After three years as principal of Montezuma-Cortez Middle School, Kate Ott is stepping down, and assistant principal Drew Pearson will take the helm.
Ott is retiring, although she will still remain in the area, living in the house on Mancos Hill that she and her husband built 36 years ago. While she served as principal, the middle school’s accreditation rating moved from Priority Improvement to Improvement.
“I am excited for the future of the middle school as they continue working to become the educational beacon of Montezuma County,” Ott told The Journal. “It has been an honor to work with and lead a passionate, innovative faculty who have boundless energy and are fully invested in helping students navigate the awkward middle school years while helping them achieve academically.”
Ott first came to the Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 as a teacher nine years ago, although she had been teaching.
“When I started teaching 30 years ago, I wanted to show students the wonders of science and how it touched every aspect of their lives,” she said in a letter to teachers. “I certainly never envisioned myself as one day being the instructional leader of M-CMS.”
Some of her favorite memories as principal include brainstorming with the Instructional Leadership Team, attending weekly data meetings and working with eighth grade ambassadors and the city of Cortez Parks and Recreation Department on the Greater Outdoors Colorado School Yard Initiative grant application.
She now plans to spend time with her family – although she might not completely stay away from education.
“I love teaching science and would jump at the chance to volunteer for the science fair or any type of science field trips,” Ott told The Journal.
Pearson, who has been assistant principal and athletic director at M-CMS for three years, said he was honored to have been selected for the principal job. While working as assistant principal, he learned from Ott and fellow assistant principal Beth Benavidez, he said.
“My time as an assistant has also allowed me to get to know our community better, as well as get an in-depth perspective of the school’s internal structure, both of which will help me understand the many strengths we have to build on at M-CMS as well as the growth opportunities we need to address,” Pearson told The Journal.
Pearson previously was an interim principal in Mancos and taught at elementary and middle school levels in Mancos and Cortez for five years, according to a statement released by the district May 20.
Looking ahead, he said, the school will need to remain flexible and collaborative in this uncertain time.
“I think the most urgent priority will be to collaborate with the district team and look to develop several plans for how we can provide a rigorous and yet diversely accessible education for our students, and be ready to deliver it in any number of scenarios which may be the reality moving forward this next year,” Pearson said.
He also plans to develop a more positive climate at the middle school, addressing bullying and behavioral issues with restorative justice practices, and improving the school communications.
“We have so many wonderful things going on at the school, and I want to make sure that all these things are getting the recognition they deserve and that our students, parents and staff feel they are ‘in the know’ on all that is happening at M-CMS,” Pearson said.
In the district statement, Superintendent Lori Haukeness said Re-1 had conducted a national search for a principal and Pearson was selected for his leadership and community commitment.
“I am excited to work with Mr. Pearson, the M-CMS teachers and staff, and you all as partners in creating this next chapter for M-CMS,” Haukeness said. “We remain committed to ensuring all our students are engaged in a positive learning environment and are gaining the skills they need to be successful in high school. We do not yet know what next year will bring with the uncertainty of the coronavirus, but I am confident that Mr. Pearson’s leadership and relationships with our staff, students, and families will help guide M-CMS through whatever challenges await while keeping the needs of our students at the forefront.”