Greccio Housing Development Director Jill Gaebler is the board president of the Colorado Springs Charter Academy, now one of the city’s most successful charter schools, which she helped found several years ago. She’s an Air Force veteran, a mother of two and a swift marathoner.
How did you decide to start a Charter School?
Back in 2005, I had young children who were just starting out in school. I had some friends who lived on my block who had older children, and we began to talk about some of the things that we thought needed change, particularly the math curriculum. We talked to (school district officials), but they were very resistant to change. So we decided that, despite all the odds, we would try to create our own charter school.
Together we wrote a charter, which is basically a book with every kind of information that you need about a school, down to specific curricula, teachers, discipline, uniforms — everything you could ever imagine. Actually, it went very well. We did a lot of research, didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, copied what people were doing right, and when we were finished we went to both D-11 and the newly-created State Charter Institute, and eventually became a state charter school.
When did Colorado Springs Charter Academy open?
We opened in 2006, so we’re just starting our sixth year.
How many students do you have?
We finished last year with 285, and this year we’ll be at around 425.
Do you own or lease your buildings?
Last year we bought the main school building, and this year we bought the building behind it, and were able to consolidate the purchases into a single bond. It’s the former Benet Hill Monastery on Chelton Road. We’ve been very fortunate — we came along just as the Benedictine sisters were ready to sell the property, and we were able to buy it.
Tell us about your work at Greccio Housing.
After helping to start the school, I stayed on the board of directors and started writing grants for them. I found that I enjoyed it, and that I had a flare for it. So I joined Greccio, where I’ve been for three years. We provide affordable rental housing, and we also have a case manager who helps our clients deal with issues such as education, getting a better job, or writing resumes. We’ll also help them with rent and utilities for short periods of time to prevent them from becoming homeless.
If you could make a substantial change in the city, what would it be?
I know this is not politically correct, but Colorado Springs needs to quit relying on growth for its prosperity, and begin operating in a sustainable way.
Audio excerpt of the interview with Jill Gaebler.