October is, among many things, National Principals Month (as recognized by all three national principal associations; NASSP, NAESP, AFSA). I must say I am so grateful to have these entities come together to recognize the difficult and often thankless work principals do across the country. They ask in this campaign that all posts are tagged with #ThankAPrincipal, thus, that is the purpose of today’s post…to #ThankAPrincipal

As most of you know, I was a high school principal for six years, at Rock Springs High School. Prior to that I was an assistant principal for five years and a classroom teacher for eleven years. During this time, I had the honor of working for and with some amazing principals. I am now a superintendent at West Grand School District in Kremmling, Colorado, and work with two awesome principals. I would like to take this time to thank those principals I’ve been blessed to be around for their work and dedication by explaining to those who’ve never been a principal what it’s really like.

Being a principal is a tough job, tougher than most realize or know. As the principal, you are the face of the school, you are responsible for the culture and climate of the school, you are the primary communicator, goal setter, instructional leader, operations manager, budget balancer, student advocate, behavior expert, cheerleader, and relationship builder. The principal serves as greeter at the front door, counselor to parents, students, and teachers, driver of special education IEP’s, human resources director of the school, conflict resolution expert, supervisor and evaluator for the entire staff, along with lunchroom and hallway supervisor. Principals must be able to plan for short term and long term, must understand what quality instruction not only looks like but be able to coach all disciplines and grade levels in this area, and while we are at it, principals must love kids! Sound like a lot…that is just between ‘normal’ business hours. Today’s principals also have to advocate for their schools and districts through local, state, and national organizations, build relationships with their state and federal legislators to assist in driving education policy, attend countless meetings in the evening, sit on some community service projects or boards, and make it to every volleyball game, football game, wrestling match, and so forth. All of this while trying, I say trying, to spend quality time with their own families. Being a principal is a tough job. The men and women that take on this challenge deserve our gratitude, our understanding, and a great deal of praise.

I was blessed during my principal career to go to work every day with amazing kids, dedicated teachers and staff, and some good friends. I was part of many excellent leadership teams and enjoyed nearly all parts of my job. I was fortunate to be able to serve principals in my state and nationally as an officer in WASSP (Wyoming’s chapter of NASSP). I even had the gift of being my daughter’s principal for three years, which carried with it challenges and rewards unique to that opportunity. I loved being a principal so much that I wrote my doctoral dissertation about principals. One of my goals going forward is to grow principals, because their work is so very important. OK, you get it – I care a great deal about principals…and to all of them I say thank you.

As I mentioned earlier, I work in West Grand with two rockstar principals. They have very unique skills but have a common bond…the belief that we can and must always focus on doing what is best for kids. I am proud to be a part of their educational journey and excited to see where they take their schools and their skills. I will add a challenge here, for those in Kremmling, to say thank you to Mr. Buller and Mrs. Bauer for all they do in their roles as principals.

October is National Principals Month – no matter where you live, no matter what you do, take a moment to think about the great work being done by principals and #ThankAPrincipal.


Keep on walking that #RoadToAwesome






The #RoadToAwesome

Two years ago, our journey on the #RoadToAwesome began.  It honestly was an accident, pure dumb luck that it all came together.  Bradlee W. Skinner and I were preparing to do a presentation at the Jostens Renaissance National Conference in Orlando.  Our topic was student leadership.  As we put the final touches on the presentation, we added a couple videos.  One, which Bradlee had never seen prior, is by YouTube sensation Kid President. (see below)  At the :42 mark of the video, Kid President quotes the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken”.  Kid President tells us ‘what if there really are two paths? I want to be on the one that leads to awesome.’

When you travel the #RoadToAwesome, you find yourself always looking to get better than you were yesterday, to improve on your skills, beliefs, and abilities.  When you walk the #RoadToAwesome, you learn that you choose your outcomes, you determine your path through life, and you control who you become.

We use the #RoadToAwesome daily at Rock Springs High School.  It’s more than just a hashtag, it is a way of life.   If you follow our hashtag you will see it connecting to the values that Bradlee and I both share (often sharing them on twitter and facebook).

Our students who do awesome things at RSHS get nominated for the #RoadToAwesome barbeque (one per month) on #RoadToAwesome cards

A final quote from Kid President, “What will you create to make the world AWESOME?”

