New superintendent steering the ship at Gilpin County School

David MacKenzie has student-centered philosophy

By Patty Unruh

Dr. David MacKenzie joined Gilpin County School as its new superintendent on April 1. The Gilpin position is MacKenzie’s first as a full-time superintendent.

Prior to coming to Gilpin, MacKenzie was the interim superintendent for seven months at Harrison School District in Colorado Springs. He served in that district for seven years, in the positions of assistant superintendent for instruction and executive director of human resources.

The Harrison school district is a fair bit larger than Gilpin, with approximately ten thousand students, but MacKenzie has experience in serving districts of fewer than eight hundred students. He has worked at Calhan in Eastern El Paso County, which is a small rural district on the plains and has some similarities to Gilpin – a small community atmosphere, where people are supportive of the school and of each other’s kids.

MacKenzie’s experience as an educator also includes eleven years as a middle school and high school teacher in Missouri and Colorado, as well as another eleven years as a middle school and high school principal in Colorado Springs.

He earned his doctorate at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs in 2010 and received his undergraduate degree in 1981 and graduate degrees in 1988 and 1991 from Missouri State.

MacKenzie’s philosophy of education is student focused. “The most important interaction at school is between the teacher and the student,” he said. “Everything we do should be student centered and focused, and this is founded in instruction, curriculum, and assessment. It is good to have sports, clubs, and so forth, but academics should be the main focus.”

MacKenzie was interested in Gilpin because of the support that the parents, students, and teachers have demonstrated for the school. Since he has been at Gilpin, he has spent time observing in the classrooms and had positive comments about the instruction. “I’m very impressed by the quality of the teachers and by the accomplishments that the students have with their work. These are good teachers and good students doing good work.” He likes to work with teachers, observe their instruction, and help the teachers do the best job they can to instruct their students.

He believes there are three main areas to focus on at Gilpin: aligning the curriculum so that the students are tested on what they are being taught, incorporating research-based instruction strategies so that teachers can teach more effectively, and improving student test scores. He wants families to stay here and to encourage other families to come.

MacKenzie is a Pennsylvania native; his father worked for an oil company and relocated the family to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1971, where he attended high school and some college. He spoke with some irony of the Sooner state. “Oklahoma has the best of everything humidity brings,” he noted wryly, “like mosquitos and snakes.”

As a youth, MacKenzie was a Boy Scout and also served as a Scout leader as an adult. He said that he enjoyed camping in the Colorado woods, but hasn’t done it for a while. He spends most of his time working, but does enjoy woodworking, painting, doing repairs and handyman jobs around the house.

MacKenzie is living in temporary housing here and plans to make a permanent move to the county. He is engaged to be married soon. His fiancé has two children, ages seven and five, and they all plan to relocate here and have the children attend Gilpin next school year.

He confesses that he has never seen a bear or mountain lion in all his time in Colorado, but says he is looking forward to seeing the local wildlife. Our recent snows do not faze him; he related that as a boy, he shoveled plenty of snow in Pennsylvania, although he said big snows like ours were few and far between. He added that he used a snow blower for the first time last week.

So far, MacKenzie likes Gilpin. “It appears to have a great quality of life,” he stated. “I think Gilpin is great, and I’m honored to be the superintendent.”

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