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The first of its kind in Douglas County, the new Parker Performing Arts School opens its doors to 850 students

Jennifer Burgess

Left: Jennifer Burgess, Principal of the Parker Performing Arts School

PARKER—What started out as an idea for a new arts-oriented school four years ago by a small group of parents is finally becoming a reality this Monday, as 850 students begin their first day at the new Parker Performing Arts School (PPA).

The K-8 charter school, the first of its kind in Douglas County, is structured so students spend half of the day in academic classes with the other half of the day focused on a rotation of six performing arts disciplines: dance and tumbling, instrumental music, vocal music, general music, visual arts and theatre.

While plans for the new school have been in the works for several years, the charter application was just filed with Douglas County School District (DCSD) staff and approved by the Board of Education last year.

“They submitted an exemplary application, truly one of the best I’ve read,” said Tom McMillen, DCSD Director of Choice Programming. “It was nice to read detail like what a day in the life of a Parker Performing Arts School student would look like. The school plans were very well thought out.”

From there, the PPA Board moved swiftly, hiring principal Jennifer Burgess in February, and breaking ground on construction for the new facility in April. The PPA facility will open later this month (students will spend their first two weeks of classes in the adjacent PACE Center).

“The buzz for this school is unbelievable,” said Burgess, who will be opening the school to near-capacity enrollment. “This is in-demand in the town of Parker, which is an arts mecca. I’m excited that this school gets to be a piece of that.”

Parker Performing Arts teachers and staff at their first training before the new school opens.

Burgess is no stranger to Douglas County or charter schools. For five years prior to her hiring with PPA, she served as Principal for SkyView Academy, another Douglas County-based charter school.

It was through some parents in her neighborhood that Burgess was introduced to PPA.

“Some parents in my community were really excited about this school, and I just kept hearing about it and hearing about it,” she said. “One night a mom was just kind of joking and said ‘well you’re a principal, right? We’re looking for a principal. You should do this!’ In October, I attended a fundraiser for Parker Performing Arts and met some of the Board members, and we hit it off. I went through a pretty rigorous interview process with them and competed against 99 other applicants. I’m so thrilled to be in this position today!”

Burgess was previously involved in the arts herself in high school, both as a dancer and as an instrumentalist playing several instruments.

“The arts taught me things outside of the general classroom. It taught me poise, confidence, management, perseverance, dedication and motivation, and that really stuck with me. I feel like my training in the arts prepared me for the human side of life and it even prepared me to do this job today,” she said.

“I see this school as a place for kids to be who they want to be and an opportunity for them to learn in a variety of ways,” she said. “I also see our arts focus as a way to give back to our community and grow our community.”

In fact, the new facility houses a 350-seat mainstage theatre and 100-seat blackbox theatre, which PPA plans to make available to small community groups at affordable rental rates. The mainstage theatre also has an orchestra pit, which is a rare feature in elementary or middle school theatre spaces.

Burgess also sees PPA as an opportunity for kids who may have struggled academically to thrive in this new environment.

“When I started thinking about this school I started thinking about possibilities for kids. All of the students who are sometimes not successful in academic coursework but are very talented and very gifted in other ways, this school would be a good place for them. It would be a place where they could succeed as a human being all around,” she said.

“We are going to prepare our students for wherever it is they want to go to be successful—   as performers, scholars and leaders, and also as quality character human beings.”

Students interested in attending the PPA do not need to come to the school with any prior experience in the arts and there is not an audition process. As a charter school, students are selected via an unrestricted lottery system. For more information, visit

September 8, 2016 | By CSilberman | Category: Charter Schools, Choice Programming

District News

graduates standing in line outside, smiling

DOUGLAS COUNTY – Graduation rates in the Douglas County School District (DCSD) continue to climb. Data released today by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) shows the on-time, four-year graduation rate is now 90.4 percent.

DCSD students also made an impressive showing at graduation. The class of 2017 earned more than $82 million in scholarships.

DCSD has one of the highest graduation rates in the Denver metro area. According to CDE, DCSD graduation rates have risen steadily from 81.9 percent in 2009 to 90.4 percent in 2017.

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The top two-percent of female athletes in Douglas County School District (DCSD) were honored at the annual Girls and Women in Sports Luncheon last week at Chaparral High School. This year represented the 30th national celebration of Girls and Women in Sports Day, created to encourage and promote the participation of girls in athletics. The girls who were honored were selected by their school’s coaches, athletic directors and principals for their outstanding achievements.

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Working through the recent winter break, the Douglas County School District Board of Education has kicked off its search for DCSD’s next permanent superintendent. Following a thorough vetting of potential search firms, Ray & Associates (no relation to Board Director David Ray) has been hired to conduct the national search. The cost of the firm, excluding travel expenses, is $40,000. The money will come from the school board's budget, which is used for costs such as legal expenses and conferences.