Simply put, the #RoadToAwesome our way of saying ‘we know who we are and where we want to be’ – come follow us!


Darrin & Bradlee

AP, Career Academy, WWCC classes…all are such great choices!!

It is a brisk January morning in Rock Springs. The air is filled with frozen exhaust, ice crystals, and prayers for spring to come early.  This is the time of year when registration for the following school year begins and students have difficult decisions to make.  Do I register for an AP class or two?  Should I take some classes at WWCC this upcoming year? Maybe one of the career academies is right for me…What is the best way for a student to make these decisions?  Honestly, they need to make their choices based on accurate information and focus on where they see themselves going in the future.

Ensuring Accuracy:

AP curriculum is designed as college-level work and enhances the rigor for college bound students. As a former AP Biology teacher, I can tell you students who take AP courses are, in essence, college students while they are in the class.  The expectations are high, the workload is intense, and the rewards from a AP course are much more than the AP exam at the end of road. Typically AP courses are taught in a more traditional manner, similar to what a student may expect at the collegiate level. Discussions are rich and go deep into many topics while some of the material that may be found on the AP exam in the spring won’t get covered due to the breadth of material expected in the class.  Teachers at RSHS who have AP courses give students ‘homework’ over the summer to help offset the time crunch and further cover the material expected by the College Board (AP).  AP courses are excellent for driving college readiness in students.

One class observation: AP Biology class – today I stopped into Mr. McCrann’s class for a quick informal observation. He was  talking about the work of Gregor Mendel and how dominant and recessive genes manifest themselves in a variety of species.  Students were discussing both complete and incomplete dominance and, rather than simply working out Punnett Squares in a wrote memory-type task, Mr. McCrann put the results on the screen and a discussion about each and how the ratio isn’t always enough information to understand how phenotypes and genotypes display in various organisms.

Career Academy programs are designed for students who have a variety of needs.  Students in the academies may be focused on a specific career interest, such as the health field, law enforcement, first responder, or engineering.  Likewise they may want to be part of the family environment that occurs naturally in the academy, due to the consistency of having the same teachers over time and building relationships with the teachers and their cohort peers. Students might also like how curriculum is woven into the career interests they have, increasing not only the rigor in the classes but the relevance students find in what they are learning. Career academy programs result in students who earn numerous, meaningful certifications (such as CNA, phlebotomy, H2S, OSHA, CPR, Red Card Fire Fighter, EMR and others) which students may use to work immediately upon graduation.  This might allow a student to either go directly to work or, if college is their path, work at a much better paying job while in college. Finally, academy students have the unique opportunity to spend time with the professionals in the field.  FLLA and HOCA students job shadow weekly as juniors and seniors, while ERA students go out once per quarter during the same years. These students also put in over 150 hours of community service during their high school careers. Academy programs result in students who are both career and college ready and who have a clear path for where they want to go in the future.

One class observation: FLLA AGES – yesterday I spent 6th hour with our Fire, Law, and Leadership eleventh grade students along with a reporter from the Rocket Miner.  The purpose of our visit was to discuss HB 008, a student data privacy bill currently in committee with the Wyoming Legislature.  Asking one or two questions of these knowledgeable students launched us into a 50 minute discussion about student privacy rights, district policy development, and the difference between probable cause and reasonable suspicion.  I was so impressed with the knowledge base of the academy students and their ability to formulate a strong argument or position on a topic.

WWCC courses have been developed through a great deal of work between RSHS and WWCC.  Our students have the opportunity to take up to 10 hours of WWCC classes each semester throughout their high school careers at no cost to them or their parents. Many of the courses are taken at RSHS, considered concurrent courses, and are taught by RSHS teachers holding adjunct status with Western Wyoming. Classes taken either online or on the WWCC campus are considered dual enrollment courses and have students earning credits at the college with the option of adding them to their high school transcript (pending certain requirements). This is an excellent opportunity for students who are ready to take college classes and want to complete some of the freshman requirements while still in high school.  We are working currently with WWCC to develop two different paths for RSHS students interested in college courses. One pathway would allow students with early college aspirations to start taking college courses online at RSHS while in their sophomore year. That would then move them into courses on the Western campus as early as their junior year and allow them to take courses in the pathway their have genuine interest. The second pathway would focus on our vocational education students, starting online college courses as sophomores as well but then heading toward the technology and industry wing for future courses.  This might include classes in electricity, instrumentation, engineering, welding, and autos.

