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Cyclist killed in crash is latest in string of tragedies for Falcon school district

By: Chhun Sun
April 9, 2017 Updated: April 9, 2017 at 8:30 pm
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A woman struck by a car and killed Saturday while cycling with her husband on Woodmen Road was a Falcon School District 49 administrator, the third member of the northeast Colorado Springs district's staff to die since February.

Julia Roark, 55, led education programs and services for Falcon High and Middle schools, as well as Falcon Elementary School of Technology, Meridian Ranch Elementary School and Woodmen Hills Elementary School, according to a district statement Sunday. She had been with the district since 2015.

"Julia dedicated her life to seeing the potential for greatness in others and helping them to reach it," D-49 board President Marie LaVere-Wright said. "In the two years Julia served in District 49 she had truly become a part of the fabric of the Falcon community and her legacy will live on here through those she mentored and led, and the children whose lives they touch.

"We are grateful for the time we were able to call Julia a part of the district family as a leader, mentor, neighbor, and friend, and we are devastated by her loss."

According to police, Julia Roark and her husband Greg Roark were riding in the westbound lanes of Woodmen Road between Marksheffel and Mohawk roads just before 2:30 p.m. when she attempted to cross lanes and was struck by a car. Neither speeding nor alcohol are suspected in the crash and the driver of the car is not facing charges, police spokesman Lt. Howard Black said.

Roark's death is the latest in a string of tragedies for the district, the region's third largest with more than 20,000 students in 25 schools.

On Valentine's Day, Richard Gene Hammond, 63, district transportation director, was found shot to death behind wheel of his silver Subaru Impreza in an alley half a mile from his Denver home.

Hammond had left home for work in Colorado Springs between 3:30 and 4 a.m., but never arrived. His body was found around 4 p.m., Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson told the Denver Post.

He died of multiple gunshot wounds. His death remains an unsolved homicide.

Matt Meister, District 49 spokesman, said in February his death was a shock to co-workers who had known Hammond as "a kind, humble servant who loved his work and his people."

"We're really missing him," Meister said.

He had been with the district since July 2012, and had been advocating at the state Capitol for installing cameras on school buses to identify motorists who didn't stop when the bus pulled over to pick up or let out students.

"It shows the commitment he had to protecting children and our students," Meister said. "He's what a lot of us individuals in District 49 aspired to be."

On March 19, Banning Lewis Ranch Academy eighth-grade social studies teacher Rachel Dewey died in a fall while skiing on Pikes Peak.

The 48-year-old was with her husband and three teenage sons when she lost control and fell about 1,00 feet in an area known as Little Italy Couloir near Glen Cove, The Teller County Sheriff's Office said.

In addition to teaching at the D-49 charter school, Dewey also taught a philosophy class at Pikes Peak Community College, where she was an adjunct instructor.

At Banning Lewis Ranch Academy, Dewey was known to greet students in the hallways before classes and dedicated her time to activities outside of her role as a social studies teacher. She brought to the school an "extensive" teaching background, which included a stint in South Korea, said Todd Morse, who leads the school.

D-49 spokesman Matthew Meister said the district's employees are grieving, but remain committed to doing their best for the students.

"To have a string of sudden losses in the span of less than two months is difficult, no doubt," he said in an email Sunday. "We are hurting. But we come to work each day committed to providing our students a quality education that prepares them for success after graduation. It's what Gene, Rachel and Julia would want us to do."

At the time of her death, Roark was developing a master teacher program for elementary school student literacy with the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. The program provided literacy courses for instructors at schools she oversaw, supporting the district's initiative that every student will read at grade level by the end of third grade, the district's statement said.

"Julia was exactly the kind of person you want as a friend and a leader for your child's schools. We treasured her personal warmth and professional expertise-they made us better people and a better district," said Peter Hilts, D-49 chief education officer. "We offer our prayers and deepest sympathies to Greg and their children."