Brendza: ‘I’ll always be a teacher’
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE ” John Brendza was a home grown superintendent.
While many administrators are found through national searches, Brendza started in Eagle County 24 years ago as a teacher at Minturn Middle school. He taught science, math, environmental studies and later became a football coach, track coach, dean of students and athletic director.
“The kids enjoyed having him as a teacher,” said Todd Huck, a science teacher at Berry Creek Middle School who taught with Brendza at Minturn. “They really learned a lot from him, it was very hands on, he had a good temperament in the classroom.”
From 1996 to 2001, he was principal of Berry Creek Middle School. From 2001 to 2003, he was assistant superintendent and in 2003 was named superintendent.
“It’s very unusual to have a home-grown superintendent, one who’s been with the district as long as he has,” school board President Scott Green said.
Brendza resigned Wednesday as superintendent.
Looking back, he said he’s very proud of his time in Eagle County Schools. He hopes his next job will still be in education.
“I’ll always be a teacher,” Brendza said. “My 12 years as a teacher was a remarkable experience, very fulfilling. Whether I would go back to doing that, I don’t know.”
Brendza led the district through some major changes during his time as superintendent, the biggest being the Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP. Brendza was assistant superintendent when TAP first started, said Mel Preusser, former superintendent.
“That was a very interesting time in the life of the district ” I considered myself blessed to have him working on the intricacies and complications of implementing it,” Preusser said.
With TAP in place, the district became the first in the nation to eliminate the so called “lock-step” salary program that basically guaranteed teachers how much they’ll be paid based on experience and education. TAP ties teacher pay directly to student test scores and performance evaluations.
TAP also focuses on professional development and giving teachers a large amount of time to brainstorm with other teachers. They meet regularly with mentor and master teachers, who are charged with coaching and evaluating other teachers.
Brendza has been a huge advocate for the reform, a system both loved and distrusted by teachers. He’s said that the goal of TAP is to improve student performance by improving teacher effectiveness.
“The only thing we totally control in our day is the quality of the teacher,” Brendza said. “We have got to be more direct in our approach in providing teachers support to better themselves.”
Teachers have said TAP doesn’t work when their leaders ” principals, administrators and mentor and master teachers ” make the daily scrutiny and evaluations integral to improving performance a painful and stressful process.
Brendza also was a big part of the district’s $128 million bond, which voters approved in November. The money will be used for a wide variety of improvements to the school district.
“I think it’s a true reflection of how much our community supports our schools,” Brendza said.
The improvements include:
– A new Battle Mountain High School will soon be built in Edwards.
– June Creek Elementary is being built on Miller Ranch where Red Canyon High School used to sit. The school will look almost exactly like Brush Creek Elementary.
– Red Canyon will have to make room for the new elementary, but they’ll be getting a new, much better building just across the street, adjacent to Berry Creek Middle School’s baseball field.
– Eagle Valley High School will receive at least $14 million in renovations, which will include a new student commons area, auditorium and a technology wing. If more money comes in, there could be a second gymnasium and new locker rooms added.
– The district will use bond money to help cut back on its energy use.
– More than $4 million will be spent on extensive technology upgrades, most of which will be completed this summer.
The big project is boosting the district’s Internet power by 10 and upgrading computer outdated networks to handle large amounts of information. The upgrade will allow teachers to access a world of sounds, videos and programs that they can’t use now because the system is too slow.
The district is also considering placing projection systems or 40-inch high-definition monitors in most classrooms.
Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or email@example.com.
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