The choice is the student’s choice and I expect that all staff at RSHS are giving students accurate information.  So, here are some FAQ’s…

Q. If I enter an academy, is it true I cannot take AP courses nor can I be the valedictorian or salutatorian?

A. False – while sophomore students in academies might have to choose relevant to the AP World History, academy students have taken that course in the past. Today’s visit to Mr. McCrann’s AP Biology is a great demonstration of this.  Nearly 2/3 of the class I observed were career academy students. Two years ago the valedictorian and salutatorian were academy students, the year before both were as well.

Q. How successful are these programs?

A.  Our AP programs have been awarded by making the AP Honor Roll two times, more than any other school in the state of Wyoming.  Our career academy programs have been titled ‘An Island of Excellence’ by the US Department of Education and, after a recent visit by the Wyoming Dept of Education and the Chief Counsel of State School Officers (CCSSO) featured in a blog on the Huffington Post (see below)


Q. Am I guaranteed college credit by taking an AP course?

A. No you are not guaranteed the college credit.  You will take an exam at the end of the year. Depending on the school you want to attend in college the score needed on the test will determine the credits you earn for the college.

Q. Does the WWCC course options create scheduling issues at the high school?

A. Yes, but typically our counselors have found creative ways to do what is best for the student.

Q. Does being in an academy or taking AP courses prohibit me from being in activities or sports?

A.  Not at all – many of our AP and/or academy students are involved in multiple activities.

Q. Who can I ask if I have other questions about AP courses, career academies, or WWCC credits?

A.  Counselors and administrators are your best bet. Mr. Peppard can probably answer nearly all those questions accurately. AP teachers can give you a great deal of AP information, academy questions should be asked of those teachers, and Mrs. Erickson in the career center has all the WWCC answers.

This is a time when students have decisions to make, and that is a good thing for kids.  Students may not be able to take everything they want, given how a master schedule works.  However, if questions arise on what each program is designed for, please ask…

None of these programs are better than the other.  They are different and are designed to meet the needs of all kids at RSHS.

Enjoy your day and remember, the sun WILL come out and thaw the land eventually.






It’s worth it

It’s worth it…

The past 6 weeks or so have been among the most challenging of my career as an educator. I feel as though I have lost faith in some of what should be innate decencies in humanity.  It is not fair to lump all of humanity into a pile because of three or four people, but social media sure makes it easy sometimes.

That said, with so many ‘this is your top priority’ items on my plate, HR challenges, time crunches, and being buried in 2 feet of snow, I persevere.  This morning’s tweet was about being patient and persevering mainly because I felt that is what I needed to do.  With patience, I would be reminded why I do what I do.

Many hours later, as I finally have time to look at today’s mail in my office, I find a small envelope addressed to me.  Inside, a thank you card.  A parent, with whom I have worked closely to help get both of her sons graduated, sent me a thank you card.  She stated, “I know this is long overdue…I just want to thank you so much for helping my sons get through high school.” Both her sons have issue with depression and have each attempted at times to take their own lives.  Many nights were spent not at my home with my family but out searching for one of the boys, being at their home talking to one of the boys, and encouraging them, supporting them, and sometimes getting help for them.

Her note continues, “Thank you for being so dedicated to your job and helping my sons not only graduate, but stay alive.  Keep up the GREAT work!”

Through my watery eyes I say…IT’S WORTH IT

Yours in education,

Understanding Accountability pt. III

Hello and welcome back,

Today I will conclude the Understanding Accountability series with a post about the Additional Readiness component and the Participation Rate indicator.

The Additional Readiness component is derived from three parts; Hathaway Levels, Overall Tested Readiness, and 9th Grade Credits Earned.  Hathaway levels count for 40% of the overall score and come from the Hathaway levels students obtain upon graduation.  There are four levels of Hathaway (Honors, Performance, Opportunity, and Provisional) and the requirements for these vary with student GPA, ACT composite, and success curriculum completion.  Tested readiness is not only the 11th grade ACT but also the performance on the 9th and 10th grade Aspire test.  The score here is based on % proficient in all three tests.  Finally, 9th grade credits earned come from determining 1/4th the number of credits required to graduate (RSHS = 24; 1/4 = 6) and calculating the percent of 9th grade students who earned that number of credits during the 9th grade (including summer school).  Each of these items, along with participation rate, are discussed in the video below.


