Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jennifer Simms

Heatherwood Elementary principal selected to lead new school


Courtesy photo Heatherwood Elementary Principal Brent Caldwell has been appointed principal of the new PreK-8 school being built by the Boulder Valley School District in Erie.

During the last four years, Principal Brent Caldwell has brought many positive changes to Heatherwood Elementary, including the creation of a new vision and mission statement, a significant upgrade to the technology available at the school, and the introduction of the Design Thinking philosophy.

Even though Caldwell will leave Heatherwood at the end of the school year to assume the principal role at Boulder Valley School District’s new PreK-8 school in Erie, he is confident Heatherwood’s staff is well prepared to continue the work begun during his tenure.

“The internal leadership we’ve developed, the capacity of the staff to lead, is so tremendous,” Caldwell said. “I’m not worried about them because the staff is charging ahead with the great ideas we’ve started together.”

As Caldwell prepares for the transition, he has nothing but praise for the Heatherwood community. “The true partnership we have with our community is unbelievable. We’re being recognized by other schools in the district that the Heatherwood community is exceptional in our support for our school,” Caldwell said, noting he’s been especially impressed by the funds raised by the PTO to support the school.

When asked to tell about a favorite part of his experience at Heatherwood, Caldwell was quick to reply. “Hands down [it] is the relationship with the intensive learning center and children with autism. The way the whole community embraces the program and loves the children in it, that brings pride to me. It’s a way to create empathy and understanding of people who are different, since these students are included in the classroom a majority of the day.”

In addition, Caldwell is most proud of the work he and the staff have started around the use of flexible grouping, applauding the staff for the work they plan to do over the summer to make this transition a success.

“We’re looking at a first and second grade learning community and then a 3,4,5 learning community as a way to meet the needs of the kids,” Caldwell explained. “A portion of the day will be more traditional home room. Then for the reading, writing, and math pieces of the day, 3rd-5th grade teachers will group kids based on their strengths and the support they need. 1st and 2nd grade teachers will explore flexible groups as the community develops in order to best meet the needs of all students. Flexible grouping arrangements are also being explored with specialists to support students in physical education, music and art in the smallest classes possible. During the flexible portions of the day, classroom teachers will have several additional teachers working to support students. While group sizes will vary depending on the activity and needs of students, the student to teacher ratio will be approximately 15:1. Teachers will work diligently to insure the needs of all students are met.”

Though Caldwell regrets leaving Heatherwood after only four years, he sees his new role in Erie as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “Most veteran principals are excited about the opportunity to hire their own staff. The hardest part is changing existing culture. To build a school from the ground up is most principals’ dream,” Caldwell said.

The new building will feature state-of-the-art technology and innovative classroom spaces, designed to support the school’s learning community philosophy. “When I realized the new school would be organized around learning communities instead of traditional grades, I realized, ‘That school is being built for me,’” Caldwell said, explaining that he’s invested the last decade of his career on this philosophy, which groups students by their strengths and needs rather than age.

The Erie school is slated to open for the 2017-18 school year. In the interim Caldwell will help the district lead professional development on learning communities as well as begin the process of hiring staff for the new school. He is grateful that his responsibilities next year give him the flexibility to help his successor at Heatherwood as much or as little as he or she desires.

A committee of BVSD leaders and Heatherwood community representatives conducted interviews on May 18, and has recommended Genna Jaramillo, currently assistant principal at Aspen Creek K-8, as the next Heatherwood principal. A reception will be held in the fall welcoming Jaramillo to the school.


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