Gilmore: Coronado High staff is bringing energy, passion and dedication

Coronado High School Principal, Chris Gilmore. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

As the Coronado Success Initiative gets under way Chris Gilmore is taking the helm as principal at Coronado High School.

Mr. Gilmore is just starting his first year at the Scottsdale Unified School District. While official contracts generally begin over the summer, Mr. Gilmore has been focusing on the task-at-hand for a couple of months.

This past spring, the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board approved an overhaul of Coronado High School, coined the Coronado Success Initiative. Pointing to low graduation, attendance and college-ready rates, the school district began a total school restructuring.

Changes already happening include additional technology for teachers, hands-on specialized training and additional tutoring availability for students.

Read below to get to know Mr. Gilmore, and learn about new changes expected for the Coronado community as he details his excitement and enthusiasm for the initiative:


Where did you grow up and go to school?

I grew up in southern California, San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles, city of Glendora. Graduated from Glendora High School. After high school I attended Northern Arizona University where I eventually received my bachelors and master’s degree.


What led you to become a teacher?

I wanted to become a teacher to make a difference in the lives of students.

I was a history teacher and had the opportunity with my family to visit many national parks, museums, art galleries, and learning about many cultures across the United States. Those are things you could not learn about in the history books.

I wanted to bring those artifacts, studies, first-hand impressions to my classroom so I can give the whole story in history. Bringing that passion and energy that I learned out in the field of history/social studies I wanted to bring to the classroom and translate that excitement to the students.


Is this your first position as a principal?

This is not my first position as principal. I was the principal at Winslow High School for nine years, assistant principal for one year, school counselor for three years, and a history/social studies teacher.

I also coached softball, wrestling, football, teen court sponsor, student council sponsor, Special Olympics coach, and Grand Canyon club sponsor. In total I worked for Winslow High School for 19 years. It was a great community to raise my family (Dylan 15, Hailey 13, and wife Whitney). We are going to miss the great people of Winslow and wish them continued success.


What are some of your personal interests and hobbies?

I like to work hard and play hard. When I am not at work I love traveling around the Colorado Plateau. I love flyfising, river rafting the Colorado River and San Juan River, camping in wild areas of Southern Utah and exploring the Big 5 Utah National Parks.


Coronado High School has some new changes coming in the next couple of years after the SUSD governing school board implemented the Coronado Success Initiative — How did that play into your decision to take the job as principal?

I love change in education. So often we think that education worked for me when I went through school and that’s how education needs to be for current generations.

I love the quote by Thomas Guskey, “Too often in education we don’t want to try something new until we see examples of other schools or teachers who have already done it. Advances in education do not come from imitation; they come from innovation.”

That is exactly what appealed to me with this initiative. We have many great partners the district has aligned Coronado to be partnered with. From the Charros Foundation, ASU MLFT college, ASU iTeach program, district support, and the community wanting to bring back the pride and traditions of the school. There are so many individuals and organizations that want us to do well really appealed to me.


How did you feel about taking on such a big initiative?

After being in Winslow for 19 years I was part of many great changes for students. Bringing that toolbelt of success to Coronado really got me excited.

One of my shining moments at WHS was instilling that college-going culture in that community and raising the graduation rate from 72 percent to 92 percent, RAMP the counseling cffice (Recognized Americans School Counseling Association Model Program) only three-four high schools have that honor in AZ; school wide ACT testing, PBiS, ECAPS, LINKS crew, Student Assistance Programs, GEAR Up initiatives, and instilling a growth mindset with staff to meet the needs of students and families in that community.

Coronado has many of those same challenges only in an urban setting. I am excited to work with a new community, staff, and district bringing that college and career culture to Coronado.


What are you excited for most next school year?

I am most excited about working with a new student body and staff this new school year. Understanding the pride, tradition, and culture of Coronado High School.

I have met so many great people in my career in education and Coronado seems to be the underlying point of pride in the Valley. I am also excited to work with such a great group of professionals from the school board, district office, community members that want to see Coronado succeed.


What are you working on this summer?

We just completed five days of professional development with staff. We had Dr. Dockterman from Harvard University talk about growth mindset, teachers received new laptops and began working on websites, ASU held two design days, and SUSD provided professional development on student engagement strategies.

Staff at Coronado will be starting earlier from the rest of the district and we are planning on more professional development to meet the needs of the CSI. We are also working on finalizing the staff for the summer and ensuring that all the student requests are fulfilled.

We also are working with ASU to ensure that their teacher interns are placed in classrooms to give support. We are working with organizations in how they can help succeed in the initiative. But overall, I am working on building those relationships with staff so they know who I am and I know who they are so we can have a great year!


What challenges do you see as you look to begin a new school year?

The biggest challenge I see for the new school year with so many new staff members on campus is building relationships with students so they feel they are connected to the school and their education.

Having staff work an extra hour after school to offer tutoring, clubs/organizations, and serve as mentors to students will be that answer. In working with the staff a couple weeks ago they are excited to build those relationships with students so they feel a part of the Coronado community.


I’ve heard you have already begun meeting with the community — why is that important to you?

Having the community support is crucial in the success with the initiative. I wanted to meet with them so they can see that I care about the success of the students. I wanted to listen to them and take into consideration their thoughts about success at Coronado.

Coronado is a point of pride for so many that live in the area but even more so with the many alumni that have graduated from here and live throughout the Valley. It is no secret that having community support of a school equals school success.

When schools, parents, families, and communities work together that equals student success. I want the community to know that I always have an open door policy and are willing to meet with them. Please walk up and introduce yourself if you see me around the community and let’s talk about those traditions and give me input on the success of Coronado.


Are there any goals set for next year?

We have many goals for the upcoming school year. Again one of my main goals is for myself and staff to begin the relationships with the students and listen to their needs in education.

I want to begin instilling college-going initiatives to ensure that students get some type of post-secondary education. That could be through EVIT, Scottsdale Community College, trade school, or university.

We will be having a College Application Campaign on Nov. 1 where 100 percent of seniors will be applying for at least one college. We will be pushing 100 percent of the senior class to fill out the FAFSA.

Research shows that if a student fills out the FAFSA they are 90 percent more likely to attend a post-secondary institution. Giving students support after school through tutoring and mentoring programs, ECAP plans (personal learning plans), and engaging the community into the success of our school.


What does being a Coronado Don mean to you?

A Don to me represents resiliency, pride in culture/community, someone that is not afraid to take risks and explore the unknown. I like saying someone that Refines, Redesigns, and Reimagines education. Willing to look outside the normal paradigms of education and is willing to meet the needs of the individual and school.


Is there anything you would like the community to know?

When I met with staff a couple of weeks ago I challenged them to write a school headline they would like to read a year from now in the local newspaper.

They came up with: DON 2.0, Coronado Expands Learning Opportunities, Coronado demonstrates exceptional growth, Coronado Graduation Rate increases, Dons beat the odds and rise to the top, Coronado HS infuses longstanding Tradition with new innovations to expand opportunities for student success, Coronado HS earns A-plus rating, More Dons donning Caps and Gowns, CSI reveals superlative strategies, Every student at CHS is College/Career Ready, Coronado Explorers Find Their Place Among the Stars, Coronado Dons Conquer CSI.

I love the energy, passion, and dedication that the staff is bringing to the new school year and that will equal student success.

Mission — Empower Every Don to Achieve More


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