Building a legacy |

Building a legacy

Don Rogers

Mel Preusser just might be the best thing that has happened to the Eagle County School District in the past decade.

He’s been the go-to guy, filling in as principal, in several interims as acting district superintendent, and finally these past two years as the key factor in righting a listing ship.

The short, unpleasant term of previous Superintendent Ray Glynn, who was shown the door in December 2000 after he’d tried to scam district employee season ski passes for people who didn’t qualify, including his wife, had roiled the district and created a vacuum in leadership.

The burden of digging out from piles his predecessor left behind fell to Preusser, hired as assistant superintendent back in 1993, the genial straight-shooter long used to filling in, whether for principals or superintendents.

This is not to dredge up a painful past vicariously, but to touch on where Preusser’s term as superintendent began – in confusion, at least as far as the community was concerned.

The school board at the time was instrumental, as were the district administrative staff and principals in putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. But Preusser set the tone and rather quickly brought trust back into the operation. That alone was a big step forward.

There have been and will be controversies over individual decisions. Adjusting the school times for next fall, a surprise for parents, was one. Going to a long overdue merit-based pay system for teachers was another.

But the drumbeat now is toward excellence in educating our youth, not cleaning up messes, and there have been far fewer distractions from the district office these past two and a half years. Thank Preusser and his administrative team, as well as the school board, for that.

When TABOR defender and Don Quixote figure Michael Cacioppo’s legal challenge to a fair-minded cost of living adjustment to the district’s funding at last runs its course, with providence another puzzle piece will fall into place. This nudge toward attracting and keeping quality employees, including teachers, will make a big difference in the future of our next generation.

One more large step in laying the district’s foundation for the future was Preusser and the school board grooming his successor, John Brendza, a longtime Eagle County educator who has prepared himself for the reins as assistant superintendent for much of these past two years.

You see, Preusser has not merely righted a foundering ship. He’s set it on course for excellence long after he has moved on to a well-deserved retirement.

Many may not quite realize this yet, but Preusser has in short order built a legacy the district can grow on for quite some time to come. He’s done well for this community, very well indeed. D.R.

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