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Co-principals already a team

Miller and Dunham assume Strawberry Park leadership

Interim co-principals Celia Dunham, left, and Michele Miller will replace Brenda Barr as principals of Strawberry Park Elementary School this year. Barr is leaving to take a job with the Colorado Department of Education.
John F. Russell

Acting as interim co-principals of Strawberry Park Elementary School is a new challenge for Michele Miller and Celia Dunham, but the duo have plenty of practice working together and said their transition to the new job is a natural extension of their work as Instructional Support Specialists.

“We’ve been working together so long we have a rhythm together,” said Dunham. “One of the things that’s great is that we do totally trust each other. I know whatever Michele takes on, she’ll be good to go, and I can trust that whatever she does will be excellent.”

Miller worked as an ISS at Soda Creek Elementary School, while Dunham held the same position at Strawberry Park, and they both are beginning their fourth years in those jobs. The two will begin their new role as co-principals at the beginning of October, when current school Principal Brenda Barr takes a position with the Colorado Department of Education as a social studies curriculum supervisor.



Miller said she and Dunham regularly coordinated on projects between the two schools, working on parallel tracks, and that experience in coordination will be key to governing the school.

“The communication piece will be key, and we’re used to that. We’re in constant communication in this job to begin with,” Miller said.



Superintendent Shalee Cunningham, who offered the interim co-principal positions to the women last week, said it will be up to Miller and Dunham to divide the duties. They will serve until the end of the school year.

Although they have had only a few days to discuss their plan for the year, the interim co-principals said they have decided they will share an office at the front of the building.

“Some things we’ll do together. That is one thing we talked about right away, (because) when we have two principals we don’t want anybody to be confused about what’s going on,” Dunham said.

Some details still must be worked out, such as who will answer phone calls directed to the principal.

“There are some silly things like that and decisions we’ll have to make,” Dunham said.

Despite being the fourth principals at the building in as many years, Dunham said it won’t have an effect on the continuity of the education.

“The teachers run the school. They run it themselves. Our job is to support them in what they’re doing, and that piece isn’t changing. We’ve been through four principals, and you look at that and think, ‘Wow, that’s really disruptive,’ but the piece that never got interrupted was that kids kept learning and the teachers kept teaching,” Dunham said.

In a joint interview, the two laughed when asked if this job was on their radar screens before last week. Despite the surprise, it was an opportunity they each hoped for.

“As soon as we got over the shock of the idea, we looked at each other and said, ‘We can do this.’ This is once in a lifetime,” Miller said.

“It’s very new to us. We’re so excited and can’t wait for the new opportunity,” Dunham agreed. “This is a great next step for this relationship. We’ve worked together so long and done so many projects together.”

Both Miller and Dunham are enrolled in a principal licensing course through Adams State College and will take Saturday courses to become fully accredited.

Dunham and Miller have coordinated on test scoring and curriculum development and other issues between the schools during the past three years and have come to the point where they can finish each other’s sentences.

“Now we can take what we’ve been doing and …” Dunham began.

“We can see it in action,” Miller concluded.

– To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com


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