Hello our wonderful Osprey community:
With just a few months before Animas High School enters its tenth year of operation, we have experienced a tremendous amount of growth and change. There are many accomplishments to celebrate and many opportunities that lie ahead. Throughout our first decade, we have held true to our core values: rigorous education, engaged learning, personalization, equitable education, and teacher-as-designer. The purpose of these core values, along with our mission and vision, is to serve as our northern star, guiding us as we continue to evolve. We can not be everything to everyone, or we risk being nothing to no one. Through these lens, let’s look back over the past year at some of our celebrations.
Rigorous Academics:

  • Our college perseverance rate has inched up to 90% as measured by the percentage of college freshmen students who return for a second year, in comparison to 68% nationally
  • Our college and career program received an honorable mention award from the Colorado Department of Education, recognizing the strong work we do in this area with students in all grades
  • We were given a 5 year renewal by the Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI), an honor reserved for the highest quality schools in CSI’s portfolio
  • We were named a Distinction school by the Colorado Charter School Institute, an honor awarded to schools ranked in the top 25% of CSI schools, as rated by the annual School Performance Framework and CSI Annual Review of Schools (CARS)
  • Roughly 80 students took a college course taught by our teachers over the last year.
  • The Class of 2017 had 100% college acceptance
  • 100% of class of 2018 has applied to at least one college
  • Our average graduation rate is 95.8% versus 81.7% for Durango 9-R

Engaged Learning:

  • According to our data from our 2017 annual survey:
    • Our families have a positive satisfaction with our school (overall rating of 3.64 out of 5)
    • Our students have a positive satisfaction with our school (overall rating of 3.39 out of 5)
  • Our retention rates, which means the number of students who stay at AHS once they enroll,  are among the highest in our history (89.4% for the 2017-2018 school year as compared to our historical average of 88.98%)
  • The Class of 2017 tackled roughly 60 individually-generated, real world questions that reflect their diverse interests in their Senior Projects including:
    • Is discretionary or rules-based monetary policy better when considering crisis avoidance?
    • What can the neuroscience behind Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)  teach us about trauma within the brain, and how can this invoke new processes to help those who have experienced trauma?
    • What does the modern-day ivory trade in Africa look like, and what anti-poaching methods have proven to be effective? How can these methods be used specifically in Zimbabwe to stop the rapidly growing trade?
    • In the context of an increasingly urban world, what are the physiological and psychological effects of human connection to nature?


  • With personalized support from their teachers, our students completed roughly 210 tPOLs and 250 POLs
    • Presentations of Learning and Transitional Presentations of Learning strive to make students comfortable with the uncomfortable aspects of professional presentations. Students get practice, with ample amounts of critique and support, in formats such as individual presentations, group presentations, mock interviews, leadership/legacy presentations, and project pitches. Throughout the process, evidence, critical thinking, and communication are the emphasis with seniors demonstrating unrivaled levels of competency.
  • Students participated in community events that help showcase our students ability to pursue their passions such as
    • The American Indian Measures of Success Leadership Challenge
      • High school students from across southwest Colorado were tasked with putting forth solutions to making school more engaging and relevant in order to learn at a deeper level.
    • A panel for a community conversation following the screening of the documentary The Mask You Live in
    • La Plata County/San Juan County Suicide Prevention Strategic Planning Session
    • Revamped AHS Student Ambassador Interview process (senior led)
    • Full day Restorative Approaches training for our Animas Restorative Team
    • AHS Mountain Bike team took second place in the state

Equitable Education:

  • Our students demographics are either the same or approaching those of Durango High School:
    • 17% Free and Reduced Lunch as compared to 19.7%
    • 9% English Language Learners as compared to 2.8%
    • 3% for Exceptional Student Services as compared to 10.4%
    • 30% First Generation Students (the state does not track this statistic, thus we have nothing to compare)
  • Our school has eliminated tracked or segregated classes through our grade level math and pod system.
    • Research suggests that removing ability grouping has an overall positive effect for all students, as supported by this article from Educational Leadership and the NPR Podcast The Problem We All Live With


  • We had some new, highly engaging projects:
    • Students in Ashley Carruth’s 11th grade Humanities Project, With Justice for All, explored root causes of and potential responses to Durango’s homelessness issue
    • Last year’s 9th grade team (Brian Morgan, Lauren Lucky, Sara Price, and Stephen Sellers) led students through an interdisciplinary Design our Future School Project using Design Thinking to envision our future campus
    • Aliza Cruz and Matt Dooley partnered last spring to lead an interdisciplinary Time and Space Project for sophomores where they create an immersive experience inspired by Meow Wolf
    • Lori Fisher and Kyle Edmondson added Senior Project Exhibition to the execution of this capstone project, making it even more powerful

In addition to the celebrations above, which fit neatly within our Core values, we can also celebrate that in the past year:

  • We had a January enrollment waitlist for 10th and 11th grade
  • We started a board strategic planning process slated to finish summer 2018

While all of this gives us reason to celebrate, the one constant for charter schools is change. We are given the task to be innovative and push what is possible in education. What this means is that we cannot rest on our laurels, be complacent or settle for being comfortable.  It also means that as a community we embrace the tinker’s and maker’s ethos of failing early and often. Jefferson County’s Superintendent Jason Glass recently encouraged parents in his community that they should be asking “… Is my child – whether 5 years old or 15 – learning in a way that’s different than I did? If they’re learning in about the same way, something’s wrong.” As we move into the new year, with our new year’s resolutions, we need to ask ourselves if we are letting the comfortable and familiar get in the way of preparing our students for an uncertain future. We are excited to keep moving forward, step by step, as we continue to refine our practice, push the boundaries of innovative education and work with each and every Osprey to create a supportive, meaningful educational experience. I would like to close with a thank you to our community. Without our wonderful students, staff, parents, board, and community our school would not a staple of Durango.  Thank you for your willingness to be innovative so that we can push what is possible for our students.
Sean Woytek ::  Head of School  ::  Animas High School
Tel: (970) 247-2474 | 2308
[email protected] | www.animashighschool.com