Sheila Graham felt a connection to her colleagues as soon as she started working for the Cherry Creek School District.
The district was a much smaller operation in 1983, when Graham first signed on as a teacher at West Middle School. Graham, who came to Cherry Creek Schools after a short stint at another Colorado district, saw the growth of the district firsthand, as she played roles as special education coordinator, dean of students and principal at West, as well as posts as assistant principal at Falcon Creek and the district's executive director of middle schools.
Now, as Assistant Superintendent of Educational Support Services, Graham boasts a stint of four years on the Cherry Creek Schools District Leadership Team and, more impressively, more than 35 years as an employee of the district. The years have included plenty of changes in terms of size, personnel and scope, but Graham still sees a constant in the basic spirit of Cherry Creek Schools.
"The feeling of family hasn't changed," she said. "As soon as I came into Cherry Creek Schools, there was a feeling of family. Even though it was smaller, I felt it immediately, with the level of help and support. It became very clear, and I knew that this was where I wanted to be."
Graham's view of the district has ranged from a classroom teacher to an administrator, and her current post offers a firsthand, detailed view of a part of Cherry Creek Schools' operation that not many people consider. As Assistant Superintendent of Educational Support Services, Graham has a major role in maintaining the facilities that make learning possible. She also works closely with transportation, food and nutrition and planning and admissions, organizations that make learning possible on a daily basis.
"I said to myself when I got into this position that when I retire from Cherry Creek (Schools), I will have seen every single working facet of this district ... The feeling of family hasn't changed."
-- Sheila Graham, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Support Services for CCSD
Whether it's dealing with air conditioning systems, student nutrition or new schools, Graham has a direct tie to the basic operations of every building in the district. Her work also includes seeing the realization of promising visions for the future of the district infrastructure as approved by voters; for example, part of her most recent work has been moving forward on the diverse array of projects that were part of the most recent bond and budget measure approved in the fall.
"I said to myself when I got into this position that when I retire from Cherry Creek, I will have seen every single working facet of this district," said Graham, who has a master's degree in special education. "With my background in education, I have a love of building teams and building leadership and building new things all of the time. It's benefitted me in this position."
At its core, Graham's work shares a common thread with the basic philosophy that's marked her work since she started as a teacher in 1983. Just as the immediate focus as a teacher was on creating the most positive and enriching impact for students, her work with Educational Support Services focuses on creating the optimal spaces for learning and growth.
"We have always had a value of a level of quality for our kids. We want them to have buildings that are good places to learn, where they're not worrying about drips and leaks and temperatures and safety," said Graham, adding that the district will apply those same standards to the new buildings that will come as a result of the election. "All of those things will happen, thanks to the support of this bond and budget … With the new buildings, we're able to give our communities something to continue to be proud of."
It's a commitment that's tied inextricably to the district's commitment to excellence, Graham said, a value that's been going strong for her long and varied career in Cherry Creek Schools.
"In all that we do, the first question is, 'How does this positively impact kids?," Graham said. "That gets lost in some places. In the 35 years I've been in Cherry Creek, I've never felt that that's been lost."