Aspen superintendent Sirko to take state education post |

Aspen superintendent Sirko to take state education post

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Aspen Times file

ASPEN – Aspen schools Superintendent Diana Sirko has been appointed deputy commissioner of education for the state of Colorado and will resign her post in Aspen in June, she announced Tuesday.

Her husband, Mike Sirko, will stay on as coach of the Aspen High School football team after leading the Skiers to a 9-3 record and their third consecutive postseason appearance this past fall.

“It’s probably one of the first things people will ask,” she said, laughing.

The Sirkos, currently residents of Aspen School District housing, will be house hunting in the Roaring Fork Valley, added Diana, who plans to commute to an office in Denver after she takes her new post.

Sirko, 56, will become one of two deputy commissioners in the Colorado Department of Education, in charge of curriculum and instruction. She will head up implementation of new state instructional standards over the next two years and assessment efforts.

Last November, during the Aspen School Board election, Sirko hinted at retirement within the next four years. It will be the opportunity to impact education at the state level, though, rather than retirement, that lures Sirko away from the superintendent’s post.

“So far, I still love my work. It’s hard to think of not doing it,” she said.

The School Board, which met Monday, has barely begun to discuss finding Sirko’s successor, board president Charla Belinski said Tuesday, expressing mixed feelings about her departure.

“We are very excited for her,” Belinski said. “It’s a very deserved appointment.

“She’s also been an incredible leader and a great friend to a lot of people in the community,” Belinski added.

Sirko came to Aspen in 2003, from Colorado Springs School District 11, where she was deputy superintendent of one of the largest school districts in the state.

Her tenure in Aspen saw construction of the new Aspen Middle School, the construction of an addition onto the elementary school and improvements to the athletic complex. She is proud, she said, of the increasing percentage of Aspen graduates who continue their education at a college or university.

Aspen, Sirko said, is “a community that’s extremely supportive of education.

“It was a hard decision just because I have really loved and enjoyed the system,” she added.

The community’s high expectations for its school system present a welcome challenge, Sirko said. Her successor, though, will face other challenges, as well.

The district has been told to anticipate a loss of $800,000 to $1.4 million in state funding for operations in the next school year. Sirko, whose resignation is effective June 4, will be here to guide the district as it drafts its 2010-11 budget this spring.

Sirko is a native Coloradan and a graduate of Denver Public Schools. She received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Colorado’s public universities. Her career as an educator in Colorado has spanned 35 years.

“It’s very exciting for me as a life-long member of Colorado’s educational system, to try to have an impact at the state level; to do what’s best for all kids across the entire state,” she said in a prepared statement.

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