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Q & A with Chuck Raisch, Principal of Stapleton 3

Sunday, August 29, 2010 Leave a Comment

I'm excited to welcome a guest contributor to the Stapleton Moms blog: meet Marissa Ferrari.

Marissa works for Denver Public Schools, leading the district’s efforts to help parents learn about school options and understand enrollment processes. On a monthly basis, Marissa will profile schools and address issues of interest to Stapleton parents. Marissa recently bought a Capitol Hill home built in 1896. And, yes, she is jealous of our pools. 

Her first guest post will profile Chuck Raisch, the new principal of Stapleton 3, the new elementary school. Since my kids will very likely go here, I'm especially interested in this new school's format, as I'm sure many of you are, too. Please, use this space to post your comments and questions -- this is a dialogue!

Next month she'll be profiling the principal of George Washington High School, currently Stapleton's district school, so feel free to post your questions about that, as well!

- Liz

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Stapleton 3 is open, and Chuck Raisch is the new elementary school’s principal. Stapleton 3 has six classrooms (ECE3-1st grade) located at Westerly Creek this year.  Next year, when the new building is complete, they will move into it and more grades will be added to the school. At full build-out, the school will serve approximately 900 students in grades ECE-8.
An educator for more than 30 years, Mr. Raisch has served as principal at DPS schools including Westerly Creek, Steele and Steck (which 5280 names as one of Denver's top schools).
Now on to the interview…
What inspired you to become an educator?
I started college with plans to go into actuarial science and law. Then I took a job driving a school bus for kindergarten students. It wasn’t long before I realized that instead of “chasing the big bucks,” I wanted to work with children. I switched universities and majors to join the teacher’s college and pursue what I enjoy. I’ve never looked back!
What are some of the highlights of your career so far?
I started as a teacher in 1976, and have been a principal since 1980. Since that time my schools and students have been recognized many times. I remember the first time Namaqua Elementary won the state title for Colorado’s Odyssey of the Mind. We went on to become annual state winners and in the top ten internationally. I also remember when Steck moved to “Excellent” on the School Report Card. We had the highest scores of any school in the district, more than magnets, more than charters. 
But for me, hands-down the highlight is seeing the kids grow and develop. Watching as they grow from little kids to young adults and even knowing them as adults. Being part of their lives as they graduate from high school and accomplish so many things. Seeing the gleam in their eyes when they acquire knowledge; that’s so much fun. Those are my best moments. 
What do you enjoy most about the Stapleton community?
Stapleton reminds me of my time at an elementary school in Loveland. That was probably where I had the most fun as a principal. The school started off small and grew so quickly; we grew together like a family. The parents were really involved, everyone on staff had such a positive outlook, the young families really wanted to work with us. They believed in what we were doing, and they had a can-do attitude. It feels like I’ve come home.
I also jumped at the chance to start a school from the ground up.
How has your background specifically prepared you to open this school?
Every experience I’ve ever had as an educator has led me to this point. I’ve worked in schools that have grown quickly. One school was constantly under construction because we grew from two classes at each grade level to four to six in a very short period of time. We were constantly expanding, adding staff and adding to our building. So from a business management perspective I’ve been through construction, I’ve been through hiring, I’ve finished on-time and on-budget.
More importantly, I have experience building a school’s vision and culture. When you grow quickly, you have to create the vision and culture as the school is being created. You build the airplane while you’re flying. That’s what we’re doing here.
What are the key points of your vision for the school? The curriculum and culture?
First of all, it’s not my vision. It’s the community’s vision. My role is to take their vision and carry it forward. We have done a lot of talking and surveying and listening to parents and community members. From those discussions I have hints about what the vision may be.
My personal bias is I want every classroom to be an advanced classroom. I want every child to be challenged. You can do that, with quality teaching and individual attention for each child. I also want children to feel cared for, like this is their home. To have a sense of security and belonging. And we want parents to feel welcome, to know they are our partners.
You should be able to walk into the school and within a few minutes and say, I like this school. I like the vibe. To see the students’ work, to see kids are happy to be here and that they treat each other respectfully. To just feel warmth.
What do you see as your role in supporting high-quality teaching?
Number one, I better know what I’m doing as an educator. I’ve been able to demonstrate that I do. Add to that, I’ve completed a ton of professional development, I’ve trained mentor teachers, I’ve taught numerous courses on effective instruction. I use formal and informal observation as well as data to help teachers constantly fine-tune and get better.
But it isn’t about teachers doing things my way, it’s about me helping them become self-directed and find what works for them and their students. To get the most impact out of every minute in the classroom. I’m a facilitator, helping them become more effective. 
What can parents and community members do now to make sure the school is successful?
Get kids enrolled! (Laughs.) And talk with us. Talk with teachers, talk with me, talk with the CSC, the PTA, come to a constituents’ meeting. Just come. Help us build this place together. Nothing will be totally smooth or perfect, but working together we can minimize the bumps in the road. We’ll keep getting better all the time. 



-- Contributed by Marissa Ferrari
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Principal Raisch welcomes parent and community involvement throughout this year as the school is in the start-up phase – contact him at charles_raisch@dpsk12.org to get involved. Or, start by helping to name the school – email your suggested name, in accordance with the following guidelines, to DPS Board of Education President Nate Easley at nate_easleyjr@dpsk12.org or Member Mary Seawell at mary_seawell@dpsk12.org.

Policy guidelines for naming DPS schools and facilities are as follows:
  • No facility shall be named for a living person.
  • No facility shall be given the same or similar name of an existing facility.
  • Names of school facilities shall meet one of the following criteria:
    • Named after neighborhoods, areas or communities in the City and County of Denver or people known locally or nationally for achievements in education, science, the humanities or other appropriate fields.
    • Names of persons used shall have stood the test of time as to their importance and worthiness of respect. 

4 comments »

  • Anonymous said:  

    Marissa, thank you for sharing your interview with Chuck.

    Will there be any differentiating factors between the new school and Westerly Creek or Bill Roberts (e.g. class size, teacher/student ratio, grades offered etc)?

  • Liz said:  

    Thanks Marissa! A lot of our neighbors are wondering whether DPS plans to draw boundaries for the 3 Stapleton schools?

  • Denver Deixler said:   This comment has been removed by the author.
  • Denver Deixler said:  

    I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Chuck today. His professional demeanor and casual interaction left me with the yearning for learning. I am excited that my daughter will be starting kindergarten under his watch this Thursday. My wife and I are looking forward to getting involved and building an inclusive educated community.