Have a great day!!

One of those days

We all have those days, days we think will never end or that were just awful.  In administration we sometimes see or hear things that make our stomach drop or our eyes fill with tears.  But we all have those days…you know, the days that make it all worthwhile.

Some days are tough…

  • its 5 degrees for a high temperature today
  • my teachers are feeling the pressure of finals next week
  • my students are feeling the pressure of finals next week

Some days I struggle…

  • I have worked with this kid for weeks to get them on top of their work, to be here and be on time – then a fight with her dad changes all of it
  • he should graduate, and graduate on time, but his dad thinks he ‘needs discipline’ so he will send him to military school and teach him right

Some days I just wonder why…

  • if all parents really are trying their hardest, why won’t they come to us when we offer help
  • all adults don’t behave like adults – amazing to me that some behave like their students, or worse
  • the Diet Coke seems to run out in my refrigerator when I need it the most

Some days I know…

  • we do everything we can to make our kids successful in life
  • its so obvious that my staff loves and cares for our kids
  • its going to be ok

Some days I smile, cry, laugh, and ponder…

  • my kids make me laugh with their honesty, wonder, and pure joy
  • my teachers make me think, every day, about decisions we make and how they impact kids
  • my team makes me smile as I see them work with teachers and kids toward a common goal
  • if you know me, everyone makes me cry – with joy, pride, sometimes a tragedy, but a continued bond that holds us together

Every day I am certain…

  • we are the safest place for many kids – they need us to love them, be proud of them, talk to them, and be there for them
  • regardless our feelings or where our minds might be, we will fight for every kid – especially those who have nobody else fighting for them
  • I love what I do and the opportunities I have to make a difference in the lives of kids

We all have those days, the ones that make it all worthwhile.  If you keep perspective on it all, try to, after the day settles, remember that you make a difference every day in the life of a kid (even if it is ONE kid it MATTERS).  We all have those days – make all those days one in which you make that positive impact on a kid’s life.

You all do it, don’t lose sight of it




Hurdles, not Fences

Today, while observing in a classroom, I listened to the story of Dr. Ben Carson.  It was essentially a summary of an interview with Ben. Dr. Carson was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and, at one point, was a very troubled young man. Early in his elementary school life, Ben considered himself the class dummy and believed he was destined to a life of prison.  His mother served as his inspiration and, armed with only a 3rd grade education, continued to push Ben to pursue education as his one big chance at success.  Ben’s mother pushed both her sons to study and, as a result, Ben found a deep interest in science.  He quickly went from class dummy to the head of the class due to his dedication to studies and new found love of science.  Ben went on to attend Yale, majoring in Psychology and ultimately the University of Michigan medical school to study neurosurgery.  Dr. Carson is a world renowned neurosurgeon specializing in separation of conjoined twins.

I tell this story not because of Ben’s success or because I found it quite fascinating (although I do) but rather because of a small part of the story which genuinely hit me as the most powerful message from his journey.

As the story concluded and the students discussed the plot, theme, and characters, the teacher called attention to something Ben believes strongly and made a point to have students reflect on this topic.  MINDSET – yes mindset – in the interview, Ben talked about how everyone will face obstacles in their life and they will face them frequently.  The key, according to Ben, is not what the obstacle is but rather how you view the obstacle.


A fence is something designed to keep objects, animals, people, and so forth on either side of its structure.  It may be built to keep you out, it may be built to keep pets in the yard, it could be in place to fenceprotect what is behind its structure. Either way, the fence is a barrier, very difficult to breach.  If you view what stands in your way of your goal, your dreams, you plans, (the obstacle) as a fence, you may easily see success in these areas as next to impossible.


A hurdle is an obstacle, a portable barrier over which contestants must leap in certain running races.  Hurdles tend to tip over whehurdlen kicked or struck during a race.  Hurdles could be walked around, climbed under, or jumped over.  When something impedes your path to your goal, viewing it as a hurdle may cause you pause, practice, or determination but undoubtedly will not cause your to believe it next to impossible.


