Howbert Principal Gallegos retiring
His 4 years on the Westside wrapped up 29-year D-11 career

       Howbert Elementary Principal Rick Gallegos is looking forward to his retirement after this school year ends this week. Well, not completely. Rick Gallegos sits at his desk at Howbert Elementary School.
Westside Pioneer photo
       On the one hand, “I like having a brand-new opportunity in life,” said Gallegos, who has taught or administrated 29 years in District 11 - including the last four at Howbert. He looks forward to traveling, spending more time with his four grandchildren, fishing and camping, working with charities and possibly (if he can fight off a lingering diabetes problem) getting in shape for distance races.
       On the other hand, the 53-year-old principal will miss the school and the close-knit Pleasant Valley neighborhood that sends its children to Howbert. “This is one of the few neighborhoods that exist where everybody knows each other and watches out for each other,” he said. “There's a sense of safety and belonging. The stability rate at the school is pretty high because once people move here, they stay here.”
       When it comes to the timing for his departure, an argument could be made that it couldn't be better… or that it couldn't be worse. In the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) testing this spring, the Howbert third grade's 97 percent proficient or advanced score was the highest in the district. “What a way to go out,” Gallegos commented with a grin. At the same time, he's leaving just when the educational strategies he brought to the school are really starting to “bear fruit,” as he put it. He conceded that it was no overnight task convincing the school's teachers to adopt a “data-driven” approach to instructional efforts which required higher levels of instructional teamwork than some teachers were necessarily used to.
       The school as a whole also has shown increasing success on the CSAPs. In a data component that measures how much individual students have improved from one year to the next, Howbert was one of just seven district schools last year that showed “significant improvement” between 2004 and 2005. And it wasn't as if the school had that far to rise. Going into 2005, it was already in the “high” category for testing results; if the third grade testing this year is any indication, Howbert could rise to “excellent” in 2006.
       So how does Gallegos deal with taking a much-desired retirement from a school he has helped guide to such accomplishments? “I savor the moment,” he said. “If I'm on recess, a kid might hug me or a ball might hit me, or I might push some kids on the swings. It's a matter of enjoying what you're doing at the moment.”
       Gallegos taught his first eight years in District 11 (at Grant and Adams elementaries), then switched to administration. A year in human resources was followed by assistant principal positions at Henry and Wilson schools, then his first principalship in 1987 at Helen Hunt Elementary. His longest tenure was Taylor Elementary from 1991 to 2002.
       The replacement for Gallegos at Howbert will be David Morris, currently the gifted and talented facilitator for School District 11's Division of Instruction.

Westside Pioneer article