A superintendent who led Cherry Creek Schools through a devastating economic recession and a principal who raised the standard for academic excellence were inducted into the Legacy Stadium Educational Leadership Wall of Fame during a celebration held April 6.
Mary Chesley and Dr. Judith Hilton were honored for their years of inspirational leadership and dedicated service to the students, staff and community of the Cherry Creek School District. Family and friends, past and present employees and Board of Education members and numerous community members gathered at the Instructional Support Facility to celebrate the inductees’ tremendous contributions to Cherry Creek Schools. See more photos from the event on the Cherry Creek Schools Facebook page.
Chesley began her career with the district in 1989 as a teacher at Creekside Elementary. During the next 19 years, she served as a principal, executive director of elementary education, assistant superintendent of educational operations and deputy superintendent before taking the helm as superintendent in 2009. At that time, the district was faced with cutting millions of dollars from the budget, in the wake of a national recession and severe reductions in state education funding.
“Mary knew that this would require a community conversation, integrating the voices of parents, community and staff,” said Tustin Amole, CCSD’s Director of Communications, in her nomination of Chesley. “With more than 80 cuts to schools and departments and changes to transportation, the district was able to keep the academic programs and activities that parents said were most important to them. The result was the uninterrupted continuation of the excellence for which the Cherry Creek School District has always been known.”
Chesley also established Veterans Week in Cherry Creek Schools, during which every school in the district hosts an event to honor veterans and active-duty military members in their community.
“I believe Mary had two very important goals in mind. First, to recognize the veterans, and second, to allow the students a learning opportunity about history and democracy,” said Eric Flor, retired assistant superintendent, in his nomination of Chesley. “As a veteran myself, words cannot express my thanks for the invitations I have received… and the pride that I feel when attending these events.”
Dr. Judy Hilton started her career with the district in 1969 as a physical education teacher and a coach at Cherry Creek High School. She then took on the districtwide position of director of employment before becoming a principal, first at Laredo Middle School and later at Eaglecrest High School. Hilton worked diligently to increase the number of girls participating in school sports and to expand the athletic opportunities available to them. But Hilton was even more focused on excellence in academics and recognized the importance of quality teachers and staff in providing a rigorous and rewarding educational experience to students.
“Dr. Hilton expected the best of each of us in the service of students, and modeled those high expectations in her own daily work,” said former administrator Shawn Colleary in his nomination of Hilton. “Dr. Hilton demonstrated the importance of leadership in elevating the educational experience for students, while instilling a culture of excellence throughout the school and community.”
While at Laredo Middle School, Hilton helped develop pre-IB criteria that helped students prepare for the International Baccalaureate program at Smoky Hill High School. As principal of Eaglecrest High School, Hilton “ignited and academic excellence through both the development of an Honors Diploma and the expansion of a robust and competitive Advanced Placement program,” said fellow honoree Mary Chesley, in her nomination of Hilton. Chesley also noted that Hilton was responsible for establishing exceptional staff development programs that helped the district’s teachers become even better educators.
“The number of students taught each year, the number of staff moved to improved professional skills, the millions of dollars managed with stewardship to the community and the number of parents encouraged to partner with the schools are among the astronomical testament to Dr. Hilton’s quantitative contribution to the Cherry Creek School District,” Chesley added.
Chesley and Hilton join the following honorees in the Legacy Stadium Educational Leadership Wall of Fame: past superintendents Dr. Richard Koeppe, Dr. Robert Tschirki and Dr. Monte Moses, educators George Mansfield and Jack Platt, community volunteer Robin Thorsen and a group of Polton Award Honorees. The Wall of Fame is located in Legacy Stadium and is a tribute to exemplary individuals and groups who have left a lasting legacy in their dedication and commitment to excellence in Cherry Creek Schools.