School board president: Lots to celebrate in the month of May at Eagle County Schools (column) | VailDaily.com

School board president: Lots to celebrate in the month of May at Eagle County Schools (column)

Kate Cocchiarella
Valley Voices

Kate Cocchiarella

I love the month of May. I love the unpredictability and constant change of the season. Glorious sunny days give way to snow storms. The valley becomes brighter and more vibrant as each day passes. Long evenings grow longer as summer draws nearer. There is a lot to celebrate.

May is a busy time at Eagle County Schools. Students start to count the days until school lets out for the summer, teachers work to keep young minds focused, and administrators have double duty: coordinate year-end events and instructional wrap-up as well as planning and staffing for next year. Spring is a time for new beginnings: new hires and new graduates.

Two of our schools will have new leadership next year that have risen through our own ranks. Homestake Peak School will gain the veteran leadership of Stephanie Gallegos, who worked for 17 years in Eagle County Schools and now returns to the district after six successful years as a principal in Lake County. Her work in Leadville focused on improving student achievement and building strong teams of educators.

At Avon Elementary School, we promoted Assistant Principal Dana Harrison to the top position. Dana started as a second-grade teacher in 2001, served in various teacher leadership roles, and has been the assistant principal since 2014. These women are an excellent addition to our administrative team. I look forward to seeing the schools under their leadership blossom and grow.

May is also graduation season. Eagle County Schools has four high schools that will send more than 400 graduates out into the world this year. If you had told me when I started this job, eight years ago, that one of the biggest perks of the position was to be an integral part of graduation ceremonies, then I would not have believed you.

Graduations had always seemed long and a bit tedious to me, but my prior experience with these ceremonies was as a graduate: young, fidgety and ready to move on to the party afterwards, to the next stage of my life, to my future.

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However, a few years of life experience and a deeper understanding of the journey our students make on their way to crossing that stage has given me a deeper appreciation for the time spent sitting in the folding chairs waiting for that precious diploma to be handed out.

It is hard for me to say which part I enjoy most. As president of the Board of Education, I have the honor of officially certifying the diplomas; I make the proclamation that the students have met all the requirements set forth by the district and the state. I can't begin to tell you the pride and satisfaction this small role gives me. Shaking each student's hand after he or she walks across the stage and seeing those beaming smiles of accomplishment is a priceless experience.

However, the best part is listening to the students themselves. Their contribution to the ceremony is always inspiring. Musical performances that range from traditional songs performed by the choir to the national anthem on electric guitar showcase a wide range of talent. Commencement speeches filled with insight, humor and wisdom confirm that our students are leaving high school ready to take on whatever the world has waiting.

The laughter and joy that fills the venue when caps are tossed in the air fills my heart, and I understand that the time waiting on stage has been well spent.

Congratulations and best wishes to our new leaders and to our 2018 graduates.

Kate Cocchiarella is the president of the Board of Education of Eagle County Schools.