Stapp Inspires-A teacher’s teacher

Welcome back to Stapp Inspires Teacher Highlight! This month we step into the office of Diane Lauer, Assistant Superintendent of Priority Programs and Academic Support. Right away, I enter into a warm and welcoming office – Diane, herself, is no different. She has been with St. Vrain Valley Schools for six years, serving the past two as an Assistant Superintendent.

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With a title as long as hers, I wanted to dig in and learn exactly what that label meant. Diane holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Speech Communication. After graduating college Diane began a career as a Consumer Advocate and Mortgage Loan Officer. She soon found that this career pathway did not ignite her passion. On the advice from a friend, she decided to enter into the world of education. This led her to a reservation in New Mexico where she obtained her teaching certificate and fell in love with teaching. She spent three years on the reservation, during that time she completed her second bachelor’s degree in Education with a emphasis on English as a Second Language.

Leaving New Mexico, she came to our great state of Colorado and for ten years taught middle school Language Arts and Social Studies. She was an innovative teacher who loved to try new techniques and different ideas to encourage her students to succeed. She was often called upon to help other teachers implement these techniques in their classrooms. Her mentor encouraged her to become a principal and she loved it. She loved seeing the positive impact she could have on an entire school. She also realized the great responsibility of this position – how her influence affected, not one class of students, but several classes over many years. She was drawn to her current administrative role because she felt she could impact every student in St. Vrain. She doesn’t take this responsibility lightly. In fact the day we met, she had been visiting with schools, personally. She takes every opportunity to visit schools because it is invigorating and exciting to see what is happening in the classroom.

After we discussed what brought her to St. Vrain, we move on. I do want to mention, that at this point, I was wishing I could have been one of her middle school students. You can tell she challenged her students and expected you to give your best. You wouldn’t have cared because you knew she believed in you and encouraged you along the way. She’s a natural-born teacher that always reflects on how she can use her current position to help positively influence students within St. Vrain Valley Schools.

A big chunk of Diane’s time is spent working on professional development – not only focusing on classroom teachers, but administrators and classified staff as well. By investing in professional development, the entire St. Vrain workforce improves, which in turn leads to greater learning opportunities for every student. We continue this discussion on how this plays out in the district. From providing standardized training for all district employees – First Aid, Design Thinking, Safety and Security – to customized school-level training, Diane oversees all of these things.

I could spend even more time describing all the different programs the district provides, but I would be doing a disservice to everyone reading this. I don’t think I can accurately convey the passion Diane has for her job and the people she oversees. She believes wholeheartedly that every student, teacher, staff and administrator can succeed, if the right support is in place. She is excited to move to the new Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools, so she can help accelerate the professional growth of others in the district. She truly enjoys watching teachers grow and succeed in their own careers.

We finished up our interview, and as I was leaving she left me with this, “I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I’m a part of an energized and supportive community. I’m honored to be here. It’s great being a part of the community.”

Diane, thank you for all the behind-the-scenes work you do. Your passion and caring nature is an asset to St. Vrain Valley Schools and the community as a whole. Thank you for caring so deeply for those around you. We wish you all the best!

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Stapp Inspires- Behind the Scenes

Hello! Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Teacher Highlight! During the last several months, we have been introduced to some amazing teachers, coaches and administrators in the District. This month, we are going to switch gears and take a step out of the classroom. We are going to take a look at someone who works tirelessly behind the scenes. This month’s highlight is Board member Paula Peairs.

Paula was elected to the school board in 2013 and was recently re-elected to a second four-year term. Paula represents the Mead and Skyline feeder systems. While she does represent those areas, she feels a responsibility to the entire community for the success of the District. She is the proud mom of two St. Vrain alumni and still has one in the District.

