” The book cover looked pretty scary to me. Next stop was a math class with two instructors. Waters explained, “Each teacher in our school has a coach assigned to them. We have lots of people helping people. Team teachers facilitate engagement and support.”

We urged students in Chrisanne Lahue’s poetry class to read their work for us, but there were no takers. The weight room offered a change in scenery, but I can’t say it offered much of a challenge. I’m much stronger than the middle school girls. The bench press was a breeze.

A student spotter checks my form at Bruce Randolph Middle School.

Manual High School was our final stop on this Denver road trip. Principal Rob Stein took us to Teresa Martinez’s English class. Students were surrounded by helpful English language aids. In a math class teachers and facilitators worked together to support the entire class in learning. When I asked Stein how he thinks his school did on the CSAP exams he responded that the future looks promising. I would have to agree with him, after touring these three schools, the future looks very bright.

An English class at Manual High School.

The writing is on the wall at Manual High School. Principal Stein led me on a tour of the school.

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