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Cherry Creek Leader Named 2020 Colorado High School Principal of the Year

Friday, May 15, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Scott Anderson
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May 15, 2020

For more information, contact:
Melissa Gibson

Director of Communications and Strategic Partners, CASE or 303.762.8762




Cherry Creek Leader Named 2020 Colorado High School Principal of the Year

Denver, May 15, 2020—Smoky Hill High School Principal Chuck has been named 2020 Colorado High School Principal of the Year by the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) and a committee of his peers from the Colorado Association of Secondary School Principals (CASSP). Smoky Hill High School is the Cherry Creek School District.

“I’m honored and humbled to represent Cherry Creek and Smoky Hill High School as the Colorado High School Principal of the Year,” said Puga. “I’ve always believed that to do this job right, you have to put people and relationships first. Once you get those pieces right, the sky is the limit. By listening and being real and vulnerable, you build lasting and authentic relationships that strengthen the school community and benefit all its members. Creating those connections is such an important part of being a strong leader and it’s something I try to keep at the forefront every single day.”

A school administrator for over 15 years, Puga has been in his current role for 5 years and previously was a principal in Douglas County prior to that. Students and staff alike speak to the powerful impact he has had on school culture, which was fragmented before he came to Smoky Hill, and did not foster a sense of belonging or safety among students. From day one, he has been purposeful and intentional about individually connecting with every member of the school community and affirming that they matter and are valued. Puga seeks out opportunity to help teachers and students develop their social emotional skills and regularly models the importance of confronting uncomfortable issues head-on to address them collectively.

A focus on equity and honoring diversity is also at the heart of his leadership. He has implemented training in Beyond Diversity, Culturally Responsive Teaching and has supported the creation of a student-led Diversity Leadership Team along with a teacher-led Equity Team. Smoky Hill is the only school in the district to offer a Chicano/a Studies course with Metropolitan State University for dual credit and is the only school in the state to offer an Africana Studies course.

Said one teacher of Puga, “He has pushed teachers and students to explore their own identity and looked for ways to celebrate this work. He makes sure students are seen as individuals in our hallways, on the athletic field, stage, or any other place, and feel safe being their authentic selves.”

Puga is also held in high regard for his efforts to continually empower students. Two years ago, Smoky Hill students re-wrote the school dress code and all the other district high schools adapted theirs to look very similar. Students also wrote the school mission and vision statement: “Pride in the Present. Success in the Future. The Buffalo Way.”

“We surround ourselves with the very best and brightest people and challenge each other toward a common goal,” said Puga. “We speak about family and how our family looks and feels. Our family is out students, our staff and our community. We are accountable to each other as well as interdependent to each other.”

Puga was selected for this honor by his peers through a rigorous and competitive process facilitated by CASSP, a department of CASE and affiliate of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).


The Colorado Association of School Executives ( 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.