Can’t keep out of the classroom |

Can’t keep out of the classroom

Scott N. Miller
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyAssistant Principle Mel Preusser helps fourth graders Evelin Salas, 9 (center), Karely Duran, 9 (right) and Andrea Arreola, 10 (left) practice their reading skills Friday at Edwards Elementary School in Edwards.

EDWARDS Mel Preusser insists hes retired. His schedule might argue otherwise.The former Eagle County School District Superintendent retired three years ago. But at age 60, Preusser wasnt nearly ready for a rocking chair.The fall after he turned in his keys to the district office in Eagle, Preusser spent much of the school year in Leadville, as the interim principal of both elementary schools there. About a year ago, Cindy Secrist, then the principal at Edwards Elementary School called Preusser and asked if he could spend some time there to help with teacher evaluations and analyze the mountains of data produced by testing kids several times a year. Preusser came back for this school year, and spends two days a week helping new principal Heidi Hanssen. He sits in on teachers meetings and fills in classrooms when needed.Its been wonderful to get back into classrooms, Preusser said. When I was superintendent, one of my highest values was to get close to teachers and work with them. Im not one to be in the office if I dont have to be there.After spending 20 years with the Douglas County School District, Preusser spent 10 years as an administrator in Eagle County. He was hired as the assistant superintendent, was interim superintendent three times, and then, for three years before his retirement, held the top job without the interim as part of the title.That experience is welcome at the school.I love Mel, Hanssen said. He sees the positive in every situation. Hes a great mentor for us.And, with so many Spanish speakers at the school, Preusser said he learns a little more every time he walks through the doors at Edwards.I love the way he tries to speak Spanish, school secretary Shelly Morales said. Hes getting so much better.Reform up closeSpending two days a week gives Preusser an up-close look at something he helped start, the Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP. Preusser was superintendent when the district adopted the controversial program. Now, part of his job at Edwards is to help with the complicated teacher evaluations that are part of the program.

Going through the evaluator training was stimulating and challenging, he said. I learned a lot, particularly in how to become very specific in evaluations. In the previous system, evaluations didnt have to be as focused.And, at least at Edwards, the teachers and administrators seem to be making the program work. Every classroom at Edwards has specific objectives and activities for that day written on the board, Preusser said. Those goals are checked off as theyre met through the day.Its an enormous improvement over what we had, he said. Thats not to say there are no glitches, there always are. But this is an enormous undertaking. I think people of good will can work it out.A full calendarWhen he isnt at Edwards, Preussers schedule fills up quickly with other business. He volunteers a lot of his time for local nonprofit groups, and sits on the governing boards of three: Meet the Wilderness, the Vail-Eagle Valley Rotary Club and the Public Education Foundation of Eagle County.Preusser has also helped with a program at Western State College in Gunnison that checks the alternative teachers licenses of educators on the Western Slope and works with the Colorado Association of School Boards from time to time.I do have to say no sometimes, Preusser said. In fact, I say no at least once a month. I dont want to overburden myself.Public education has such significant challenges, he added. There are never enough hands to do the work, and I want to contribute what I can.With his schedule, Preusser is ready when the weekend rolls around.Friday night still feels like Friday night, he said.But Preusser still feels well and truly retired. For one thing, he no longer has to field angry phone calls from parents, teachers and anyone else in the district with a beef.And there a sure a lot fewer evening meetings, he said. That why I can say I feel retired.Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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