Working in education has been “a family affair” for decades for Mark Hatchell, superintendent of Academy School District 20.
His dad was a longtime administrator; his mom and brother were teachers. And in his 37-year career, Hatchell has taught and served as an assistant principal and a principal.
For the past 18 years, he’s been a superintendent at two Pikes Peak region school districts.
He headed his hometown Widefield School District 3 for six years, after graduating from Widefield High more than 40 years ago.
Hatchell has been superintendent at Academy D-20 for 12 years, making him one of the longest-serving superintendents now in the state.
“It’s been a blast,” he said. “I’ve truly loved it.”
Hatchell, 59, said he decided over the summer that it’s time to move on. He told the staff Monday.
With schools opening, renovations and expansions at existing schools nearing completion, student scores at the highest ever from spring standardized assessments and finances on the right track, Hatchell said, “It seemed like the right time to pass the baton.”
He will vacate the job June 30, 2019. The board of education soon will start a search for his replacement.
“Our district has greatly benefited from Dr. Hatchell’s tenure, which has been marked by numerous outstanding accomplishments,” D-20 board President Tracey Johnson said in a statement.
“He has introduced new initiatives and programs that made our district the most innovative in the state. Similarly, our strong student achievement scores have led the district to be Accredited with Distinction for 10 consecutive years. These accomplishments speak not only to his educational expertise and dedication, but also to his character and visionary leadership,” Johnson said.
Among other accomplishments, Hatchell was the first principal at Mesa Ridge High in Widefield D-3 when it opened in 1997.
“And now, I get to finish my career opening new schools in Academy D-20,” he said.
Legacy Peak Elementary opened in Wolf Ranch in August, with The Center for Modern Learning. The attached, districtwide facility consolidates two online schools, blended learning and home-school programs and introduces a cybersecurity lab and computer coding classes.
The district’s second charter school, New Summit Charter Academy, opened last month, and a building for a districtwide fourth-grade environmental program in Black Forest, School in the Woods, is almost finished.
D-20 also has a middle school under construction on the Chinook Trail Elementary campus.
“It’s been fun to plan and build the new schools,” Hatchell said.
A $230 million bond authorized by voters in November 2016 is paying for the new schools and upgrades at every D-20 existing school.
D-20 has been known for high academic performance and strong parental involvement for decades, Hatchell said.
“I found the good reputation was true,” he said. “And we don’t want to rest on our laurels, which is why we’ve pushed so many new programs.”
The district also has had a few high-profile disputes with teachers, including a lawsuit settlement with a former athletic director who claimed she was wrongfully terminated. At least two other teachers expressed similar complaints in recent years.
“Personnel issues are always difficult no matter where you are; that goes with being a superintendent in a school district,” Hatchell said.
D-20 has grown by about 5,000 students since he took the helm. Enrollment this year is about 26,200, he said, making it the region’s second-largest district and not far behind the largest, Colorado Springs School District 11.
“We certainly have seen a lot of growth, especially on the east side,” Hatchell said. “We had overwhelming support for the bond issue from voters, which is why we’re on this huge building spree.”
Hatchell plans to take some time off after leaving the job and then become an education consultant.
He’ll still be tied to D-20; his two youngest sons are juniors this year at Pine Creek High, where his three other children graduated.
Whether any will carry on the family tradition of working in education is yet to be seen, as they’re still working their way through high school and college.
All in all, education is a great career choice for anyone, Hatchell said.
Contact the writer: 719-476-1656