Sargent School district celebrates 100 years

MONTE VISTA—Sargent Schools celebrated their 100th anniversary as a school district by hosting a reunion celebration Saturday, July 1 attended by alumni from many different eras and generations.

Founded by C.G. Sargent in November of 1917, the Sargent School District has changed with the times and continues to find innovative ways to bring a quality education to their students.

The reunion opened with comments from current school administrators recognizing what makes Sargent unique. David Steinert, president of the Board of Education, opened with some facts about the country in 1917, including that a car cost $400, which most people could not afford. John D. Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire and the United States entered World War I. Now, Steinert pointed out that the average new car costs around $35,000, a house around $270,000 and there are now over 2,000 billionaires in the world.

Besides these statistics, Steinert pointed out the state of education is different as well. Colorado is now 39 out of 50 states in per pupil education funding, and “You all remember the three Rs?” Steinert asked, “Those have become science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).”

Steinert praised the district for also focusing on the importance of the arts as well, making STEAM just as important. He went on to note the school administration and staff “…are ready and willing to face challenges” in providing the best education.

Steinert also recognized Greg Slover, the new superintendent of Sargent Schools, on his first day on the job, but joked Slover shouldn’t expect this kind of reception for everything and stated he looked forward to his leadership in the next century of Sargent schools, before jokingly correcting himself, “Well, not the whole century.”

Steinert thanked all of the staff and volunteers who made the event possible, as well as all of the alumni in attendance, “You all played a part in making Sargent what it is today… thank you for being part of the Sargent school family.”

Elementary Principal Joni Hemmerling fondly remembered her time at Sargent, where she attended from kindergarten through graduation with the class of 2001. She also stated “this school is very special to me and my family,” noting her grandfather graduated with the class of 1940, her father graduated with the class of 1968 and her mom worked at the school for 30 years. Hemmerling met her husband Brett there as well.

She stated Sargent is one of a few districts to receive the status of “accredited with distinction” and boasts a 100 percent graduation rate. She read the names of alumni who are now doctors, veterinarians and high ranking military officials, as well as noting Jeff Hart, famous worldwide for his role in saving the lives of Chilean miners in 2010, was also a graduate. Hemmerling also discussed the close ties Sargent has to its educators and noted many current teachers there are Sargent grads, and she helped develop a scholarship for Sargent seniors who attend Adams State University for teaching. Hemmerling closed by asking the assembled alumni for their continued support of Sargent schools, not just monetarily but through spreading the word about Sargent’s success stories.

Jr./Sr. High Principal Ronna Cochran discussed how she has spent nearly a third of Sargent’s 100 years there and noted the immense pride that community members take in their school. “Despite seven years of funding shortfalls of over $400,000” Cochran noted Sargent students and community members are still successful.

The class of 2017 earned over $900,000 in scholarships, and Cochran praised how many students compete nationally in various academic and extracurricular clubs. Sargent High School also offers concurrent courses, Advanced Placement courses and numerous STEAM and STEM courses. She also spoke about the technology changes that Sargent has seen, beginning with a single Apple II, followed by a dot matrix printer in the hallway the following year and on through the mill levy that has enabled Sargent to bring desktops, Chrome books and other modern technology to every classroom.

Cochran then read statements from alumni from many different eras, asking them to answer the question, “What does Sargent mean to you?” She received answers that varied from the single word, “awesome” to statements like “Sargent means family,” “a truly outstanding school with an amazing quality education that helped me in my adult endeavors” to “the big fish of small schools…”

Retired Principal John Tillman thanked everyone on the planning committee who made the reunion events possible. He also thanked the contributions of the FBLA club, elementary and high school National Honor Society, Booster Club, athletes, the Sargent Educational Foundation, the Sargent food service staff, maintenance staff and administrative staff, the Monte Vista Co-op and Locavores restaurant, who catered lunch. Tillman recognized the oldest alumnus in attendance and had people stand up to represent the decade they graduated in.

Florence (De Sautell) Shortsbeck, of the class of 1937 was the only representative present from any graduating class in the 1930s. Mildred Hart of the class of 1942 was also there as was Bob Myer from the class of 1944. Graduates from the 1960s and 1970s make up the majority of the attendees, with the class of 1967 hosting their 50-year reunion Friday evening, but the other decades were certainly not lacking. Approximately 500 alumni attended the 100-year anniversary celebration and reunion.

Following the comments, alumni toured the schools, looking at the modern classroom equipment and enjoyed a trip down memory lane through the junior high hallway to the library, with glass cases full of memorabilia from many different eras, club awards, athletic awards, uniforms and much more. The library held annuals and class photos that attendees could make copies of.

The commons area also included booths about the Sargent Educational Foundation, a proposed landscaping project, history books about the Sargent and Stanley districts, 100 year hats and t-shirts were available for sale and an empty chair memorial was set up to symbolize classmates who have passed away. The reunion attendees took a group photo in the gym following lunch and formed a 100 on the football field for an aerial photo taken by a drone. Many of the attendees spent their time running into old classmates and friends, reminiscing on old memories and making new ones.

Caption: The attendees make a 100 for a commemorative aerial drone photo. Courtesy photo by Chelsea McNerney-Martinez