Principal’s Update — May 25, 2021

Posted May 25, 2021

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May 25, 2021

Dear McKinley-Thatcher families and community — 

We are finally wrapping up this rollercoaster of a year! We want to extend a HUGE thank-you to our families for your support and encouragement, for cheering us on when we didn’t know if we would make it through this year, and for the endless gifts of coffee! Everything you do for our staff helps us to serve your children the best we can. Thank you, thank you, thank you.  

We are making many changes for next year. Please read the next few sections carefully so you know what to expect for the 2021-22 school year.  

Staffing Updates

We are sad to announce that we are having a lot of staff transitions this year. These staff members are leaving the McT community: 

  • Adam Bock (ECE-3 Teacher) is joining the DPS Early Childhood Special Education team.
  • Jessica Collins (ECE-4 Teacher) is heading off to pursue her next dream job.
  • Amanda Davis (Kindergarten Teacher) is moving to Florida.
  • Abby Alpen (1st Grade Teacher) is moving to West Virginia.
  • Mario de Leon (2nd Grade Teacher Resident) is teaching in Douglas County School District next year.   
  • Melinda Laz (Art Teacher) is taking a leave of absence to work in the Denver arts scene.
  • Iuliia Prokopovych (ECE-4 Para) is moving on to pursue her dream of teaching art.
  • Barb Onorato (SPED Para) is returning to her field of Social Work.
  • Raj Wijewardane (Psych Intern) is moving to Force Elementary School as their school psychologist.
  • Mary Dolan (SPED Para) will be completing her student teaching at a DPS school this fall.
  • Marie Brou (ECE-3 Para) will be working as a para at her children’s school in DPS.
  • Lynn Blackledge (Para Extraordinaire) will be taking a leave of absence to be with family this fall.
  • And a special thank-you goes to Jordan Neill, Rose Warnick, and Lydia Willer, who all stepped in to fill long-term sub positions this year. You were crucial to our school’s success and we appreciate you so much!

Though we are disappointed to say goodbye to so many members of our community, we are thrilled with the new folks that are joining our team and excited to help some of our current staff develop their skills in new roles! 

  • Courtney Waring (Math Interventionist & Teacher Leader) is participating in the DPS Learn to Lead Program and will be a Principal Resident with Mrs. Geerdes! 
  • Tori Cadle (Cross-Categorical Special Education Teacher) is transitioning from teaching Special Education to be our new Kindergarten Literacy teacher.
  • Ann Porter (ECE-4 Para) is transitioning from our ECE team to be a para on our Special Education team. 
  • Fiorella Collado-Henry (Health Tech) is transitioning from our health office but will be staying on with us in some capacity! 
  • Kristen Wagner is joining us from Fairview Elementary. She has many years of experience teaching ECE and kindergarten, and will join our ECE-4 team. 
  • Annie Monaghan is joining us from the Academy of Advanced Learning. She has been teaching for six years and will be our 1st grade Math and Science teacher.
  • Molly Rost is joining us from College View Elementary. She has seven years of experience teaching kindergarten through 4th grade and has served as a Teacher Leader. She will be our 2nd grade Literacy teacher.
  • Olivia Breningstall has been with us since January 2021 leading our Cross-Categorical Special Education program. She joins our team from the Tennyson Center for Children, where she taught for four years. 

New Learning Model: Platooning

We are very excited to implement a new learning model called “platooning” for core content instruction next year. We now have two teachers for kindergarten, first, and second grade. In this model, one grade-level teacher teaches math and science, while the other grade-level teacher teaches literacy (reading, our Expeditionary Learning curriculum, and phonics). We will also implement this model for 3rd and 4th grade this year, with Mrs. Keller and Ms. Evans collaborating to support both grade levels. Students will learn together in groups, and each group will receive instruction from both of our grade-level teachers for specific content areas.  

The platooning model is widely used across the country, and allows for teachers to become experts in their content areas, to create more individualized support for students, and to implement more experiential learning opportunities.  It’s a perfect way to deepen the work of the McKinley-Thatcher mission and vision!

Want to learn more about platooning? Check out this article about a local school using the same model.

New School Hours for Next Year

McKinley will be operating on a new bell schedule next year! School will start at 7:30am and end at 2:30pm. The return to a 7-hour school day means that we are excited to bring back a lot of the hands-on learning that we had to let go of this year.

Discovery Link Morning Care Next Year

Discovery Link will be offering BEFORE and AFTER school care next year. We are excited to bring back morning care for our families! Discovery Link will operate from 6:30am to 7:30 am and 2:30pm to 6:00pm. For more information and to register please, see the Discovery Link website.

Summer Activities & Summer Learning

We encourage you to get your children off of their screens and get outside this summer! Please help them keep reading and writing over the break because we don’t want them to lose any of the progress they have made this year.  Here are some great summer opportunities to check out. 

Remote Learning Option for Next Year

If you would like to enroll your student in remote learning through the district’s new Online School for the 2021-22 school year, you must complete the Learning Option Selection form on ParentPortal by June 4. If you choose this option, you are selecting to attend remote school throughout the entirety of the 2021-22 school year. We will hold your spot at McKinley, but students cannot switch back and forth between learning options. McKinley will not be live-streaming or teaching any remote classes for the 2021-22 school year. 

PTA Volunteers Needed!

One last reminder from our PTA: we really need your help as a PTA volunteer! If you are available to participate on the PTA leadership board or on the auction committee, please reach out to our PTA at  

All the best,

Sonia Geerdes