gazette logo rev 500

School Visitor Pass

All Means All: The Manning School Looks to the Future

By Jeena Williams

Hello, my name is Jeena Williams and I am a recovering classroom teacher. Piles of ungraded essays still haunt my nightmares – as do answering pointed emails from parents, supervising homecoming, and navigating hallways during passing periods. That said, a part of me wishes I still led freshmen and juniors in discussions about Robert Frost and William Shakespeare and “The Declaration of Independence,” and I carry with me these lessons from my students’ insightfulness: that all kids can learn and that public education has the urgent responsibility to build communities worthy of our kids’ collective potential.

I am now lucky enough to lead Manning, a school that’s proud to provide a safe space for amazing kids to think critically, be creative, work hard, learn rich content, grow as people and as learners, and achieve great things. This year we are tasked with welcoming fresh perspectives into the building while navigating a looming second order change: We will, with other Wheat Ridge area middle schools, welcome sixth graders to our unique culture in the 2018-2019 school year. This calls us to have robust dialogue with our stakeholders about who we are, what traditions we must keep and how we might need to shift to accommodate a new group of students.

Recently, I asked our families: Why did you choose Manning for your kids? If you could, what might you change about Manning? What kinds of things do you want your kids to do and learn while they’re in middle school? And what should we consider as we welcome sixth graders into our community? From their 100-plus survey responses, four themes rose to the surface:

1) Families want their kids to be great students who know how to manage time, complete work meticulously, be organized, take copious notes, learn key skills in core content area, and be prepared for the rigors of high school, college, and the world beyond.

2) Families want students to be critical thinkers who are challenged to persist through productive struggle, express complicated ideas, evaluate the thinking of others, support sophisticated arguments with meaningful evidence, develop and test hypotheses, and solve complex, relevant, real-world problems.

3) Families want kids to love learning, to experience joy and wonder in and out of a typical classroom, and to be inspired by staff members who care about them and individualize instruction to meet their needs.

4) Finally, and for many most importantly, families want their kids to be good people who build healthy relationships; advocate for themselves; have integrity; serve their community; develop as leaders; and be confident, self aware, courageous, disciplined, kind individuals. Parents understand that adolescence is a critical and difficult time, and they believe our school ought to serve them as whole children with a wide range of needs beyond just academics.

And just about all of them asked me fix the parking lot. I’m working on it.

The Manning staff is working persistently and thoughtfully to craft experiences that ask kids to grow as great students, critical thinkers, lifelong learners and principled people while honoring our traditions of academic excellence and high expectations. In this endeavor, we aim to have courage – to be authentically who we are, to stand up to forces who would ask us to change too abruptly, to question the next big thing and to challenge conventional wisdom. We need all stakeholders to help us make critical decisions and to tell us when we misstep. It is our privilege to serve this community and its extraordinary kids; we will do our best to meet the challenge inherent in John O’Donohue’s observation: “The duty of privilege is absolute integrity.”


Jeena Williams

Jeena Williams is the Principal of The Manning School.

Questions for this guest writer or suggestions for future guest writers should be sent in to

The Transformation and Hope of Rose Stein International

By Esther Valdez

Transformation is defined as a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

A transformation of hope is exactly what has occurred at Rose Stein International Elementary. Over two years ago this 65-year-old building was neglected, filled to overcapacity and in serious disrepair. Jeffco made the decision to close the school and relocate the students to a neighboring school building. A creative use of capital reserve funds and a dream to bring an innovative school to this poverty-impacted and neglected school building became a reality.  

Our school represents over 60 percent of students learning English as a second language and over 90 percent of our students qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. This diverse thriving community deserves to be heard. This community deserves this investment. I see my role as principal here as an “unexpected gift” and I enthusiastically came on board to lead this renovation and complete redevelopment of this school.

In the process of designing innovative instructional areas with a flexible learning environment, a partnership with the community began designing and envisioning a true centerpiece in the neighborhood, which included an in-house preventive care health clinic partnership with MCPN, preschool services and JCMH mental health resources for families and students all accessible right here in the building. Additionally, our efforts to design an academically focused learning environment, led us to consider the globally minded citizens we are striving to develop.  

This process further guided our decision to adopt the Primary Year’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program. We are a candidate IB school seeking to embed internationally minded action into all our academic learning. Understanding the balanced well-rounded educational experience we are striving to provide all our students helped us expand our renovation to include an athletic field, a new playground and a community garden with outdoor classroom learning areas.  

We are holding community meetings with neighborhood associations, faith organizations, city government, and various District and community leaders to develop a true neighborhood school. The outreach of support for this vision to bring a true community school back into this neighborhood has quickly moved from dream to reality. I actively welcome all visitors, volunteers and families to invest your time and energy in this transformational school that is thriving on bringing hope to our community.  

In summary, I’d like to share our school mission/vision statement, which reflects our school priorities: Rose Stein International is a community of learners empowered to embrace curiosity, collaboration and diverse perspectives. Our actions create a better world! We believe that all students are empowered to embrace curiosity, collaboration and diverse perspectives as global citizens. Come see this magic for yourself.  

Thank you,

Esther Valdez

Esther Valdez is Principal of Rose Stein International Elementary.

Questions for this guest writer or suggestions for future guest writers should be sent in to