District picks BV leader from within
A national search for a principal with Montessori experience brought no such applicants for Buena Vista Elementary's vacant principal position this summer.
So District 11 turned inward. The school's new leader - pending final confirmation from the Board of Education Aug. 13 - is David Brilliant. He is a career-long district teacher and administrator who believes his diverse educational resumé, Colorado Springs roots and a willingness to learn will make up for a minimal amount of Montessori experience, he explained in an interview last week.
He particularly believes his work last year, helping implement the district's new response to intervention (RTI) program, will be helpful. “The Montessori model is very much aligned with that,” he said, “because it's looking at development and where a child should be at a certain time of life. It's like two sides of the same coin.”
Overall, Brilliant said he's “very excited to work with the staff and the community” at Buena Vista. He sought the position in general because of a desire, after six years in district administration, “to be closer to the kids again” and to put into practice a range of “good instructional training practices” that he's been focusing on. Despite not officially starting until after the Aug. 13 board meeting, he was already at work in his Buena Vista office this week.
Because Montessori classrooms typically use volunteer aids to a greater degree than traditional education, the school's parents are keenly interested in the new principal, noted Natasha Walker, this year's Buena Vista PTA president. She conceded that she was “disappointed” that the parents had not been consulted in the hiring choice, but was encouraged after meeting him and setting up an initial parent get-together Aug. 14. “From talking to him on the phone, he sounds like a great guy,” Walker said. “I hope things turn out positive. He sounded real excited about getting the parents involved.”
The district did not intend to leave the parents out of the hiring process, clarified Deputy Superintendent Mary Thurman. Normally, a search turns up multiple applicants, and a community representative is then selected to help interview the few who make it through the initial screeing process. But the lack of outside applicants for Buena Vista changed that plan; the district had to look internally for someone who might fit, Thurman explained.
Brilliant pointed out that he is not entirely without Montessori experience. While attending Cornell College as an undergraduate, he worked two years in a Montessori daycare. From that, he learned a key part of Montessori is observing how children are progressing and picking up on developmental delays. “I want to find a way to quantify that, so we can help students make progress every day,” he said.
Brilliant's history with District 11 actually goes back a lot farther than 1991, when he started as a fourth-grade teacher at Patrick Henry School. He himself had attended D-11 schools throughout his childhood (graduating from Doherty High in 1987), and his parents, David Sr. and Kitty Brilliant, worked for the district as well.
Since '91, David Jr. has served in several positions for the district. In addition to classroom teaching and RTI, he has been a P.E. teacher, a technology teacher on special assignment, an assistant principal and a district assessment administrator (scrutinizing testing issues). Along the way, he earned a masters degree in educational leadership and administration.
Going into its fifth year, Buena Vista is the district's only Montessori elementary. Although this has attracted parents living outside the school's attendance area and thus beefed up enrollment, it has not yet translated into higher test scores. One factor has been lack of leadership stability (Brilliant is the fourth principal since 2004). But he hopes to change that. “I'm here long term,” he said.
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