Return to Headlines

Julie Griego's Lifetime of Service to Youth Continues at Baca Elementary

 Principal Julie GriegoWhether in the office, the classroom, or the courtroom, Julie Griego has devoted her life to the betterment of youth, especially those most at risk and in need.

As a child welfare caseworker supporting children placed in foster care, much of Mrs. Griego’s time was spent working with school personnel and attending Individual Education Plan meetings. 

When parental rights were terminated, and an educational surrogate parent made scholastic-related decisions for a child, Mrs. Griego was present: advocating and envisioning her future. 

Through this important work, Mrs. Griego developed a strong interest in education and working with students in a positive perspective. After completing Educational Surrogate Parent Training through the Colorado Department of Education, she complemented her caseworker duties by serving as an educational surrogate parent for youth without a legal parent available to make critical decisions for them. 

“I really enjoyed working with the special education departments and understanding the IEPs, so I decided to go back to school to become endorsed in Special Education,” Mrs. Griego explained. “The collaborative work is what I loved about Exceptional Student Services: you work with other teachers, members of the community and the family and really get to know your students and see the growth, which was always exciting.”

Mrs. Griego’s desire to make a more significant impact to a broader range of children inspired her to return to college: this time to earn a Master’s in School Counseling to complement the degree in Psychology already on her resume.

“I’ve always had a passion for kids, and knew I wanted to work with kids,” Mrs. Griego said.  “One of the mottos I’ve always lived by is ‘Making a Difference, One Kid at a Time.’”

She spent two years counseling at Future’s Academy, an alternative middle and high school, and nearly a decade at Vineland Middle School.

As her responsibilities grew, so too did her willingness to serve, and once again, Mrs. Griego returned to college: this time to pursue a Principal License.

“As an educator, I always strived to make a difference, and that led me into wanting to become a leader,” she explained. “I felt that not only could I impact more kids, but I could impact the staff and the community.”

After more than a decade as a counselor, which provided her with the wealth of experience needed as she prepared for her future, Mrs. Griego turned her sights toward administration.

“I decided I would take a leap and began applying for administrator positions,” Mrs. Griego said. “My son was also older by this time, so I felt I could dedicate more time to the job.”

Her administrative career in the district began at Heroes K-8 Academy, where she served as an Assistant Principal during a critical, and challenging, transition period.

“It was the first year the two schools of Somerlid Elementary and Freed Middle School came together, so it was like opening a new school,” she said. “It was very challenging because we were combining the schools to become a K-8 school. Plus, the school was on Turnaround status and we needed to make an impact immediately.”

From the outset, Mrs. Griego was called upon to help put in place the new structure, policies and procedures required to right the ship. 

“The staff was absolutely great through the transition and open to the instructional ‘push’ that needed to take place,” she explained. “And while Heroes was a challenge, I gained great experience there and had the opportunity to work closely with the Colorado Department of Education and the Turnaround Network – which allowed my instructional knowledge and leadership to grow.”

After four years of productive service to Heroes K-8 Academy, Mrs. Griego was called upon to lead Eva R. Baca Elementary School and its Roadrunners as Principal.

“It’s hard to believe I will be closing out my fifth year at Baca: time flies when you are having fun,” Principal Griego said. “I absolutely love being the leader of this great school and consider it a privilege and honor.”

From the start of her career advocating for children, Principal Griego made it a priority to foster strong and fruitful relationships with the youth she was serving. That personable and compassionate style of leadership continues at Baca.

“I greet all my students by name in the mornings and wish them a great evening or weekend after school,” she said. “I want my kiddos to know that I know them and care about them. I take pride in building relationships with my students and my staff, and also enjoy building relationships with the families. 

“Everyone matters at Baca, and I love making everyone feel important and valued.”

Cognizant of the importance of collaboration, Principal Griego built on the existing Baca team to bolster the school’s foundation.

“Some of the team has been in place since I arrived and some of the team I built,” she explained. “I do like to build leadership capacity within my staff, because so many have great leadership strength and skills.”

Fittingly, Principal Griego sees her leadership style as “participative.”

“I want input from my staff. I want to hear their voice, concerns and ideas before I make a final decision. I believe we are a team and our success comes from working together,” she said. “I take pride in making sure every staff member in my building experiences success.”

The “team” approach extends beyond the walls of the East Side school.

“I emphasize to parents/guardians that we must have a strong home-to-school partnership, because that connection is essential for student success,” Principal Griego said.

Located just down the way from East High School, which prides itself on the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, Baca became an AVID school under Principal Griego.

 “Its college readiness and strong instructional strategies are embedded in all we do,” she said of AVID. “I want students leaving Baca with educational confidence and believing in themselves so that they can do anything they want to do.

“If they choose to attend a four-year college, pursue a trade or begin in the workforce, we know our students will be ready.  I have high academic expectations for students -- I push and challenge them -- but I am also their biggest fan and cheerleader. I want my kids to know I believe in them.”

That belief is reinforced through this statement, which Principal Griego continually stresses to the Roadrunners: “Education is your most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

The results of that mindset are evident in the fact that Baca has, under Principal Griego’s leadership, remained a high-performing school.

“I am proud that I have led my school to become a Performance School,” Principal Griego said. “We didn’t take state assessments last year, so our rating remained the same. Of my 5 years here, we have been a Performance School for 4. That is a result of the dedication of my teachers and the great instruction they provide each day.

“I am proud of them as well as our kids, for doing their best and showing what they can do.”

The warmth and care that emanates from the top flows through every classroom in the building.

“I love our culture here,” Principal Griego said. “As a staff, we consider ourselves one big happy school family. We support one another, help each other and go above and beyond for our students: who are so blessed to have the caring and compassionate teachers they have that go the extra mile every day. 

“I tell my students that we are ‘one big Baca Family’ and we care for one another, just like families do. I believe that when students feel cared about and safe, they are ready to learn and ready to give you their very best.”

In describing herself, Principal Griego is quick to use the terms “very kind, passionate and big-hearted. I believe if you are kind to others, kindness makes its way back. And I think my staff would describe me as approachable, compassionate and supportive.”

As Eva Baca Elementary is a bit “off the beaten path” geographically, Principal Griego sees her school as a “hidden gem.”

“Many people don’t know where we’re at,” she said. “And when they come into the school to visit or sub, they love it here. Our kids are great, the staff is great and it’s a beautiful building.”