Riverdale Elementary principal, Kristin Golden, earned the prestigious National Distinguished Principal of The Year award for the state of Colorado on Feb. 1, 2018. The National Distinguished Principals (NDP) program was established in 1984 to recognize elementary and middle level principals who ensure children acquire a sound foundation for lifelong learning and achievement. Principals who receive the award lead a school that is committed to excellence, has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and has firm ties to parents and the community.
Under the leadership of Golden and her staff, student achievement at Riverdale has increased at a remarkable rate, resulting in the school rising from Priority Improvement status to Performance status - the highest rating awarded to schools by the state of Colorado - in just one year. This turnaround was not only noticed by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, it also caught the attention of the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and a network of her peers from across the state.
“We have truly shifted our culture here at Riverdale,” said Golden. “The staff have worked so diligently to make sure students get exactly what they need, and in turn, the students are doing their best work.”
Earlier this year, Riverdale was highlighted in a “Bright Spot Visit” by the CDE Turnaround Network - a network of schools and CDE representatives that focuses on providing support and guidance to schools with lower performance ratings. Throughout the visit, teachers, administrators and support staff from across Colorado had a chance to observe the instructional framework, positive school culture and leadership that helped launch Riverdale into a Performance rating.
In addition to being recognized by her colleagues from across the state, Golden and her staff at Riverdale have seen a consistent increase in test scores over the past five years, a decrease in students identified with having a significant reading deficiency, and academic growth rise to the top 20 percent of schools across the state.
Riverdale has received its fair share of praise over the last year, but you won’t hear Golden boasting; in fact, most of her achievements are rarely made public without one of her colleagues leaking the good news.
“This humility and grace is such a part of her everyday interactions, which is why she is sought after to mentor others,” said Kari Cocozzella, executive director of schools.
Humble and hardworking describe not only the Riverdale Principal but her staff as well. Their commitment to developing young “career-bound scholars,” a term used by Golden since joining the school in 2014, is evidence of their contagious student-first mentality.
Although academic achievement is often attributed to curriculum, resources and instruction, Golden and the school staff credit the positive school culture for the recent student success at Riverdale.
Each morning, students look up at a television in the corner of their classroom to watch Golden talk about the weekly class awards, what’s on the lunch menu and scholarly habits followed by the school chant that all students and staff recite proudly: Good, better, best…Never let it rest…Until your good is better…And your better is best!
As Colorado’s National Distinguished Principal of the Year, Golden will travel to Washington D.C. this fall to represent the state of Colorado at the 2018 National Distinguished Principals event. While there, she will have the opportunity to collaborate with other well-respected school leaders from across the country.