Steamboat students return to class as district welcomes new leadership

Third graders Quintin Biagi, left, and Chase Demos share a hug as they wait to enter class at Soda Creek Elementary School for the first day of the year on Tuesday, August 23, 2022. County students de Routt returned to class this week at the start of the 2022-23 school year.
John F. Russell / Steamboat Pilot and Today

As students returned to schools in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday, August 23, new district superintendent Celine Wicks said she wanted to highlight the incredible things students are doing that have been overlooked in recent years.

Elementary school students learn coding. High school students are signing up for classes at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs at impressive rates, and the district’s expanded preschool program is full to start the school year.

“So many great things are happening and it’s kind of gotten lost in the last two years,” Wicks said. “I’m flabbergasted at what we can offer our children and that’s what I want people to know and hear because so much is happening.”

Tuesday marked the first time since 2019 that Steamboat students did not wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the first day of school. Wicks said all classroom teaching positions in the district have been filled, a big difference from the district having three dozen open positions to start last school year.

Two recently filled positions were principals at Strawberry Park Elementary and Sleeping Giant School.

At Strawberry Park, Principal Eron Haubert welcomed students into the building in a sea wolf mascot costume, which she says has become something of a tradition. Haubert replaced Wicks as principal of the school this summer after several years as vice principal and teacher.

“I love Strawberry Park so much,” Haubert said. “That’s where I taught fourth and fifth grade, so that’s where my heart is.”

Teacher Heidi Hamric, left, student Eden Cobb and principal Eron Haubert pose for a photo on the first day of school at Strawberry Park Elementary on Tuesday, August 23, 2022.
Dylan Anderson / Steamboat Pilot and Today

Haubert said last year that they were able to launch a new mission and vision for the school. This year, she wants to build on that.

“We had some really big initiatives last year that we worked collaboratively to launch,” Haubert said. “It’s exciting to have that as a base and to go even further.”

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At Sleeping Giant, principal Joe Laliberte said he didn’t have a bear costume ready to welcome students on Tuesday, but donned the school’s blue and green colors. Laliberte was previously vice-principal at Steamboat Springs Middle School before being hired at Sleeping Giant last week.

“Coming from middle school, where it’s just a bigger school with more kids, it’s definitely a different feel here,” Laliberte said. “Sitting with some of my kindergartners today and having them give me high fives in the hallway is just a little bit different from being a seventh grader.”

Laliberte said his priority is to listen and learn from Sleeping Giant staff to understand what’s going well and where they see improvement.

“A lot of systems here work very well. They put things in place here to be successful,” Laliberté said. “It’s just trying to understand the nuances of how they ran a school (K-8) versus how we ran things in college.”

Adam Grimes holds Mia as the two wait for preschool to start on Tuesday, August 23, 2022, the first day of classes at Soda Creek Elementary School.
John F. Russell / Steamboat Pilot and Today

Wicks, who rose to the district’s top job last month, said she believes all schools have their own identity, but administrators meet frequently to ensure students have a similar experience at as they grew in the district.

The district’s new strategic plan hopes to ensure that continues, by outlining a profile of what a Steamboat graduate looks like and the strategies the district will use to get its students there. A particular focus area is “Thriving Educators and Community,” part of which seeks to increase opportunities for students to work with local businesses.

“We’re going to reach out to a lot of our community partners to say, ‘Hey, can you have students? Can they come see what you’re doing?’” Wicks said.

Wicks said the district is looking to hire a director of communications. Part of their job would be to redesign the district’s website and create a section for parents to quickly see how the district is doing in terms of meeting the goals set out in the strategic plan. These measures will be updated annually to ensure continued progress, she said.

“We must not rest on our laurels and continue on this trajectory to aim higher,” Wicks said. “Be the best, not just one of the best, but be the best. And we can do that. We have the most amazing staff here and a supportive community, so we can do that.


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