It’s back to school for retired Pueblo superintendent
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – When Tom Alby retired and moved to Glenwood Springs three years ago, he thought his new life of leisure would be filled with carefree days of skiing and biking.
Little did he know he’d be persuaded to take the helm at St. Stephen’s Catholic School. As of July 1, Alby becomes the private school’s new principal and its director of development.
“I tried the retirement thing,” Alby, 59, said with a smile, “but I found myself aging. You spend your whole life thinking that retirement is a panacea. But it’s not. Since I’ve accepted this job, I wake up feeling like I did when I was in grad school. It feels great working towards something, and being productive.”
From Wisconsin to Pueblo
Alby, who’s originally from Wisconsin, earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Wisconsin, before accepting the director of athletics job there.
He served as assistant principal at Appleton High School, a dean of Lawrence University, and topped off his career as superintendent of schools in Appleton, Wis.
As avid skiers, the Alby family always dreamed of moving out West. Alby’s son, Jon, is an attorney in Denver, and his daughter, Jenny, also an attorney, now lives in Cardiff Glen with her husband, Chad, and children Jacob and Elizabeth.
When the superintendent’s job at Pueblo School District 70 opened up, Tom Alby applied.
Alby accepted the Pueblo job in 1996, and quickly set about turning around the district, which was suffering from a $1.7 million deficit. In four years, Alby succeeded in bringing spending under control while raising teacher salaries, starting an alternative high school and managing Pueblo’s fast-growing 6,500-student district. The turnaround earned him Colorado’s 1999 superintendent of the year award, an honor sponsored by the Colorado Association of School Executives and the American Association of School Administrators.
After four years at Pueblo, he thought he was ready to retire, so he made the move to Glenwood, and he and his wife, Jane, built a house in Spring Valley.
“We’ve always loved Glenwood,” Alby said.
Alby attended a Catholic grade school as a boy, so he understands religious education. He said he looks at St. Stephen’s as another option for parents and students.
“St. Stephen’s gives the community options, and that’s good,” Alby said. “It never hurts to have options. Because we’re a private school, we have more flexibility. Our class sizes are smaller – sometimes just eight in a class – which some kids really need to succeed. And because our ultimate concern is about the kids, I don’t see us competing with the public schools or any others.
“Glenwood is a vibrant, growing community. All of us in education are in this together. We want to provide the best education for each child,” he said.
Alby said Catholicism is certainly a part of the educational experience, although nonCatholics may attend the school, which teaches children in kindergarten through 8th grade.
“We work with parents to see how the religious component works with each child,” said Alby, a practicing Catholic and member of St. Stephen’s Church.
Alby said the church and the school have operated somewhat autonomously, but he’d like to see that change.
“The school’s tuition is $2,500 per year,” he said. “I’d like to see the church’s parishioners get more involved in supporting our students.”
He’s also looking for volunteers to teach and tutor.
“There are so many people who can be a part of our kids’ learning,” he said.
More important to Alby than religious background is the school’s educational philosophy and getting enrollment up to where it can be.
“I have people tell me St. Stephen’s is the best-kept secret in the valley,” Alby said. “I want to know why. Right now, our enrollment is at about 70 students, and we have the capacity to double that. This is a special school with strong standards.”
Alby’s arrival at St. Stephen’s comes at an opportune time. The school’s current principal, Roseanne Shepard, is looking forward to Alby’s arrival.
She’s been principal at the school since December 2000, when then-principal Connie Sundling took a leave of absence to care for her daughter, who had been seriously injured in a car accident.
With Alby taking the principal’s job, Shepherd will return to the classroom, where she’s taught for 12 years.
Although heading up St. Stephen’s is far from leading a 6,500-student school district like Pueblo’s, Alby knows he has a big job ahead of him.
“This isn’t a piece of cake,” he said. “I’m scared to death. But I’m ready for the challenge. I’m ready to help make this school the best it can be.”
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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