From Our Superintendent

Dr. Kenneth C. Somers

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Dr. Kenneth C. Somers

Welcoming area students for 100 years and beyond

Lewis-Palmer Elementary School (LPES) chooses a children’s picture book to ground them and set the theme for each year. This year, LPES chose Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. The book is brief; it’s message clear: All are welcome. The book starts with a pet club excluding specific types of animals and then portrays the ways that friends take care of and include one another. I love this message. 

Each grade level at LPES participates in activities related to the year’s book and theme. LPES sixth graders created a puzzle on one of the hallway bulletin boards. Each piece of the puzzle represents a sixth grader. A missing piece in a puzzle disrupts the entire image. It’s a poignant representation of how each of us belongs, fits, and fills an integral role in our various communities. 

D38’s role in this community is welcoming and educating students. We’ve done this for decades. The Lewis-Palmer School District 38 administration building, fondly known as Big Red, is 100 years old this year. Though much has changed, capturing the imagination of each student remains our goal. To meet this goal, we must provide safe, welcoming, and inspiring learning experiences. 

History constantly provides opportunities to examine the issues of the past within the lens of the present. In a fifth grade classroom at Palmer Lake Elementary School (PLES) last week, I heard the teacher leading a classroom discussion about Ruby Bridges, the first black student to desegregate an all-white elementary school in 1960. This teacher exemplified adaptive, responsive classroom opportunities instead of a prescribed, technical script. These students practiced listening, asking clarifying questions, evaluating, and processing their findings in a conversation and then a writing exercise. Instead of being told what to think or know, they practiced “how to think” skills. Opinions were expressed. Ideas considered. I observed a safe, welcoming, thought-provoking environment. 

For 100 years our big red brick building has framed the historic Monument downtown area, welcoming generations of students, inviting them to risk and learn.  As an educational community, we practice what we teach. We passionately pursue learning. We constantly assess our strengths and opportunities for improvement. One hundred years equates to an exponential number of lives impacted.

Encouraging diversity of thought stretches our hearts and minds and facilitates empathy and understanding.  Each generation of students, teachers, and communities encounters challenges. Interestingly, Big Red opened in 1920, just as another pandemic spread, infecting approximately a third of the world’s population. Crisis provides opportunities to creatively overcome challenges. The details of the challenges we face may look different, but for the next century, D38 will continue providing safe, welcoming, and inspiring learning experiences. 

I invite each of us to join LPES and PLES students and staff in strengthening our individual and communal “All are Welcome” practices in the ways we take care of each other. In the words of Mantchev, “Because that’s what friends do.” That’s what communities do.