In the story of Dr. Ben Carson, I found our students quite engaged and saw they reflected upon it with ease.  All of us will face challenges in our lives and will have to determine the best course of action when the obstacle rears its head.  But, if we attack the obstacle with the appropriate mindset, one that allows us to view it as a hurdle rather than a fence, success is waiting on the other side of that challenge.

My hope for all our students, and all my staff, is simply this – when they are faced with a challenge, I hope they have the ability to hold the mindset of the hurdle not that of the fence.img_4472



Understanding State Accountability – part II

In this post, I will talk specifically about graduation rate, how it is calculated (both currently and in the past), as well as how a cohort is developed, measured, and finalized.

Graduation rate is a topic that many in our community are asking about and wondering where we stand.  In the 11 years I have been at RSHS, we have seen our graduation rate climb from essentially 70% to now, usually, well over 80%.  Our most recent rate, which is for the class of 2015, was 77.23%.  This is a drop from the previous year’s rate of 83.55% in 2014.  The two highest rates recorded for RSHS are 83.55% in 2014 and 81.6% in 2012.  Yes, we actually are having a great deal more success with graduation than ever before.  The drop to 77% was disappointing for all of us at RSHS, but we believe we are on the right track and are focused on the right work to ensure even higher graduation rates in the future.

In the video below, I will walk through some historical data on graduation rate, explain how the rate is actually calculated, and describe how it used to be calculated.  Additionally, I will share what a ‘lagging indicator’ is and why it has to be that way in the WAEA calculation model.

Some key terms from the video:

Graduation cohort – a group of students who enter high school at the same time (fall of their freshman year), students who move into our high school who started high school at the same time, students who conclude their senior year at RSHS either as a graduate or non-graduate

Clean transfer – student who is not counted in the final cohort due to moving away (with records requests), entering an accredited home school program granting a diploma, or who died during the four years of their cohort

Graduation rate – number of ‘on-time’ graduates divided by the expected graduates (those still remaining in the cohort)

As always, thanks for reading – have a great day on the #RoadToAwesome



A time to say thanks…

“To the world you may just be a teacher, but to your students you are a HERO.”Unknown

As educators, we don’t often enough hear of the impact we’ve had on the young men and women we touch during our careers. I have been an educator for nearly 22 years, which means I have had over 2,000 students as a teacher and countless thousands as a building administrator.  As a coach, hundreds more spent time with me on the bus, at practice, and competing in numerous games.

Yesterday I was met with a great surprise.  One of my former students, whom I also coached in basketball and tennis, tagged me in the following post on Facebook:

Darrin M Peppard, here is to you. Anatomy and physiology class you got me fascinated with school and learning. I Thank You! (Great coach too!!!)

Watching this video, it is difficult not to be teary-eyed and have your heart swell with joy.  This time of year, I would ask that you reach out to a teacher who made a difference for you.
I want to say a true thank you to all my teachers at Rock Springs High School.  You are truly amazing and make unbelievable impacts on the lives of kids each and every day.  I may not say it enough, but I really appreciate all you do and love each and every one of you.
Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own”Nikos Kazantzakis
Thank you to all educators, this special time of year take a minute to reflect on what your life’s work truly is and how it makes a difference in the world.
Happy Thanksgiving,


Understanding State Accountability pt.1

A lot has been made recently about test scores and graduation rate in both Sweetwater One and at Rock Springs High School.  It was suggested I put together pieces of the presentation made to the school board in October to clarify for any one who may have missed the meeting or had further questions.  For this post, the focus will be on the overview of the first page of the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act (WAEA) school performance report.

The opening page of this report has the overall score, the two categories that are used to develop this rating (Academic Performance and Overall Readiness), and the score for Participation Rate.  In the video below, I will walk through the first few pages outlining the indicators inside each category, share the target score for each, and explain both what a ‘lagging indicator’ is and how these indicators are calculated.  Hopefully this, and the following videos & blogs in the series, clarify for our community exactly what reality is in connection to these scores.

Have questions?  Feel free to call me at the high school (307-352-3440) or email me at peppardd@sw1.k12.wy.us

Keep rolling down the #RoadToAwesome