Oct 10, 2023

Local School Leaders Chart New Paths

With the 2022-23 school year underway, Colorado's charter school landscape is welcoming a fresh cohort of dynamic leaders poised to shape the educational landscape for their communities. These visionary educators, handpicked to helm their respective charter schools or networks, bring a wealth of experience, innovation, and dedication to the forefront of charter school education.

By Kim Daly

With a shared commitment to fostering academic excellence, equity, and community engagement, these new leaders are set to inspire, guide, and empower both students and staff. As Colorado's charter schools embrace the challenges and opportunities of the new academic year, please join us in congratulating these newly appointed leaders!

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Molly Brown
Principal, Eagle County Charter Academy (ECCA) - Edwards

After leaving the private sector, Molly began her teaching career at ECCA as a middle school language arts teacher before moving into administration in 2014. She holds a bachelor's degree in English and communication studies from the University of Nebraska and a master’s in educational leadership from Regis University.  In addition to working at ECCA, Molly is also a member of the parent community with two children who call ECCA home.
Molly explains, “I've been at ECCA since 2002 and cannot speak highly enough of our staff, students and families. I have had the great fortune of working directly with people that founded this school, so I'm very connected to our roots even as we continue to grow and evolve. I love seeing the connections between generations of students and their families as we welcome some of our alumni back as staff members and parents … I am excited to take on this new role and continue the work of the amazing leaders who came before me.” 

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Teresa Brown
Director, Academy for Advanced and Creative Learning (AcademyACL) - Colorado Springs

A founding staff member since AcademyACL’s inception in 2010, Teresa has served in a number of roles at this Colorado Springs based charter, including classroom teacher, gifted coordinator, lead teacher, and Dean of Student Support. She holds a bachelor's degree in liberal arts, a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, and endorsements in English Language Arts and as a Gifted Specialist.  Serving on the board for Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented and Pikes Peak Association for Gifted and Talented, she earned her principal licensure this past spring with the goal of strengthening AcademyACL as a resource for gifted education in the Pikes Peak region and beyond. 

“I come to work every day as an advocate for gifted students and their families as they travel on this educational journey.  Gifted students deserve a different educational experience that supports their unique needs, and my work with AcademyACL and our staff supports providing a child-centered education that honors their giftedness and their need for a supportive and challenging academic home to thrive,” says Teresa.

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Kelly Gomes
Shared Service Partner, Wildflower Montessori Public Schools of Colorado (WMPSC) - Aurora

A former principal at STRIVE Prep Sunnyside, Kelly also previously served as assistant principal at Democracy Prep Endurance Middle School in New York and taught 7-11th grade ELA in New York and Texas. She earned a master’s in urban education from CUNY Graduate Center and her bachelor’s from Marquette University. 

Kelly says WPMSC makes Montessori education accessible to all families. “It is a community embedded school led by authentic Montessorians who truly want to make an impression on the students they serve. This small school packs a huge opportunity for strong educational opportunities and outcomes for their students and families.” 

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Zach Craddock        
Superintendent, Third Future Schools (TFS) - Aurora

With twenty-five years of educational experience, Zach previously served as head of school leadership and founding principal at the Academy of Advanced Learning, part of the Third Future Schools network. He also served as the Executive Director of Individualized Learning in School District 49 as well as a high school teacher, high school coach, assistant principal and special services director. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina-Aiken and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Albany State University.

Zach shares, “We serve students in three states across seven major cities and each brings their own challenges. TFS creates proof points of academic success where students have traditionally struggled to achieve academic achievement. We have a high performance culture that provides 185 days of highly effective instruction for all students. We are preparing kids for the year 2035 and our staff get after it everyday to make a difference for students, communities, and our district partners.”

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Jennifer Douglas
Executive Director, Peak to Peak Charter School - Lafayette

Jennifer has worked in the charter sector since 1999, serving as founder & director of New Legacy Charter School and co-founder of Highline Academy in Denver as well as in two positions at the League before working as an educational consultant for several years. She received her bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education from St. Olaf College and her master’s in administrative leadership and policy studies from the University of Colorado Denver. 

Jen explains that there are three things that make Peak to Peak special. “First, the school offers a culture where each student is known, respected, and valued as an individual of great potential and promise. Second, a dedication to excellence in academics and operations. And third, a commitment to ensuring all students have access to a college prep education and the support needed to succeed. I'm grateful to be part of this special community.”

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Wayne Granger 
Executive Director of Operations and Finance, Stargate School - Thornton

Wayne started his charter school tenure as a founding family member of Flagstaff Academy in Longmont, serving on the Board of Directors for four years. After completing an 18-year career in law enforcement, he earned a masters degree in organizational leadership with a focus on charter school leadership and served as ED at Flagstaff from 2013 to 2023. Wayne is a Maxwell Leadership Certified Team member, and serves as a consultant with the Colorado League of Charter Schools in the areas of board governance, strategic planning and leadership. 

Thinking about how the charter school space has evolved over the last 10-15 years, Wayne states, “Charter schools have embraced the notion that the traditional, single school leader model may not be the best model for sustainability, excellence, and growth. Bringing in leaders from other industries provides for innovation and creativity that challenges the status quo … Rather than a single leader trying to be the Jack-of-all-trades, we have a team of Experts-of-their-trades who come together for the good of children. John Maxwell calls it the Law of the Lid. You can only grow as high as the lid of the leadership capacity of your organization. If the top leader is trying to do all things, that lid is much lower in any one specific area. When the team has experts who all have much higher lids individually, the organization collectively can achieve much more which ultimately benefits our students and communities.”

