Former Pike principal settling in at Bristol

       Walking down the hallway of Bristol Elementary, Manuel Ramsey spotted a student who had attended Pike last year when he was still principal there.

First-year Bristol Elementary Principal Manuel Ramsey.
Justin Ramsey photo

Young Bristol performers sing and dance to the "Mexican Hat Dance" during the school's Hispanic Fiesta event at the school Nov. 19.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The first-year Bristol principal put an arm around the first-year Bristol student's shoulder and asked if he liked his new school. “Yes,” he was told. What did he like? “Everything,” the student beamed.
       Ramsey supplied almost the same answer in talking about his own adjustment after six years at the helm of Pike (which School District 11 closed last May). “I enjoy it here,” he said of Bristol. “It's a very high-quality staff, and we're getting to know each other. There are a lot of good things going on here. I'm just trying to add to them.”
       It's not a totally new environment. Ramsey was able to bring along two of his Pike staffers; in addition, 30 former Pike students are at Bristol - several of them from families that used the choice option to follow their former principal, rather than go north to Jackson. “It's nice to see the familiar faces,” Ramsey said, but added tactfully that “all the parents have been friendly” at Bristol.
       The schools are/were similar - located in older Westside neighborhoods along the Chestnut/Walnut corridor, with roughly 75 percent of the enrollment from Title 1 (lower income) families.
       Size-wise, there is/was a difference. At just under 250 students, Bristol is roughly twice as populated as Pike, which had been the smallest school in the district. The Bristol building was also modernized two years ago, with district bond improvements that rebuilt the interior and installed air-conditioning.
       An intriguing contrast could be defined as “left brain, right brain.” Led by former Principal Steve Ferguson, who retired after last year, Bristol over the past four years has marketed itself as an arts-focus school. Title 1 and district funds are used to fund a half-time art teacher (Katie Robinson) and a full-time Suzuki violin teacher (Michael Hanson of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic). Over the same time frame at Pike, Ramsey led a steady academic upswing, climaxed by the school's being named the top-performing Title 1 school in Colorado. Now at Bristol, Ramsey said he wants to keep the art efforts alive while tying them in with an academic focus. Based on what he's seen so far, he thinks that's happening. He predicted some score improvements in the annual Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) testing this spring.
       One issue that is unifying the school this year is the possibility of losing the ability to use Title 1 funding for the arts. Without it, the school would be unable to retain Hanson or to have Robinson half the day. The possibility was announced by a parent during the Hispanic Arts Fiesta at the school Nov. 19.
       The parent, Bob Stellick, told the assemblage that the school has the Title 1 arts money through the rest of this school year, but after that the situation is unknown. The issue is important because “a lot of people chose this school for this reason,” he said afterward.
       Ramsey said he's working with the district on the issue. “It's kind of a must-do for Bristol,” he said. “I don't see how they [district officials] could let it go. We're hopeful, but the district is cutting money from its budget for next year.”

Westside Pioneer article