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Ellicott assistant principal earns state award

Susan Flores, Ellicott Elementary Assistant Principal and 2015 Outstanding Assistant Principal of the Year for Colorado, stands in front of the school’s tribute to its students’ military family members. Each star represents a family member, either active duty or veteran, with blue stars indicating a currently deployed member. The school had students fill the stars with the name and years of service, and sometimes photo, of the service member as a way to honor students of Schriever personnel without singling them out. The stars not only fill the board on the wall, but also form a border on the wall along the school hallways. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

Susan Flores, Ellicott Elementary Assistant Principal and 2015 Outstanding Assistant Principal of the Year for Colorado, stands in front of the school’s tribute to its students’ military family members. Each star represents a family member, either active duty or veteran, with blue stars indicating a currently deployed member. The school had students fill the stars with the name and years of service, and sometimes photo, of the service member as a way to honor students of Schriever personnel without singling them out. The stars not only fill the board on the wall, but also form a border on the wall along the school hallways. (U.S. Air Force photo/Brian Hagberg)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- She's been described by her peers as a "superstar," an "inspiration," a "rare find in education" and the "definition of quality leadership."

Now Susan Flores, assistant principal at Ellicott Elementary School, can add 2015 Outstanding Assistant Principal of the Year for Colorado to that list.

"I was shocked [I won] because I think there are a lot of phenomenal educators out there," Flores said. "It was very humbling just to have people recognize you for what you do."

Flores was notified by the state that she had won the award in January, and officially received it during a ceremony Feb. 18 in the school gym.

"I'm about the kids, but to get that recognition, it's always nice to have someone notice and then to be noticed at such a large level from your peers and colleagues, it was an awesome feeling," Flores said.

Flores said part of the nomination process included answering questions about her career to this point. For her, the most difficult question she was asked was, "What legacy will you leave?" She said she had never really taken the time to think about her legacy.

"I just had never really processed what people would say about my legacy, about me, when I left," Flores said. "I've always had a purpose for what I do, but it wasn't for the intent of leaving a legacy behind. I never really thought, 'I'm going to leave a legacy, so I'm going to do this.' It was more this is what I need to do because it's right."

Many within the Ellicott School District would agree that a big piece of her legacy will be the work she has done to revamp the district's response to intervention program. The program takes students who are struggling in a particular area, academic or behavior, and creates a process to help the student overcome their struggles.

"We want kids in the right placement, the right intervention because if it's not the right intervention, we're doing a disservice," Flores said.

Dr. Patrick Cullen, Ellicott School District superintendent, briefly discussed the program during a question-and-answer session with housing residents last month.

"We have a pretty aggressive RTI program and it is dynamite," Cullen said. "There could be kids that are struggling reading and within a couple of months turn that around."

First Lt. Jennifer Ray, 50th Space Wing Chaplain Corps, can attest to how quickly the RTI program helps children turn struggle into success. Her child began the RTI process in January and has already seen improvement.

"She just got her report card and she's improved in pretty much everything," Ray said. "In just a little time to see the progression and have her open up and come out of her shell, I was pretty excited."

Part of that success stems from the relationship between the school and the installation, especially through the Schriever School Age Program.

"Youth who are in our program, I go [to Ellicott] and observe their classrooms probably twice a month and speak with their teachers," said Vicki Rygiel, Schriever School Age Program coordinator. "The key is, if I know what they're doing at Ellicott and we can consistently implement that in our program, it not only helps the child have some consistency but it also helps the parents."

Ray said that consistency not only helped with school success, but also helped alleviate some of the pressure to get things done at home.

"When Ms. Vicki became aware [of the RTI process], I felt the difference," Ray said. "That same day I get home and my daughter's homework is done. It cut down our homework time from maybe 45 minutes to 25 minutes."

Flores said her recognition demonstrates a commitment to excellence shared by the entire staff at Ellicott. It also lets people know that just because Ellicott is a smaller district; it doesn't mean their children won't get a quality education.

"I think the thing [the award] does for us is it brings to light that we have a staff and a school out here that can compete with anyone in the state of Colorado," Flores said.
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