Principal’s Update — June 2023

Posted June 2, 2023

Dear McKinley-Thatcher Community – 

I can’t believe it is already June and this school year is over!  The end of a year is always bittersweet, and I want to take a moment to say thank you to our 5th grade families who are moving on to middle school next year.  We are so grateful for all that you have done to support our students, staff, and the entire community over the past 8 years! It’s especially hard for me to say goodbye since we began our journeys at McT together.  It’s my eighth year as principal here and I remember your babies as three- and four-year olds.  I will miss them so much! 

End of Year Reflections

I’ve spent some time reflecting on how up and down this year has been: so challenging, and so rewarding, in so many different ways.  This has been a difficult year for schools across the country as we work to carefully and diligently respond to students’ social and emotional needs, primarily due to the long-term impacts of the pandemic.  On the other hand, there have been so many successes and celebrations this school year.  Here are a few of the things we are excited about:

  • Several of our grades have 80% (or more!) of students reading at or above grade level, and we’re on track to be above our pre-pandemic levels in academics next year.  This is a huge accomplishment and my praise goes out to our teachers for all they have done this year in refining and strengthening their instructional practices. 
  • We implemented a much more robust phonics program and we have been preparing to implement a new literacy curriculum next year.  We will be using a program called CKLA Core Knowledge (we already use the CKLA phonics components). 
  • We have begun piloting new mathematics investigations that align with our curriculum, and we are excited to fully implement those next year for deeper mathematics exploration and extension opportunities in classrooms.  
  • We are also looking forward to engaging in a pilot program to support our 5th grade students in accessing more advanced mathematics courses in middle school and high school.  We are exploring online options and will communicate the details of this program with next year’s 5th grade families in August 2023. 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work at McT 

In other news… our staff recently completed six weeks of intensive professional development and self-reflection on our diversity and inclusion practices at McT.  The most significant work for me personally was based on the writings of Robin DiAngelo.  We read the text “Nice Is Not Enough – Combatting the Conspiracy of Silence”, and I continue to reflect on this quote and its importance for our staff: All this system needs to keep on reproducing racial inequality—with whites benefiting from it— is for white people just to be really nice. Be really nice. Go ahead. Smile at your coworkers of color, go to lunch on occasion and do nothing else.  And you will uphold that system because niceness is not courageous.  Niceness is not anti-racism. Niceness will not get racism on the table and it will not keep it on the table when everyone wants it off the table.”

In recent news, the book publishing company Scholastic has been under scrutiny for asking an Asian-American writer of a children’s book to remove a reference to “virulent racism” from the author’s note before it would publish the book. Scholastic has subsequently issued an apology to the author.  In light of this situation, we will explore other options for companies to host our future book fairs. The McKinley-Thatcher community of staff, families, and partners is committed to anti-racist education and support for all of our students and families, and we are eager to continue this work in the upcoming school year.  

One Book, One McKinley

Please join us in a new adventure for all adults in the McT community (staff and families!) — we’ll be starting a book club this fall!  Our books will be specially selected to help us explore learning about diversity and inclusion in our community.  The first book is Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng. Please read it over the summer and look for a One Book, One McKinley Book Club invitation in the fall.  We’d love to have your perspective and voice in our discussion.  

Staff Transitions for the 2023-2024 School Year

We have a number of staff transitions for the 2023-2024 school year to share with families. 

We are sad to say goodbye to…

  • Karyn Pocernich (Librarian) – Karyn is retiring after 30 years as a teacher and librarian.
  • Jen Albee (ECE-4 Teacher) – Jen is leaving after 10 years at McT as a paraprofessional and teacher.
  • Rachel Sheridan (5th Grade Teacher) – Rachel is moving home to Colorado Springs. 
  • Jenny Morgenthaler (Music Teacher) – Jenny is changing paths and will be teaching art at Sandoval Elementary in northwest Denver. 
  • Alicia Anderson & Natalia Nunez-Ontiveros (Paraprofessionals) – Alicia and Natalia are moving on to new roles in DPS.

Several of our staff members are transitioning to new roles:

  • Emily Keller, our current 3rd/4th grade literacy teacher, will be joining Kaela Evans (our 3rd/4th grade math/science teacher), and together they will be the 3rd grade teaching team! 
  • Ingrid Hoff has a new title:  School Technology Specialist.  She will still do all things communication as well as technology management and support.  Yay! 

We are excited to welcome our newest staff members!

  • Karen Goldberg will be our new librarian. She is joining us after working as a substitute teacher in DPS and has several years experience as a school librarian in Tulsa, OK. 
  • Michelle Ball will be our new ECE-4 teacher.  You might know Michelle because she has worked here as a guest teacher many days this year!  
  • Jenn Duff will be our new Special Education teacher.  We will have three Special Education teachers next year; they will each focus on two grade levels to foster collaboration and co-teaching with our homeroom teachers.  Ms. Breningstall will work with kindergarten and 1st grade, Ms. Duff with 2nd and 3rd grade, and Ms. Eisenson with 4th and 5th grade.
  • Emily Jones will be our new 4th grade teacher.  She is joining us from a long career in DPS including working at Asbury and Shoemaker Elementary schools.  
  • Dean Wymer will be our new 5th grade teacher.  He has been student teaching at McT this past year and will be a great addition to our team. 
  • Katherine Nelson (McT Parent!) will be joining our office team as a Health Office Paraprofessional and will be working in the nurse’s office on Mondays and Fridays. 

Mark Your Calendars for These Important Summer Dates

  • McT Main Office closed: Tuesday June 6 – Monday, July 31; reopening on Tuesday, August 1. 
  • Online School Registration:  Monday, August 7 – Sunday, August 13. 
    • Step 1: Complete Online Verification via Parent Portal: anytime between Friday, July 30 and Sunday, August 13.
    • Additional Steps: Complete additional registration requirements on our website anytime during our McKinley School Registration window (August 7 – August 13).
  • McT Open House / Meet Your Teacher Event: Thursday, August 17, 4:00pm – 5:30pm
  • K-5th Grade First Day of School & Welcome Celebration: Monday, August 21, 7:15am
    ECE First Day of School: Tuesday, August 22, 7:30am

NEW for Next Year: Special Schedule for First Week of School!

The first three days of school are HALF DAYS for assessment purposes! This means that all students in kindergarten through 5th grade will have an individual assessment meeting with their teacher on the afternoon of August 21, 22, or 23. We’ll send out a sign-up form in August 2023 for assessment appointments.  

  • Mon., 8/21, Tues., 8/22, & Weds., 8/23: K-5th Grade HALF DAYS, 7:30am – 11:30am
    • Students will eat lunch before dismissal at 11:30am.
  • Tues., 8/22 & Weds., 8/23: ECE HALF DAYS,  7:30am – 11:30 am
    (no assessment sign up for ECE) 
  • Thurs., 8/24: FULL DAY classes begin for ECE-5th Grade, 7:30am – 2:30pm

Please click here to see our McKinley-Thatcher 2023-2024 school calendar, which includes all of the above dates! 

Have a wonderful, restful, and safe summer break, and we can’t wait to see you again in August! 


Ms. Sonia Geerdes (she/her)