Principled Approach: Sueltenfuss ready for new role

By Steve Smith
Posted 6/22/11

If enthusiasm is contagious, the students at Fort Lupton High School are in for quite a dose come this fall.

    Former FLHS assistant principal Alice Sueltenfuss now heads …

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Principled Approach: Sueltenfuss ready for new role


If enthusiasm is contagious, the students at Fort Lupton High School are in for quite a dose come this fall.

    Former FLHS assistant principal Alice Sueltenfuss now heads the school, and she may just be the most excited person on campus, months before the first class of the 2011-12 school year.
    Sueltenfuss, tabbed for the interim top spot by Weld RE-8 Superintendent Mark Payler, brings more than just enthusiasm to the job, offering nearly three decades in education overall. It’s a family business for her. Her mother and grandmother are veterans of the profession, and her husband is a teacher as well. In addition, the district selected veteran instructional/student achievement coach Marci Horton as assistant principal, teamed with Sueltenfuss as an educational power combo.
    “Together, we provide skills that supplement the experience we both have,” Sueltenfuss, said. “Marci comes from an instructional background, while I come from an behavioral background. It’s a very good match, and we will do an interim for one year and prove ourselves.”
    Sueltenfuss has been more involved with at-risk students over the past several years, garnering impressive results.
    “I was responsible for Freshman Academy and all interventions in the school,” Sueltenfuss said.  “So we are talking about all alternative education departments, all students who were not successful during the day. I worked closely with those kids and helped them to graduate.”
    An unqualified success, the alternative programs graduated dozens of students who might not have otherwise received a diploma. A prime example is the academy, a transition program for new students at FLHS.
    “It was developed so freshmen transferring over would experience success,” Sueltenfuss explained. “Seven years ago when I was doing this, even six years ago, by November, I was working with the freshmen, and I had 40 percent of all freshmen experiencing one ‘F’ or more.”
    Now with the academy program bridging the gap between middle and high school, that number has plummeted below 10 percent, an impressive gain by any measure. The original freshman academy students will be seniors this fall, and Sueltenfuss has nothing but high hopes for the 2012 graduation rate.
    If a couple students fall behind, she has a plan for them, too.
    “We have an online program called PLATO. It’s a web-based program,” Sueltenfuss explained. “We are using that not only for the alternative ed kids, but for credit recovery. Say a student fails freshman English-A. What are we going to do with that student?”
    The answer, according to Sueltenfuss, is PLATO, an online learning solution the school uses to bridge the gap for students.
    “We have freshman English A, and a multitude of classes. They can do web-based classes, which colleges want them to know how to do, and it helps our graduation rate,” Sueltenfuss explained, continuing with an example.
     “Say you failed this class, and you need a full load of classes next year. How about on your own time or after school with tutoring in the PLATO lab we will help you do this class?” she said.
    The program has helped so much that only two students failed to graduate this past year, and the school is working to remedy that with plans for a summer or next year graduation for that pair.
    It’s a tribute to Sueltenfuss’ varied experience in education, and skill with at-risk youth, a product of years spent in public schools. Sueltenfuss has 18 ½ years under her belt as a teacher and another 10 in educational administration – nearly three decades of on the job training.
    It’s also in her blood.
    “My mother was a teacher, and my grandmother was a teacher,” Sueltenfuss said.
    Sueltenfuss arrived in Colorado almost 30 years ago with her husband Paul and 4-year-old daughter Gina, planning to stay perhaps five years and finish her and Paul’s education. The ultimate goal was to return to San Antonio. But those plans fell by the wayside when the family fell in love with the surroundings.
    Paul teaches special education at John Evans Middle School in Greeley, Gina is an accomplished businesswoman and son Jeremy, 26, is a biologist working at C.S.U. on wetlands projects while chasing his master’s. Perhaps predictably, he married a teacher, Amy, who works in Windsor. The Sueltenfuss’ other daughter, Alisa, died tragically nine years ago in a car at accident at age 16, but she is still present as a comfort to Sueltenfuss.
    Despite holding back tears talking about Alisa, Sueltenfuss draws upon her memory as a reservoir of strength when working with at-risk teens.
    “She helps me with the kids,” Sueltenfuss said. “I think of her when I am dealing with struggling teenage girls.”
    Culturally, Sueltenfuss enjoys a strong affinity within the community, a place of mutual respect and tolerance.
    “I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, a very diverse community and part of my heritage as well,” Sueltenfuss said. “I have Hispanic nieces and nephews, I love the culture here. This is a very comfortable place for me.
    “What I love about Fort Lupton is that this small community takes care of each other, and it is very endearing to watch,” Sueltenfuss added. “I have friends who teach in other districts, and they have students who live on their own, who live on the streets. Sometimes we have a student in a tough situation, and there is always a family that takes care of them.”
     Not surprisingly, the concern for others that she holds precious within the community is a cornerstone for her educational philosophy, one in which each student’s success is critical on both a personal and professional level.
    “I’ve always said that all people, and especially all children, can be successful,” Sueltenfuss said. “With the interventions I have been working with over the past few years, now I know we have the pathways for them to be successful, productive citizens in their community and be happy with themselves.
    “You can never write a student off,” Sueltenfuss added. “Never, ever. Everyone, in his or her own time.”


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