Tim Ottmann: Foundation of Ponderosa High School

Tim Ottmann: The Foundation of Ponderosa High School
Posted on 04/05/2022

Tim Ottmann: The Foundation of Ponderosa High School

What builds a school? Concrete, rebar, bricks, and relationships. The first three are obvious, but relationships form invisible cultural foundations that define a school as much as its building. Nothing could be more true for Ponderosa High School in Parker.

The most remarkable piece of Ponderosa High School’s foundation is Principal Tim Ottmann.

Throughout his career, Ottmann has been a teacher, an administrator, a principal, and above all, a coach. After 31 years as a central figure at Ponderosa High School, Tim Ottmann is retiring.

Ottmann’s professional and personal journey has closely intertwined with Ponderosa High School’s journey. And it all began with a new high school in a rural town.

Ponderosa High School opened in 1983 under the leadership of Principal Pat Grippe. At the time, students from the north of Parker to the south of Franktown attended the school. Throughout the late ‘80s and early ’90s, its large student body meant top talent.

“It was so easy to be the best with so many kids,” says Christy Kidd, who arrived at Ponderosa High School in 1995. “We even had two marching band directors!”

Ottmann stepped into this thriving atmosphere in 1990 as the P.E. teacher, the Head Wrestling Coach, and the Head Boys Tennis Coach. As a coach, Ottmann began to put down roots at Ponderosa High School.

Karenmarie Barker, Ottmann’s Administrative Assistant and school bookkeeper, has known Ottmann since she was a student (Class of 1996). She has known Ottmann as a teacher, an athletic director, a friend, and now, a boss.

“All the students loved him,” Barker recalls. “I was the treasurer for my class. He was super easy to get along with. He was very, very well-liked by the student body.”

Soon, Ottmann’s roots at Ponderosa High School began to expand. For Ottmann, family and the school are the same. Literally.Ottmanns with trophies

In 1994, Ottmann met his current wife, Angela, when she moved from California and started a Poms team at Ponderosa High School.

“She’s been very successful as the dance coach, winning 11 state championships,” he says.

“And I was pretty decent at wrestling, winning eight state championships,” he added modestly.

Though he is humble about his accomplishments, Ottmann’s success as a coach is undeniable.

Assistant Principal Jarod Nicholson says, “Tim is Mr. Ponderosa. His legacy here will be on the Mount Rushmore of Ponderosa. He’s just so accomplished, so decorated in everything he’s done.

“There are records there that will never be broken in state history.”

In his role as Athletic Director, Ottmann hired Nicholson 14 years ago as the Head Baseball Coach. Nicholson says he had the choice to coach at Poudre High School or Ponderosa High School.

“Knowing the legend of Tim Ottmann was a big selling point of choosing Ponderosa,” says Nicholson. “Being able to learn from someone like him in the coaching arena, he was a huge mentor for me personally.”

Christy Kidd, currently a counselor, was originally a coach and English teacher when Ottmann and Principal Bill Larson hired her.

“In coaching, there are a lot of tough conversations,” says Kidd. “I’ve seen him in so many difficult situations where he’s handled things with grace and poise. He has that kind of win-win personality.”

Success on the wrestling mat and the dance floor was even closer to home, with their son Jake being part of the team that won four state championships and their daughter Karli’s Poms team winning three state championships.

“There were a lot of great times, but there are also tough times when you’re coaching your own son or daughter,” asserts Ottmann. “There’s a lot of pressure with the teams. We had to learn how to separate family stuff from coaching stuff.”

“I would say that my wife was probably a bit better at it than I was,” he laughs.

Through their coaching, the Ottmanns created a culture that expected excellence and success. The basic building blocks of Ponderosa High School came from Tim and his wife.

Tim Ottmann and Son, Rocky Mountain NewsWhile Ottmann served as Athletic Director, Ponderosa High School’s student population began to shrink as Parker grew bigger. Chaparral High School opened in 1998, and Legend High School opened in 2008, redefining the enrollment boundaries.

“People had the perception that we were doing something bad because we were losing students. In reality, it was just a boundary change,” states Ottmann. “We had to work a lot on advertising and marketing and making sure people knew that the change wasn’t our fault. This is just development. This is what happens.”

So, the power couple of Tim and Angela Ottmann drove the effort to brand and market Ponderosa High School. It meant defining the school’s culture and vision in a way that attracted the best and brightest in the area. A high school confident in its purpose and identity emerged.

Kidd recalls, “We had to go out and promote, which was a new concept because we’re a neighborhood school. That was strange, but they knew how to do it. They kept the kids here and wanting to come to Ponderosa. We didn’t want to be the second-choice school.”

Ottmann’s guiding philosophy for tough times is simple: “Control what you can control. There are so many things happening that you can’t control. I think having the confidence to know you’re doing the right thing, no matter what.”

His longtime colleagues point out that Ponderosa High School’s success comes in part from Ottmann’s ability to connect with students, staff, teachers, families, and community members.

“The number one thing I’ve taken from him is being able to be relatable, being able to just have conversations with a vast majority of people from all facets. He’s that connector and that relationship builder,” says Nicholson.

Ottmann stepped into his latest role as Principal in 2018, and he feels that his role as Athletic Director was the ideal preparation.

“I think being an athletic director prepares you to be a principal because you’re always out in front of people,” says Ottmann. “You’re leading people. You’re dealing with problems. I think it’s the best preparation, and it’s how I lead.”

Ponderosa High School finally caught up with the newer schools thanks to the 2018 Bond passed by Douglas County voters.

Over the summers of 2019 and 2020, Ponderosa High School went through extensive capital improvements: complete flooring replacement in classrooms and hallways, asbestos removal, new and upgraded HVAC systems, new fire alarm system, new gym bleachers, new roofing, and upgraded elevators. Bond funding also transformed Career and Technical Education (CTE) learning spaces for automotive, welding, construction trades, and culinary arts programs. Industry-standard equipment provides students an opportunity to earn industry certifications and college credit.

New Carpet Thanks to 2018 Bond Ponderosa“This is really the best Ponderosa has ever looked. We went from tile to carpet and got new paint and logos and landscaping,” says Ottmann. “We feel we’re more competitive.”

Although Ottmann will be handing his role to someone else at the end of the school year, the culture he has fostered and the relationships he has built will live on.

“We’ve had 28 graduates come back to work at Ponderosa,” Ottmann brags.

Ottmann’s influence will live on in the culture of high achievement that was embraced and upheld by the school community. His torch will be carried on.

“We hear all the time from people who walk into Ponderosa that it has a different feel and a different vibe. I’m hoping that moving forward, that’s our bedrock,” says Nicholson. “That’s who we are. Small school, family feel.”

Kidd says, “I was a teacher in other states, but there’s no place like Ponderosa. No place. There’s just something about it. It’s amazing. I could never work anyplace else. Tim Ottmann is a huge part of that.”

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