Utter becomes permanent principal at Holmes

       In 2007-08, Rob Utter was happy to serve as acting principal at Holmes Middle School. After all, the school's six-year assistant principal was following in the footsteps of Brenda LeBrasse, who had served the school for 30 years, had led Holmes to various awards and had retained the title of senior principal even while heading up the school district's new Response to Intervention (RTI) program. Rob Utter
       But after a year under his belt, Utter proposed another option this spring when district officials offered to appoint him acting principal for another year. "I said no, let's do a search, and if I'm the right person, then so be it," he explained in an interview this week. "If not, then let the process find who it is."
       As it turned out, the process found him. The Board of Education has named him permanent principal at Holmes. "I feel fortunate to be the person chosen," he commented.
       He's also "very much excited" about the coming year. A big reason is that his assistant principals (Margo Herbert and Scott Noller), who were both also new last year, are returning. Utter believes that will help achieve the goals of a consistent curriculum and individual attention to the way students are progressing. "Last year we were finding ourselves operationally," Utter said. "Now we can really strengthen our instructional focus."
       Before Holmes, Utter had been a grade 7-9 science teacher for 10 years in the Widefield School District. He said his desire to stay at Holmes stems mainly from his "love of the people on the staff" and a community with "strong parent involvement and, because of that, great kids."
       He wasn't displeased with the school's recently released 2008 Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) scores - Holmes remains the top middle school academically in the district - but there were drop-offs in a few categories (particularly in the seventh and eighth grades) and he hopes to improve on that.
       Speaking conceptually, Utter said he is open to ideas on how to educationally "tap in" to the electronic devices that young people typically use nowadays. He pointed out that in school, for example, students are asked to turn off their cell phones. But with the right strategies, certain devices could enhance networking across the globe and help kids become "21st century learners," he said.
       Holmes, located at 2455 Mesa Road, has about 700 students.
       LeBrasse, still the RTI director for the district, was the last educator to have worked for Holmes' original principal when the school opened in 1968. In the past school year, she gained nationwide recognition for the Westside school as a "model middle grade program."

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