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The retirement or resignation of a handful of principals and other administrators this summer instigated a figurative game of musical chairs that will shake up leadership at more than a third of District 51 schools.

High schools are taking the brunt of the turnover, with principals changing at all major high schools in the district except for Grand Junction High. Palisade High Principal Matt Diers is taking a job as District 51’s director of high schools, a job absorbed in recent years by retiring Chief Academic Officer Bill Larsen, and will be replaced by Dan Bollinger, a Palisade assistant principal of nine years. Antonio Giurado, former executive director of school effectiveness for Jefferson County Public Schools, is taking over as chief academic officer.

Assistant principals also are taking over at Fruita Monument High School, where seven-year Fruita Monument Assistant Principal Todd McClaskey will replace Jan Keirns, and at Central High School, where 15-year Central veteran Lanc Sellden is replacing Jody Diers. Diers recently accepted a position as head of residence life at Colorado Mesa University and Keirns is taking a special assignment to help the district make teacher evaluation procedures consistent among District 51 principals.

Keirns said she didn’t plan to retire for another few years but decided to leave her post due to lingering effects of a concussion she got from slipping on ice at school.

“A high school principal’s job is very challenging. I like being very responsive and it just got harder and harder to do,” she said.

Sellden, Bollinger and McClaskey all said they look forward to learning their new jobs together. Although new teacher evaluations that went into effect statewide last fall are consuming more time for the principals and assistant principals who administer them every year for all teachers in one school, McClaskey said he believes turnover at the top has more to do with nine administrative-level district employees having a June 30 deadline to take advantage of an expiring retirement benefit.

“There’s a domino effect because of that,” he said.

R-5 High Principal Anna Goetz is one of the principals taking advantage of the benefit, a one-time payout of 50 percent of a longtime employee’s salary upon their retirement or resignation. Don Trujillo, expulsion intervention coordinator at The Opportunity Center, is taking the helm at R-5.

Grand Mesa Middle School Principal Mark Vana and Rim Rock Elementary Principal Tami Kramer are taking the benefit, too, as well as Executive Director of Academic Achievement for Elementary Schools Lesley Rose. Cheryl Taylor, current director of academic achievement for elementary schools, will step into Rose’s post and Shelledy Elementary Principal Steve States will take Taylor’s job. Shelledy Assistant Principal Deb Lamb is taking that school’s lead job.

Also at the elementary level, Doug Levinson, the longest-serving principal in the district, retired this month as principal of Scenic Elementary. Clifton Elementary Assistant Principal Amie Landman will become Scenic’s principal.

Meri Nofzinger has resigned as principal of Lincoln Orchard Mesa Elementary to take a job in another district. She will be replaced by Leia Ellis, an assistant principal at Rim Rock.

Kramer will be replaced at Rim Rock by Sharon Kallus, who is leaving her post as principal of both Broadway Elementary and Grande River Virtual Academy, which is housed in Broadway’s building. Thunder Mountain Elementary Assistant Principal Scot Bingham will replace Kallus at both Broadway and GRVA.

Terrie ReQua is leaving her post as principal of Mt. Garfield Middle School to take over for Vana at Grand Mesa Middle School. Mt. Garfield Assistant Principal Hal Templeton has been hired to serve as Mt. Garfield’s new principal.

Bookcliff Middle School Principal Cathy Drake resigned this month and will be replaced by Jim Butterfield, assistant principal of Niwot High School in the St. Vrain Valley District.


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