These 5th graders’ Battle of the Books is just one way Traut focuses on literacy.
This 20-year-old school is the brainchild of more than 80 parents who saw a need for a school that would develop students’ skills and character through a content-rich curriculum. They knew that by building knowledge and teaching democratic values, their school would level the academic playing field. When Traut’s doors opened in 1993, it was the first Core Knowledge school in Colorado, and there were fewer than 50 Core Knowledge schools in the entire nation. Traut proved to be the best kind of leader—one worth following. Today there are more than 50 schools in Colorado using the Core Knowledge Sequence as the basis for their curriculum.
To those who know the school’s founding principal, Art Dillon, this leadership comes as no surprise. In addition to his 30-year career in public education, including 13 years with Traut, Dillon completed 39 years of active and reserve military service. In 2006, he retired from both Traut and from the military, where he had become a Brigadier General and Commander of the Wyoming Army National Guard. Dillon left Traut in great shape, having won Colorado’s John Irwin Schools of Excellence Awards each year from 2003 – 2006.
Mark Wertheimer, Traut’s current principal, took over for Dillon in 2006. With his commitment to parent-teacher partnerships, Core Knowledge, and character education, Wertheimer was a perfect fit.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, National Blue Ribbon Schools “share some key qualities. Their leaders not only articulate a vision of excellence and hold everyone to high standards, they stay close to the real action of teaching and learning. Mutual respect and trust run deep in their cultures. The whole school community embodies a sense of collegiality and commitment and members are supported by mentoring and professional development. Data from many sources are used diligently to adapt teaching and learning to support every student. Families and educators work together in partnership.”
Traut does all of these things—and more. Staff, parents, and students make up a tightknit community, and everyone is dedicated to helping students grow and learn. In recent years there has been a focus on better progress monitoring and rapid remediation, enhanced special education services, and more consistent and challenging instruction for advanced mathematics students.
Traut’s content-rich instruction engages students in learning about other countries’ cultures, foods, art, history, music, and more.
Wertheimer explained, “Our foundation is built on choice in education, with the key aspects of our school represented by our Pillars – Parent Partnership, Character Education, Core Knowledge, Mature Literacy, and Student Responsibility.” These pillars are not just hollow terms; they really do guide everything the Traut community undertakes. For example, parents comprise half of the school’s Site Base Management Council and students grow into independent learners because their character, responsibility, and literacy work is all well integrated. As the school wrote in its application, even “Core Knowledge is not an end in itself, but rather a means to achieve an excellent grasp of information and the ability to use that information thoughtfully.”
Remarking on the Blue Ribbon, Wertheimer immediately focused on Traut as a whole, saying it “is a testament to the hard work of those who have gone before us as well as our current parents, staff, and students.”
A testament indeed. Bravo!
Traut’s community grows ever closer through events like this teddy bear picnic.