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I had a chance to meet with Paula and learn a little bit more about her and her journey to the school board. Her journey is a relatable one. She started by volunteering in her children’s schools and attending PTO meetings. From there, she was elected PTO president and eventually wound up being one of the founding members of Grassroots St. Vrain. This group was focused on painting an accurate and truthful portrait of school funding, and clearly communicating the needs of the school district ahead of the 2008 mill levy override. From there, she joined Leadership St. Vrain where she discovered even more about District operations and education-related legislation.

Running for a position on the school board was the next logical step for Paula. She grew up in a community that strongly supported schools, and felt she could highlight what was going on in the District. Paula believes very strongly that community support is one of the greatest strengths of St. Vrain Valley Schools.

I asked Paula to give me an overview of how our school board functions. To start, St. Vrain has seven board members where most districts only have five members. By having a larger school board, there is more representation of the community and more ideas. Board members are elected to four-year terms on odd years. Each board member may serve two four-year terms. On election years, either three or four seats are available. Board members are elected “at large”, meaning they represent a specific area, but still make decisions about the success of the entire District. Board members help guide the direction of the school district as a whole.

 

We also discussed the difference between a bond and a mill levy as there is a big difference between the two. So, if you are like me, and didn’t realize the difference, here is a quick run- down. Voter approved elections for school districts generally involve either a capital improvement bond or a mill levy override. Both of these are funded through established mill levies that generate property tax revenues to pay for expenditures. A mill levy is the “tax rate” that is applied to the assessed value of a property. Capital improvement bonds are sold and the proceeds are used strictly for physical improvements – brick and mortar projects, technology and other enhancements. These bonds are typically repaid over 20 – 25 years and the mill levy sunsets – or ends – when those bonds are completely repaid. Through a mill levy override, community members vote to increase the mill levy rate to fund local schools. Funds generated by mill levies can be used for operational expenses, professional development and increasing overall student achievement. This mill levy can either sunset or continue forever depending on the approved ballot language. Because capital improvement bonds and mill levy overrides are used for different District resources, community members might see school districts ask for a bond one year and a mill levy another.

I asked Paula what was the biggest success she has been a part of as a Board member. She said, “We have so much community support. Superintendent Haddad has been able to gain the trust and support of the community. That has been invaluable in helping make sure we can provide equitable resources to each student.”  In the past, smaller communities in the District have felt overshadowed. The Board has worked hard to make sure resources enjoyed by larger communities are available to the smaller communities as well. She emphasized that it shouldn’t matter which zip code you live in, because every student should have access to highly qualified staff, safe learning environment and the latest technology.

She went on to explain that, because of the District’s size, they are able to do things on a larger scale. The District has looked at ways to centralize operations as much as they can. Having a central office focused on bus routes, food service, finance, and human resources allows principals to concentrate on the administration of their schools. The Board wants the principals to be building coaches, to know what is going on in their schools, and to be able to create an environment supportive of learning.

Our time was almost done, and I had one last question for Paula. I wanted to know what she had most enjoyed about her time on the Board. “Hearing community stories and being able to share my knowledge and resources with the community. There was a time when new school boundaries needed to be drawn and people couldn’t wait to leave their school. During a recent boundary meeting, parents came in and asked for their students to remain at their current school because they love the teachers and staff where they are. I’m optimistic about the future of St. Vrain Valley Schools.”

Paula, thank you for helping make St. Vrain Valley Schools one of the top districts in the state. We appreciate your time and for serving on the Board. Because of caring, involved people like you, the students of St. Vrain have amazing opportunities.

Stapp Inspires

Welcome to Stapp Inspires! Over the years we have had the privilege to partner with some amazing organizations in our community. Each of these organizations are unique in the purpose they serve to help make the community we live and work in a better place. We wanted to take the time and recognize these organizations and let you know why they are an inspiration to us. We hope that by hearing their stories they inspire you as well. First, we wanted to highlight St. Vrain Valley Schools. Take a peak at the video below and see how a group of Skyline Valley STEM students and the Denver Zoo partnered up to make an underwater robot. Keep checking back for more inspiring stories!