September 21, 2019
Bree Lessar, La Veta School District
Q. What was the path that led you to become the Superintendent in La Veta?
My path at La Veta began when I was a junior high school English and social studies teacher. I became a secondary principal in 2009, and was named acting superintendent during the 2010-11 school year. I was selected to serve as the permanent superintendent in the 2011-12 school year. I also coached for a decade in La Veta. I have always been interested in finding and exercising potential that is within people and systems, and my strengths lie in strategic thinking.
Q. Can you give us a glimpse of the La Veta story?
La Veta has 214 students attending preschool through grade 12, with about 14 students for each teacher. An interesting note this year – our senior class is all girls, and our fifth grade is composed of all boys except for one girl!
We try to stay focused on our core belief that people really matter and are at the center of what we do at school. My leadership philosophy is that we first have to be sure we are taking care of our mental, physical, and emotional health to be most effective, and I think that contributes to our high level of staff morale and staff engagement, as well as strong connections with our community.
La Veta has a large population of retired people, and we have found they have a broad range of skills that they enjoy sharing with students. We are lucky to have volunteers with a wide range of expertise, including a vocational agriculture expert in hydroponics, a master welder, and a former science teacher.
Q. What was your first experience with CEI?
The CEI Showcase in 2015 was my first interaction with CEI. I remember thinking it was very cool that there were teachers doing Ed Talks about their experiences. Also, the keynote session with Rosalind Wiseman was impressive, and I applied what I learned in that session to my work to promote a positive school environment that is resilient to bullying – it’s really about school culture and relationships.
The concept of student voice that we hear at CEI correlates with La Veta’s ongoing work to authentically engage students. We have three students participating in La Veta’s Design Advisory Group related to the new school design. What our students have to say is really worthwhile, which proves that they should be involved in the process.
Q. What are your big priorities as a Superintendent this year?
Our new school build and repurpose of current buildings is a gigantic priority. We are also really trying to evolve our S-CAP processes in meaningful, engaging ways; engaging the whole school with the data to interact with it and drive the process forward.
Q. If you could wave a magic wand, what would you want the state to do to support your district?
Funding is a challenge – fixing the funding crisis would solve a lot of problems!
I have found CDE to be receptive to innovation and how we do things. I appreciate that, and would want the state to continue with support for pockets of innovation.
For example, we are working with Aguilar on a peer-to-peer partnership in untested space – we’ve been pleased by what CDE is supporting, i.e. teachers working together, peer observation, and tackling MTSS. I love the quote from Ken Blanchard: “None of us is as smart as all of us.” There is great value in looking at how to work together collaboratively to solve joint problems… not necessarily having the same solutions, but combined thinking that informs strategies.
La Veta School District Re2 is located in southern Colorado, in Huerfano County, on the north side of the Spanish Peaks. The district is classified as a small, rural district by the Colorado Department of Education.