Superintendent searches narrowing in large Colorado districts: Here's what we learned this week

Posted at 4:26 PM, Apr 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 18:35:50-04

I’m Denver7 education reporter Nicole Brady. Welcome to our new “education notebook,” where I will discuss the big education stories of the week and talk about the challenges and opportunities for education in Colorado.

After a couple weeks of covering tragedy and then taking some time off, I’m back on the education beat with a lot to talk about.

First, some thoughts on our state’s most recent mass shooting tragedy. The senseless loss of 10 lives at a Boulder King Soopers reminds me how every day we send our kids out into a potentially dangerous world. In wake of the shooting, I talked to many school districts and learned they have continued active shooting drills and teacher response training throughout the pandemic. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but I’m grateful that our schools continue to prioritize safety as they face new challenges.

What we learned this week

State lawmakers introduced a bill to recruit and retain teachers. Colorado was 3,000 teachers short before the pandemic, and a Colorado Education Association survey found 40% would consider quitting or retiring after this challenging year. SB21-185 would expand pathways to become a teacher, and provide multiple incentives for current teachers, including student loan forgiveness and opportunities to advance to administrative roles.

Superintendent vacancies are being filled. I recently reported how five school districts, including the state’s three largest, lost their superintendents in the last year. Now two have named their next leaders, and others are narrowing down the finalists.

Cherry Creek Schools named district chief of staff Christopher Smith as the sole finalist. He’ll take over for retiring Superintendent Scott Siegfried.

JeffCo Public Schools appointed Tracy Dorland as the sole finalist. Dorland is currently deputy superintendent of Adams 12 Five Star Schools.

Douglas County School District has named four finalists for superintendent: Corey Wise, interim superintendent, Samuel Jarman, former superintendent of Alpine School District in Utah, Christopher Page, principal of Highlands Ranch High School, and Mary Young, superintendent of Warren County Schools in Warren, N.C.

The Poudre School District Board of Education named three finalists: Jonathan Cooper, superintendent of Mason City Schools in Ohio, Brian Kingsley, chief academic officer of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in Charlotte, NC and Heather Sánchez, executive director of schools for the Bellevue School District in Bellevue, Wash.

Denver reportedly had 32 applicants apply for the open superintendent position, and will be interviewing finalists, according to Chalkbeat.

What I'm working on

This week I was in a crowded high school hallway for the first time in more than a year for a story on a new “high tech” hall pass. Watch for that story next week.

I am also working on a story about helping high school students dealing with loneliness after this tough school year. And a unique way one school district is helping freshman and sophomores stay engaged.

The end of the school year is in sight. Who else has senior-itis and is ready for summer? Email me your story ideas and questions at