Southwest Open School has added several new staff members in key positions.
Charlotte Wolf became the SWOS director on July 1, replacing Jennifer Chappell, who resigned at the end of the 2015-16 school year. Wolf’s last position was principal of Columbine High School near Littleton, Colorado.
She taught high school for almost 20 years, and has been a school and district administrator. She holds a principal’s license as well as teaching licenses in German, English as a second language, and English/language arts.
Wolf said she is excited about collaborating with the SWOS Charter board of directors, staff and students, as well as reaching out to the community at large.
Her impressions of Cortez so far are that “It is a small town, with all the charms that come with it – friendliness, a slower pace and less traffic!” She added, “I have received many offers of support, suggestions for networking, and other random acts of kindness. I am charmed!”
She also said she is also captivated by the area’s natural beauty, wildlife and hiking trails.
As for moving from a large, traditional high school to the small, alternative campus at SWOS, Wolf said, “The differences between the two schools are not just a matter of quantity, but also of quality.”
“One of the most significant differences is the fact that we emphasize character education. Traditional high schools focus almost entirely on academics,” she said.
Wolf acknowledged that filling the void left by a longtime employee comes with challenges.
Wolf was born and raised in Germany, and has lived in the United States for 20 years. Her academic degrees include a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies and a Master of Arts in German. She has worked as a freelance translator and editor for over 25 years. She has published translations of a collection of early to modern German crime stories, a selection of Bavarian folktales, a short story anthology, and German-English travel guides.
School support directorSWOS has two new administrators this year. Tyson Wood has replaced Dave Finlay as the school support director.
Wood is originally from Indiana, but has lived in the Four Corners area for about 15 years. His last position was as a social studies teacher at Ignacio High School.
Wood said he “misses the classroom and being a teacher,” but loves his new job, which still lets him interact with students on a regular basis. “I get the opportunity to be a bigger part of the school and I get to be a part of the problem-solving process. It is tough, but I am open to the challenge.”
Wood said the biggest challenge facing SWOS today is inadequate funding. Otherwise, he sees opportunities ahead.
“I know we all have setbacks in life, but we must overcome those by being positive and deciding that we can make the changes we want,” Wood said.
Wood appreciates the outdoor opportunities such as mountain biking, hiking and whitewater rafting, as well as listening to and playing music. He said he also appreciates the fact that Cortez has “some delicious restaurants.”
Academic interventionistDaria Sparks became the school’s academic interventionist on Aug. 17. The position is funded by a Colorado Department of Education grant awarded to SWOS in 2014. Sparks is a graduate of Colorado Mesa University, with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She grew up in the Cortez area and has been active as a volunteer and has worked at nonprofits. She likes to spend time outdoors and attend sporting events with her family.
Sparks said of SWOS, “The atmosphere is very welcoming, and everyone is supportive of each other.”
RegistrarStormie Syra is the new registrar.
Syra is a Cortez native and a veteran of the RE-1 school district, having worked as a substitute teacher and as the Cortez Middle School registrar for the past five years. Syra chooses to work in education because she “loves working with the students of Montezuma County,” she said, adding, “They are our future.”
“Every day I see students do amazing things,” she said, “and I am so grateful to work in a profession where I can be part of that.”
In her free time, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her family.