New C’dale principal: `Only place we’re going is up’
Post Independent Staff
CARBONDALE – At Carbondale Elementary School, plenty of children come to school and have to learn a brand new language – English. Anna DeLay knows what that feels like.
DeLay, the new principal of Carbondale Elementary, didn’t learn English until she attended grade school. Her first language is Spanish.
“My grandparents only spoke Spanish,” she said of her upbringing in Santa Fe, N.M., where she was born. “I first learned English when I attended my neighborhood school. My grandmother told me to learn English, and learn it well, and to always keep up with my Spanish at home. She told me never to forget where I came from.”
Heeding her grandmother’s advice, DeLay hasn’t forgotten. Her past experiences, and her master’s degree in bilingual education, have helped her as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. Now, they have uniquely prepared her for her new role as Carbondale Elementary School’s principal.
DeLay came all the way from Texas to take the Carbondale job. Doing so meant she had to leave her job as principal of John Quincy Adams Elementary School, an inner-city school in one of Dallas’ toughest areas, where she spent the last nine years.
“The school is 85 percent Hispanic, 13 percent African American, and 2 percent Anglo,” said DeLay, who traveled 45 miles each way to get back and forth to school. “It’s in a very poor, very bad part of town.”
DeLay said many of the school students’ families are gang members.
“The kids have uncles and brothers who are in gangs – the reds and the blues,” she said. “But I outlawed gangs on school grounds. I told the kids not to wear their colors at school. `Look guys,’ I told them, `it’s not going to happen here.'”
`The look and the eyebrow’
DeLay is the kind of principal a child wouldn’t want to disappoint. Diminutive, but with an inner strength, DeLay talks softly, but with a quiet force.
“I’m not a screamer,” she said. “All I need to do is give them the look and the eyebrow and they know I’m not pleased. My expectations are very high for my students. I tell them that I’m very disappointed in them if they don’t meet those expectations.”
Fred Wall, Roaring Fork School District Re-1 superintendent, said DeLay was the last person interviewed this summer by a hiring committee of school administrators, teachers and parents. The decision was unanimous.
“She is the perfect fit for us and for Carbondale Elementary,” said Wall. “We all knew it instantly. It was a unanimous decision.”
DeLay said heading up a school is not a one-person job.
“This is a `we’ thing,” she said. “We have an excellent staff that is very open, and a district that is so supportive and helpful.”
DeLay admits she was attracted to the job at Carbondale Elementary partly by the challenges the school faces.
The school has been testing low on Colorado School Accountability Reports, in large part because many – DeLay thinks about 50 percent – of the school’s students are non-native English speakers.
They’re tested anyway, even if they do not understand and speak English clearly, and their scores are included in the school’s overall ratings, skewing test results and not accurately reporting how students are progressing on an individual basis.
“I’m looking at those scores, and I’m talking to teachers,” she said. “And we need to remember some children don’t test well. I’m also looking at the whole child and each individual child.
“We need to help each child meet our school standards and be successful. Maybe it means Saturday school, like we implemented in Dallas. Maybe it means tutors, and summer school. We have access to STAR, an excellent program that can help,” she said. “One thing is for certain. The only place we’re going is up.”
From Texas to Colorado
DeLay said she and her husband, Chuck DeLay, a contractor, decided to look into moving to Colorado after their son and daughter-in-law, both teachers, accepted teaching jobs in southwestern Colorado.
“He’s our only child,” said DeLay of son Nick, “and we wanted to live nearby.”
DeLay started researching school districts on the Internet, and found the principal opening at Carbondale Elementary.
“I wasn’t exactly sure where Carbondale was, but my husband did and he was all for it,” she said, with a smile.
Once DeLay landed the job in Carbondale, the next step was finding a rental home that would accept the couple’s three dogs – mutts named Cheyenne, Molly and Gypsy. DeLay had rescued two of the dogs after they’d been dumped in the neighborhood near DeLay’s former school in Dallas.
“The dogs are part of the family,” DeLay said. “But every want ad we read said `no dogs,’ `no dogs, `no dogs.'”
Finally the DeLays found a rental house three miles from school, just outside of town, that allowed pets.
“I feel like we’ve come home,” said DeLay. “The people here are so nice and helpful. Every morning I wake up and I’m excited to get to school. I’m glad to be here.”
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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