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Dan Kohler 
Head of School, North Routt Charter School - Clark

This position marks Kohler’s return to North Routt Charter School where he worked as a middle school instructor at school from 2014-2022 and led multiple outdoor excursions. He started as an educator at Soroco Middle School, where he served as the social studies instructor from 2007-2014. Kohler spent the 2022-23 academic year as assistant principal and instructional coach at Steamboat Springs High School.

Dan shares that he smiles every time he walks through the door of North Routt Community Charter School. “ I work in the best school, period! The students use respect and integrity throughout the challenges that they face on a daily basis. They treat the staff with respect and compassion even in tense situations. They remain optimistic through adversity and use integrity when no one is watching. When I walk down the hall I will always receive a hug and a high five because the students and the staff are happy and thriving. We care about one another and you can feel it.”

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Lynda MacDonald
Principal, Guffey Charter School

A teacher at Guffey Community Charter School for the past 30 years, Lynda has now taken on the added role of principal as well as elementary classroom teacher. She received her bachelor's degree in teaching with concentrations in math and science and a master's degree specializing in the diverse learner.  She explains that when she received a teaching position in Guffey over 30 years ago, she knew it was the place for her.

“I love the rural, small-town atmosphere. I love the community spirit and support,” says Lynda. “ I love teaching in a multi-age classroom because every student has the opportunity to work and grow at their own level. I love the small class sizes because every student gets the individualized attention that they need and that makes such a difference. I love being able to build relationships with my students, their families and the rest of our small staff. I truly believe education is a team effort and that is so important at Guffey Community Charter School.” 

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Christian De La Oliva
President & CEO, Chávez Huerta K-12 Preparatory Academy (CHPA) - Pueblo    

Originally hailing from Peru, Christian joined CHPA after a national search, having previously served as Executive Leadership Coach in the San Diego County Office of Education. He also assisted in establishing two private schools in Lima-Peru and has served as a school principal, assistant principal, and teacher in Denver Public Schools. He possesses a bachelor’s and three master’s degrees as well as a teaching license.

“The best part of my job is the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the lives of our students and the broader community,” says Christian. “We are not only equipping students for a bright future, but also building a stronger community and supporting our school families.  Our school is an integral part of the community, and I take pride in the positive impact we have on the lives of our students, their families, and the broader community. It's a privilege to be a part of something greater than myself and to work alongside dedicated individuals who share a common vision of educational excellence.”

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Mindy Woodworth
Head of School, Juniper Ridge Community School (JRCS) - Grand Junction    

Mindy has over 24 years of service in education, teaching learners in all grades K-8, as well as serving in staff and administrative roles, including guiding teachers as an Instructional Coach at Orchard Mesa Middle School and West Middle School. Prior to serving JRCS, she served as a principal at Bookcliff Christian School. She earned a bachelor’s in counseling psychology with an elementary endorsement at Mesa State College as well as a certificate qualifying her in secondary English. She received her master’s in educational leadership and administrative license from Colorado Mesa University. 

Thrilled to join the team at Juniper Ridge because they focus on the whole child, Mindy states, “Our dedicated staff understands the importance of developing meaningful relationships, teaching skills and content according to child development and fostering a love of life, learning and people. Our campus offers more than an academic education; we know it takes a village to raise a child and it is an honor to be a part of our JRCS family.” 

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Bobby Young
Executive Director, Compass Community Collaborative - Fort Collins

Having previously served in leadership roles at esteemed educational institutions around the world, Bobby brings a global perspective to the educational landscape. As Principal at The International School Port of Spain, he gained valuable insights into the diverse needs of students and as a Curriculum Coordinator at Boston International School in Wuxi, China, he established the International Baccalaureate Programme. He has also dedicated 15 years to U.S. public school education in a variety of roles , including five as a residential leader with Outward Bound USA. He holds a Masters in educational leadership from Colorado State University and a Bachelor of Science in secondary education and geography from the University of Wisconsin.

In reflecting on his new home  in the heart of Fort Collins, Bobby says, “Our unique school day schedule allows us to have a great deal of flexibility in collaborating with community organizations for a win-win partnership. Our school has strong partnerships with business, nonprofit, artistic, college, university, and government entities to provide our students the opportunities to engage in meaningful career exploration and for our community to benefit from the energy and commitment of young people in their work environments."

Embracing a New Role

The following charter school leaders have also taken on new roles this year:

  • Brandon Monson: Principal, GLOBE Charter - Colorado Springs
  • Dan Sullivan: Executive Director, 5280 High School - Denver
  • Kresta Vuolo: Executive Director, Excel Academy - Arvada
  • Samantha Bissue: Principal, Lake George Charter School - Park County  
  • Dr. Tam Smith: Executive Director, Vanguard Classical Schools - Aurora/Denver  

Adding to this list are four leaders who have taken the helm at charters that are brand new to Colorado’s sector this year, including:

  • John Biner: Principal, American Legacy Academy
  • Carissa Drake: Headmaster, Ascent Classical Schools-Grand Junction
  • Mary Romke: Principal, Sky Ranch Academy (Watkins)
  • Dr. Thomas Tacoma: Headmaster, Ascent Classical Schools 27J - Reunion        

Read about them and their new schools here.

Do you know of a new leader who isn’t included here? We’d love to hear about them!


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