When Melisa Rewold-Thuon took over floundering Avon Elementary School, it was on the bottom and she came in, demanding that staff and faculty teach students in their native languages. On Friday, with the school on top, she went out the same way.
Her thank you and send-off party was bilingual, as was almost everyone in the school’s auditorium. She’s not going far, just across Nottingham Lake. She’s the Vail Valley Foundation’s new vice president of education, and she will run The Youth Foundation and all VVF education programs.
“Our school is like the ‘Little Engine That Could.’ We’re the ‘Little School That Can,’” Rewold-Thuon told an auditorium packed with students, parents, faculty and staff.
She stood to make her tearful farewell remarks, holding the attention of about 250 kids.
“I am thankful that I’ve had the gift of being your principal for eight years,” she told the crowd. “The past eight years have been an amazing journey with all of you.”
Starting At Square One
Avon Elementary was floundering and failing when Rewold-Thuon took the helm in 2006. The school had failed to meet federal No Child Left Behind requirements for six straight years, and it was one year from being taken over by the Department of Education.
By 2012, Avon Elementary School was a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, one of only five Colorado schools and 269 schools in the country that year.
Of Avon Elementary’s 235 current students, 87 percent are not native English speakers and 206 qualify as low income, based on their eligibility for free or reduced meal programs, according the school’s enrollment data. Rewold-Thuon implemented dual-language instruction, English and Spanish. Students quickly became bilingual and so have most of the teachers; 75 percent of the faculty is bilingual, she said. Students get information in their native language, then apply it in a second language.
Reading scores on standardized tests soared from 25.53 percent proficient and advanced in 2007 to 67.83 percent proficient in 2011. Math scores jumped from 38.85 percent in 2007 to 69.23 percent in 2011.
“I am so proud of all that you have accomplished,” Rewold-Thuon said Friday. “I have laughed and smiled a lot, cried occasionally and truly enjoyed every day. This is a very special place. Everyone who comes into the building feels it. Our students are smart, talented, respectful and caring as well.”
Superintendent of Eagle County schools, Jason Glass, called her an inspiration to all who work with her.
“Thank you so much for all the time energy and love you poured into this school,” said Lindsay Hawkins, speaking for the parents.
‘Best Is Yet To Come’
Rewold-Thuon thanked her family for her successes. Known to sometimes work until dawn, she was selected as one of Colorado’s Top 20 principals, serves on the state’s Leadership in Action Committee and was president of the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education in 2007.
“A lot of sacrifices and a lot of hours have come into this school, and you can see that it has all been worth it,” she said to the students. “Students, do your best. Be respectful and responsible. Set high goals for yourself and your learning,” she said. “We’ve all been part of a great journey and it’s still happening. The best is yet to come.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.