Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Five named to Lewis-Palmer School District 38 hall of fame

By Carol McGraw Updated: September 23, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Five educators have been named to the newly created Lewis-Palmer School District 38 Hall of Fame.

They include former district officials Don Breese, principal; Ray E. Kilmer, superintendent; Norma Lavelett, secretary; Frank Royal, school board member, and the late Grace Best, teacher.

The awards, which will be given periodically, honors those who have made significant contributions to the success of D-38 and students.

"This is long over-due," stated Superintendent John Borman. "We are who we are because of people who did a lot of work which turned into the foundation of the amazing district. We don't want that history to be lost."

The district was founded in 1874 as Lewis School District 5. In the late 1880s Palmer Lake D-33 was created. The two districts merged in 1948. Located in Monument, the district now has about 6,000 students.

The inductees will be honored at a public reception, 7 p.m., Tuesday at the administration building, 146 Jefferson St., Monument.

The honorees were chosen by a nominating group of D-38, including community members, administrators and teachers, including retirees.

Here are excerpts from their biographies provided by the district:

-Grace Conrad Best: She was born in 1907 on a Sedalia farm, married Stuart Best in 1930, and they had three daughters. She received a teaching certificate from Colorado State Teachers College in Greeley, and graduated from Western State College in 1961. She taught ten years in other locations before coming to D-38, where she was an elementary teacher for 24 years. She was also an author and historian. She wrote eight children's novels about Jeremiah Mouse and his adventures in Palmer Lake. A district elementary school was named after her. The building is still being used for special programs. She was founding member of Palmer Lake Little Art Group, and involved in Palmer Lake Historical Society. She died in 1995.

-Don Breese: Born in Indiana, played basketball for Western New Mexico University where he graduated in 1958. He received a master's degree1969from Western State College. He and his wife Pat have two children. He began teaching physical education, history and drafting, and coaching the boys' basketball team at Lewis-Palmer High School After a month he was asked to be principal of Lewis-Palmer, which at the time was a small ranching district that had just regained state accreditation and was working on turn-around status. He also continued to teach six classes and coach three teams and drive the bus. In the early 1970s, the superintendent resigned and the elementary principal left, and Breese had to oversee those posts for a time. Besides serving as principal, he served as chairman of the Colorado High School Activities Association, and worked to bring competitive state sports for women in Colorado. He is in the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The district stadium complex is named in his honor.

-Ray E. Kilmer: He received his doctorate from University of Northern Colorado shortly before becoming superintendent in 1973.. He served 14 years, and is credited with transforming D-38 to one of the top state districts. He headed the opening of a new middle school, building of Lewis-Palmer High School in 1980; relocation of the middle school to the Grace Best building, and reorganizing elementary locations. An elementary school is named after him. He left the district in 1987 to service as Deputy Commissioner of the Colorado Department of Education, served as acting commissioner, and was a director of the Pikes Peak Board of Cooperative Educational Services. He received the Colorado Association of School Executives Colbert Cushing Award for professional service, and is member University of Colorado Alumni Hall of Fame.

-Norma Belle Lavelett: She grew up on an area ranch, attended first through 12th grade in the "Old Red" school house, the only one in Monument at the time, and graduated from Blair Business College. She married Ralph Lavelett, also a Lewis-Palmer graduate, and they raised two sons. She applied to the district as a cook in 1966, but instead the superintendant asked her to start the next day as a secretary of the combined junior and senior high, when enrollment was about 200. She worked for Lewis-Palmer High School for 19 years, and then another seven at Palmer Lake Elementary until retirement in 1992.

- Frank Royal:He served in the U.S. Air Force for 30 years, and moved to Monument in 1970 where his two sons were enrolled. He tells the story of attending a school board meeting at a time when most people didn't, and being asked what he was doing there. He learned that the fast-growing district, which at the time had 887 students, had many challenges. When there was a board resignation in 1971, he was appointed to fill the post. In 1973, he ran for election and served eight years, including the post of president. During that time the board was able to pass a bond issue, increased class offerings and hired additional staff, including Ray Kilmer as superintendent, and obtained land for Lewis-Palmer High School which opened in 1980. After his term, he served the district as a volunteer in many capacities.

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Contact Carol McGraw: 636-0371 Twitter @mcgrawatgazette Facebook Carol McGraw

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