Magazine Feature / People

Alumna honored as Colorado’s principal of the year

Holly Hultgren (EdD ’81) has been an elementary school principal in Colorado for 20 years. In 2008, she was named a National Distinguished Principal of the Year.

She was selected by her peers in the Colorado Association of Elementary School Principals as the recipient for Colorado. One principal is chosen annually for this honor from each of the 50 states and D.C.

“It’s actually, from my perspective, a really culminating honor for someone in my role,” says Hultgren.

Hultgren is the principal of Lafayette Elementary School in the Boulder Valley School District. Lafayette was suffering from declining enrollment and decreasing academic achievement when Hultgren took over in 2005.

Four years later, enrollment has increased by more than 200 hundred students, she says.

“Holly is an inspiration. The minute she walked in this building, it felt different,” says Carolan Covington, who has taught at Lafayette for 14 years. “This award just solidified what we already knew about Holly. She deserved every bit of this.”

Fifteen to twenty percent of students at Lafayette are in special educational programs, which include from students with disabilities, to English language learners, and talented and gifted students. She used her DU education—which focused on administration and gifted education—to develop Lafayette’s special education programs.

“She is a great role model to others that strive to be effective group leaders,” says Julie Marquez, Lafayette’s talented and gifted program coordinator and long-time friend to Hultgren. “She is the heart of the Lafayette Elementary Cougars.”

Hultgren also teaches future administrators. She has been an adjunct professor in DU’s Morgridge College of Education for the past 18 years. She teaches in the Weekend School Executive Preparation Program, which is dedicated to preparing aspiring school administrators.

“It goes beyond the school day and building,” Hultgren says. “A larger commitment I have is to make sure we have school administrators prepared and ready to lead in the future.”

“It’s been a real honor and a boost to a school that—in the past—struggled for positive recognition,” Hultgren says of her accomplishment. “It certainly isn’t something I did by myself. It’s an award I am proud to share with the entire community.”

Lafayette faculty members hope to continue the improvement curve and maintain the school’s quality programs and high community expectations.

“Dr. Hultgren’s award is a source of pride for our school and shows the deep commitment she has for our school community,” says Teri Mulford, teacher at Lafayette Elementary School for the past 10 years.

Watch a video of Hultgren’s acceptance speech.

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