Superintendent’s Message

July 29, 2018

Photo of Dr. Nichols 

Hello Gunnison Watershed Community,

I am thrilled to be joining your school district team as Superintendent. I invite you to learn more about me in my Introduction, and I would like to share with you my “Entry Plan” to this new position.

Entry Plan

Weeks 1-6: Relationship Building

I began my work with the district by spending ten transition days between April and June of 2018 with recently retired superintendent Doug Tredway. Together we visited our schools and I began getting to know our principals, teachers, staff, and students.

I do not come to this position with a pre-made plan for change. It is clear already that the state of the Gunnison Watershed School District is strong thanks to an incredibly involved and supportive community, staff who work tirelessly to create the best learning conditions possible for students, parents who care, and the hard work and leadership of Doug Tredway for these past five years as superintendent and for the thirty years before that in a multitude of teaching and leadership roles in the district. I feel fortunate to step into a district that is on such solid footing and that holds the mission of ensuring all students succeed at the heart of everything that happens here.

My first official day on the job was July 16 and these first six weeks will continue the work of building relationships with all the good people of this district and community. I will be attending meetings of local organizations like Rotary and the Chamber, local governments, the Mayors and Managers group, and as many back-to-school nights as I can to meet parents. I will of course also be launching district administration, teachers, and staff into the 2018-2019 school year with enthusiasm, and enjoying getting to know the members of the school board better.

While my entire tenure as superintendent will come from a stance of seeking to understand first, that is especially true at the beginning of this journey. I will continue to have the district operate in as transparent a way as possible, and I am available to listen and get to know the people of this district and community.

Weeks 7-12: Diving Deep into the District

Relationship-building will continue into these weeks, and my focus will shift to deepening my understanding of the culture and context of GWSD.

I will investigate all aspects of the functioning of the district, including curriculum and instruction, finance, transportation and facilities, food services, early childhood programming, human resources, special and gifted education, technology, and athletics/activities.

I will also take a deep dive into data about our performance, including state assessment results, attendance, social/emotional indicators, climate and culture surveys, participation in athletics/activities, graduation and dropout rates, behavior data including suspensions and expulsions, and more.

I will also do a scan of the conditions for school readiness that exist in the community, including parenting support, health care and mental health utilization, affordable housing, food security, substance use and abuse, and the systems of youth justice.

Weeks 13-16: Strategic Planning

I intend that my analysis and reflection from my deep dive into all of these areas will lead to the development of an inspiring planning document that builds upon and extends the thinking contained in our existing Unified Improvement Plans for our schools and district. It is my hope that with school board, staff, parent, and community collaboration, we can establish a guiding set of indicators towards which we strive and also by which we can assess our own performance. The state of Colorado defines some of what measures us and I see us building to create a system that addresses goals and performance beyond existing achievement, growth, and postsecondary indicators alone.

Learning is at the heart of our vision, specifically the learning that takes place within classrooms between teachers and their students. The factory-model of education that has permeated the American landscape for the last century must evolve. We can no longer view the curriculum as something to be poured into empty minds. The work of schools is to provide experiences with students whereby students create understanding on deep levels through hard thinking and challenging work. The work is also to bring excitement and enthusiasm to exposing our students to the fascinating and wide world of knowledge. Such learning lasts. Such learning motivates. And such learning also builds relationships, without which the entire endeavor of schools and teaching and learning cannot succeed.

Our strategic planning will have learning at its core and will delineate both existing and possibly new structures to support our mission of ensuring that all students succeed.

Weeks 17 and Beyond: Implementation

I have much to learn and that is exciting to me. I am here to listen and to guide, both, and to renew the vision for Gunnison Watershed School District so we function with purpose and motivation for the benefit of our students, families, local community, country, and world. Doug Tredway created countless systems to organize our work as a district; I cannot wait to build on those, determine next steps, and act on that determination.

Thank you for this opportunity to be part of this work. I know that together, we will continue the excellence that is Gunnison Watershed School District.

Photo of Dr. Nichols in Hawaii