Morris holds high hopes for Howbert
For new Howbert Elementary Principal David Morris, becoming the school's principal this year is in a way like coming home.
From a professional standpoint, it is an opportunity to get back to what he likes best - working closely with students in a community-based elementary school, as opposed to the previous two years when he was somewhat more distant as District 11's director for gifted and talented education.
It also makes sense that the community is one he has roots in. When he was working toward a master's degree in education at Colorado College in 1992-93, he lived on the Westside and the experience left him “very partial” to this part of town, Morris recalled in a recent interview.
Then there's the school itself. Not only has Howbert traditionally received strong support from the surrounding Pleasant Valley neighborhood, it has a longstanding reputation as one of the highest achieving elementaries in the district.
“I feel very fortunate to become principal at Howbert,” Morris said. “It's part of a community that has certain values and expectations.”
He has several goals in his first year. One of these is to build on the school's scholarly prowess, as measured by the Student Accountability Reports (SARs) that are culled from the annual Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) testing. Already at the “high” level, Howbert was one of just seven schools in the district last year to show “significant growth” in the SARs - an upswing that moved it even closer to “excellent” - and Morris is encouraging his staff to do what it can to reach that level this year. “We know we can do it,” he said. “So many kids score advanced at this school.”
Another goal is to increase enrollment by promoting Howbert as a “choice” school, using academic performance as the attractor. This would help offset the flattening of enrollment from the attendance area that has resulted from Pleasant Valley becoming an older neighborhood, Morris explained.
A third goal is to make Howbert a kind of “community resource center,” drawing on Pleasant Valley's volunteer spirit and meshing with such natural nearby amenities as the Garden of the Gods and Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site. “I'd like us to be more than just an 8 to 2:30 school,” Morris said. “We'll have to figure out how best to do that.”
The new principal has an international teaching background. After an initial six years at Palmer Lake Elementary - his introduction to community-style education - and then Helen Hunt Elementary in District 11, Morris sought to broaden his horizons. He and his wife, Becca Williams (now teaching at Stratton Elementary), taught two years at an International Baccalaureate school in Japan, followed by a year in Angola.
Returning to Colorado in 2003, he worked as a gifted resource teacher for a year before being promoted to the district's top gifted-and-talented administrative position two years ago.
He has additionally taught at CC in recent years, helping student teachers develop lesson plans, and is studying for a Ph.D in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Denver.
Westside Pioneer article