of School Executives
4101 S. Bannock Street
Englewood, CO 80110-4606
CASE honors George Welsh as the 2014 Colorado Superintendent of the Year
George Welsh, the superintendent from the small Center School District in the San Luis Valley, has been named Colorado’s 2014 Superintendent of the Year by the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE).
“George is being honored as our Superintendent of the Year for his visionary leadership, which has transformed a low-performing school district with a high rate of people living in poverty into a model example of how resources, leadership and determination can make the difference in the lives of Colorado’s young scholars,” CASE Executive Director Bruce Caughey said.
Welsh began his work as Center’s superintendent in 1997. Over the past 15 years, Center Schools have seen unprecedented jumps in student achievement. Under Welsh’s stewardship, graduation rates at Center High School increased from 33 percent in 1996 to 93 percent in 2012, with dropout rates dropping by more than 10 percent over the same period.
“My teachers, board, administrators and families have given these kids something they never thought they’d have: a bright hope for the future,” said Welsh. “In 2004, just one in five students made it to college in my district. Now we are sending over 70 percent of our students on to higher education.”
The key to Center’s success starts with innovative use of technology.
“Students and staff members have access to 21st Century teaching and learning tools through a one-to-one laptop program implemented in Grades 4 to 12, a one-to-one iPad program in Kindergarten through Third Grade, wireless network availability in the community, and effective staff development opportunities to help bring it all together and drive it toward the future,” said Center School Board President Michael Lobato in his nomination letter. “This has happened as a result of an infusion of resources provided through a federal turn-around improvement grant, and a clear vision to adopt, implement and effectively teach a curriculum clearly aligned to Colorado standards.”
Overcoming the Achievement Gap
Center is the poorest school district in Colorado, with over 90 percent of its 620 students qualifying for free or reduced lunch. There’s a high percentage of English-language learners and migrant students in the agricultural area, which also has low assessed property values, making it difficult to fund public education. Welsh and the Lobato Family, with children who attended Center schools, were at the heart of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of education funding in Colorado that was overturned by the State Supreme Court in the summer of 2013.
“Closing the achievement gap is not just about closing the poverty gap, it’s about closing the leadership and resources gap,” said Welsh. “I’m especially proud of the work my principals and teachers have done at Haskin Elementary School, which was identified as a turn-around school in 2009.”
With new turn-around funds and grants, Welsh was able to hire external consultants to develop the curriculum, teaching methodologies, professional staff development and evaluation processes needed to support the elementary school where nine out of ten kids live in poverty and half are learning English as a second language.
Only 18 percent of Haskin’s fourth-graders read at a proficient level in 2010. Now more than 75 percent are proficient. Math scores have improved as well, with proficiency increasing from 26 to 75 percent in the same period.
“This is the reality of education in Colorado,” said Welsh. “We face a changing demographic, political and economic reality. And if we don’t allocate the resources and manpower – and really commit to our kids and our communities – we will never close the achievement gap, and we will never prepare our kids to succeed in the global marketplace of the 21st century.”
Snapshots of Success