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Garfield County SD 16 Assistant Principal Named Colorado's 2019 Outstanding Assistant Principal

Tuesday, February 26, 2019  
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Melissa Gibson
CASE Director of Communications and Strategic Partners

Garfield County School District 16 Assistant Principal Named Colorado's 2019 Outstanding Assistant Principal of the Year for Elementary Schools

"Teachers will tell you [she] coaches them to become more effective leaders of learning. Students will tell you that [she] loves them, supports them, motivates them to become better human beings, and lifts them up with her positive and cheerful attitude,” said Bea Underwood Elementary School (BUE) Principal Amber Clark, of her Assistant Principal, Kim Frees.

With such high praise, it’s no surprise that Frees was named the 2019 Colorado Outstanding Elementary School Assistant Principal of the Year by the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) and the Colorado Association of Elementary School Principals (CAESP).

Frees began at Bea Underwood Elementary in the fall of 2016, following four years as an instructional coach in Garfield County RE-2, where she also taught for 11 years. Her first year at BUE wasn’t easy—that fall, the school received several new students with significant trauma backgrounds, and behavioral, emotional and social needs that resulted in violence and injury to multiple staff members, including Frees.

“It was an extremely difficult time for everyone in our school,” Clark said. “Mrs. Frees was instrumental in getting the program up and running, and spent hours and hours in the self-contained room supporting children and staff.”

Frees has been a leader for BUE, said Clark, in creating de-escalation measures for crisis situations, and providing emotional and behavioral support for trauma-impacted students.

“Kim’s incredibly hard work is undeniable,” said CASE Executive Director, Lisa Escárcega. “Working with trauma-impacted students is very difficult, but her resolve and passion has made it clear to every student and staff member at BUE that she is there to lift them up.”

But Frees’ incomparable tenacity doesn’t just apply to her students. With her instructional coaching background, she has introduced more effective and relevant instructional practices at BUE, challenging and supporting teachers to continue learning and implementing engaging and rigorous curricula. Frees uses her instructional coaching experience also to inform her approach to discipline, looking at formative and summative data to ensure that all students receive appropriate interventions.

“It’s clear, from her commitment to helping teachers become more effective leaders, to her motivating of students to come to school engaged and enthusiastic, that Kim is an exceptional leader who is more than deserving of this honor,” Escárcega added.

For Frees, being recognized is humbling—and as a first-time assistant principal, it’s a surprise, she said.

“I was really surprised! I knew that I was nominated and I completed the application, but I never thought that I would have been selected. I was really honored and humbled when I got the phone call, and even a little bit shocked,” she said.

Moving forward, being recognized simply motivates her to keep doing what she’s been doing.

“This just tells me that I’ve been doing my job, [and] it definitely motivates me to continue being a lifelong learner, and striving to do what’s best for my students and staff,” Frees said. “When I join a district or school, I’m in it for the long haul. I just want to make sure I continue to make a difference and have an impact on our student’s lives, to make them lifelong learners themselves. And to let our staff know that they have someone who will guide them, coach them and be on their team as educators.”

Frees will be honored at a school event, as well as at the CASE Awards Reception this spring. As the Colorado state winner, she will also be recognized at the NAESP 2019 National Conference this summer.




The Colorado Association of School Executives (www.co-case.org) is the preeminent professional association for public school administrators in Colorado. The organization’s mission is to empower Colorado education leaders through advocacy, professional learning and networking to deliver on the promise of public education.



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