When Sal Troisi started teaching in Cherry Creek Schools in 1961, the district had five elementary schools, one junior high school and one high school. A lot changed during his 30-year career as an industrial arts and biological sciences teacher, and even more has changed since he retired in 1991.
“We don’t even have industrial arts anymore,” Troisi laughed, when talking about how his area of expertise has evolved into Career and Technical Education.
Seeing how Cherry Creek Schools has changed since he left was one of the reasons Troisi joined 17 other retired CCSD employees for a bus tour of the district on Oct. 17. The tour was sponsored by the Retired Employees of Cherry Creek Schools (RECCS).
“A lot of our folks in this group have been retired for a long time and have heard about a lot of changes in the district. We’re giving them the opportunity to see what’s going on,” said Jim McDermott, a retired CCSD administrator who is the current RECCS president.
The tour started on the Cherry Creek High School campus and was led by Sarah Grobbel, Executive Director of Career and Innovation for Cherry Creek Schools. As the bus began its journey across the district, Grobbel provided some facts about Colorado’s fourth-largest school district.
“We currently have more than 54,500 students who attend 41 elementary schools, 10 middle schools and seven high schools,” Grobbel explained. “We have close to 4,000 certified employees – teachers, administrators, nurses and mental health professionals – and just over 4,000 classified employees, which includes para-educators, secretaries, bus drivers, mechanics, building engineers and food service employees.”
First stop on the tour was the Institute of Science and Technology on the Overland High School-Prairie Middle School campus. The institute, which opened in 2011, provides students with unique opportunities to explore subjects and possible career paths in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields.
The next stop on the tour was Cimarron Elementary, where fourth-grade students showed the group how to use virtual reality glasses to manipulate 3-D images on the ZSpace software using a stylus. The participants saw a 3-D globe appear from the screen while students investigated the human geography around the world.
“The technology is what really impresses me,” said Carol Hayes, who taught English at Cherry Creek High School for 18 years before retiring in 2003. She enjoyed seeing students using technological tools that didn’t exist when she was teaching – tools that they will need to be successful in the world that awaits them after graduation. “They definitely need it,” Hayes added.
As the group of retirees traveled across CCSD’s 108 square miles, they got to see where Elementary 44 and Middle School 11 are under construction on the district’s far east side, and discussed the 42-acre site near East Broncos Parkway and South Chambers Road, where a new Career and Innovation Academy will be built.
“The new Career and Innovation Academy will inspire our students to think about career and college opportunities, provide career exploration and offer opportunities for students to earn industry certifications prior to high school graduation,” Grobbel explained.
Throughout the tour, the group of former employees was impressed by both how much things have changed, and how some things have stayed the same.
“This district has grown phenomenally in terms of the size since I started as an intern teacher in 1972 at Eastridge Elementary,” McDermott said. “A lot of people wonder if we’ve lost the touch, if we’ve lost the heart. As you get big, how do you hang on to that? But one of the things I’ve seen in working with this district is that one thing remains constant: the dedication to the complete and total education of kids. Our mission has not changed and the commitment to the mission has not changed.”
In addition to keeping retirees connected to each other and to Cherry Creek Schools, the group also supports deserving students. In the past few years, RECCS has awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships to CCSD graduates. For more information about RECCS and the group’s scholarship program, visit https://www.reccs.org/.