Back where she belongs

Manaugh principal loves being around students

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Manaugh Elementary Principal Donetta Dehart dances with Trevor Nelson in the hallway. During a morning passing period between classrooms, the school plays music and students dance their way from one room to another. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Manaugh Elementary Principal Donetta Dehart dances with Trevor Nelson in the hallway. During a morning passing period between classrooms, the school plays music and students dance their way from one room to another.

Returning to a school environment to be around kids once again was what Donetta Dehart envisioned for several years.

While working as a curriculum director for the Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1, Dehart learned there were three principal openings at the elementary schools. At the urging of friends and former interim superintendent Mary Rubadeau, Dehart decided to follow her heart.

“When we knew there were going to be openings, I said, ‘this might be the right time,’” she said. “(Superintendent) Alex Carter came to me and said ‘let’s talk.’”

When the discussion over the three principal positions heated up, Dehart told Carter that her ideal location would be at Manaugh Elementary.

“I would have been happy anywhere, but I was drawn to Manaugh,” she said, mentioning she thought she could bring something to the staff through finesse and organization skills to complement the job that was already being done.

“I just wanted to make a difference with (providing) an education,” she said.

Now that she’s back in the school environment and seeing kids each and every day, she says it’s an incredible job.

Dehart, 51, is in her 21st year with the district.

With the hallways and classrooms filled with the sounds of young students, Dehart says that is the exact reason why she wanted to return to the school setting. She loves having the interaction with students on a day-to-day basis.

Before working as the curriculum director in the English Language Learner department for about five years, Dehart worked as a teacher at Kemper Elementary for 15 years.

Dehart moved from Cripple Creek, Colo., with her family when she was a sophomore in high school.

After graduating from the Re-1 school district, Dehart attended Fort Lewis College in Durango for two years before getting married and moving to Denver.

While in Denver she worked at a few management jobs before deciding to move back to Cortez in 1988 with her infant son and 3-year-old daughter. As a single parent, she returned to college. She now has a 4-year-old grandson.

She also has more than 300 kids at Manaugh that she is responsible for, and reflecting on her career, she remarked that the students from her last class at Kemper Elementary are now seniors in high school.

The primary reason Dehart moved back to Cortez was because her parents still lived in the area.

“I knew right out of high school that I wanted to be a teacher,” she said.

Heading back to college was an easy decision.

“Even while I was in Denver working, I had a longing for it,” she said. “I was drawn to kids.”

After getting her bachelor’s degree she started working toward her master’s at Adams State College in Alamosa.

Fours years ago Dehart attained her principal’s license from Western State Colorado University in Gunnison.

Being a single parent drove her toward a job where she could support herself and her children. She added that while educators generally feel underpaid for the work they do, teaching was one of the few jobs she could work at to make enough of a living to support her and her children.

She also said she can relate to all of the parents and teachers because of her background.

While she enjoyed her work at the central office of the school district something was missing. She needed that interaction with the students.

“I am loving being here everyday. It energized me,” she said.

She said her previous job prevented her from seeing students in school and learning and “that left a hole in my heart.”

It’s now the perfect job.

“There is nothing in my job I do not like,” she said, and added she missed the community and students not knowing who she was when seeing her outside of work.

She said when kids and parents see her outside of school and make an effort to say hello or acknowledge her is very satisfying.

She said her past work gave her some credibility with the parents, teachers and other principals in the school district.

Being well organized and detail orientated, she knew that she could utilize those skills as the new principal at Manaugh.

“I want them to know it is all possible, and I want teachers to help (students) achieve their big dreams outside of Manaugh,” she said.

Dehart also said she works a lot of hours. On school days, she arrives by 6:30 a.m. and does not leave until 8 p.m. on some days. In addition, she puts in weekend hours sometimes.

“I can handle that because my kids are grown now,” she said. “A lot of days I do not get to see the inside of the office. My friends say I am a workaholic.”

Carter also praised the principal with a few words.

“She is an amazing woman with an incredible heart for kids, education, and our community” Carter said.

Working 70 to 75 hours a week does not give Dehart much time for hobbies outside of school, but she said she enjoys camping with her family in the summer, is involved in her church, First Assembly of God, and watches the Denver Broncos football games, though she conceded she is often working during the games.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com

Manaugh Elementary Principal Donetta Dehart talks with students Ivana Shirley Kibel, Jeremiah High and Jeremiah Maestas in the hallway of the school. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Manaugh Elementary Principal Donetta Dehart talks with students Ivana Shirley Kibel, Jeremiah High and Jeremiah Maestas in the hallway of the school.