R-5 principal to retire with ‘mixed emotions’

Casey says he's leaving while ‘things are going well'

R-5 High School Principal Dave Casey shows the “diploma” he received from the school after the announcement of his retirement.

R-5 High Principal Dave Casey will watch students race out the door to begin summer break for the 33rd and final time as an educator this afternoon.

After more than three decades as a teacher and principal, Casey will retire June 9.

“I had real mixed emotions about retirement, but I realized in the grand scheme of things it was a good time,” Casey said.

A desire to coach attracted Casey to the education profession after college. He got a job as an earth science teacher in his hometown of Hollywood, Fla., and coached wrestling and football. After five years at Hollywood Hills High School he moved to Grand Junction and taught at Bookcliff Middle School for a couple years before moving to Central High School for 15 years. Casey became a principal for the first time at Central.

“In that track you can help more kids,” he said.

After leaving Central, Casey spent five years as a high school principal at what is now Western Colorado Community College before settling into his job at R-5 six years ago.

Casey said watching students who struggled in traditional high school come to R-5 and blossom has been a highlight of his career.

“We’ve had some students come in with everything from some quirky behavior to some real serious stuff,” Casey said. “It’s just been a pleasure to help them out.”

Since his first day at R-5 in 2004, Casey said the school has added a noncredit-based key performance diploma, started using a standardized test that gives results sometimes in the same day so staff can help shape a student’s education plan immediately, and brought in a vending machine with chips, sandwiches and other items for a modified lunch program.

The school is also one of the biggest users in the district, he said, of an online system that streamlines information about students so teachers and the principal can access that and other information quickly.

Casey said he and teachers at R-5 don’t mind if a student has “pink, spiked hair.” They’re there to help students earn good grades and graduate from high school.

“Once they know we’re here to help them, they respond accordingly,” Casey said.

Casey said he’s dealt with just one fight at the school during his six years at R-5. Vandalism is “virtually nonexistent” in the building. Suspensions are few and far between.

Driving past the school and knowing he isn’t a part of the successes in that building anymore may be hard after retirement, Casey said. But he’s trying to focus on new adventures. He plans to fish and hunt after retirement and take an Amtrak train from Grand Junction to Chicago to catch a few Cubs games at Wrigley Field.

If he still misses school, he can look at his new watch with the R-5 logo and motto on its face, or glance at the R-5 diploma his staff presented to him Tuesday afternoon.

Casey said he feels comfortable leaving the school in the hands of Palisade High School Assistant Principal Anna Goetz, who has been picked as his replacement, and believes R-5 is on a good track.

“It’s nice to go out when you feel things are going well,” he said.


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