Woman of Influence: Jill Gaebler

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Jill Gaebler, development director, Greccio Housing

Sometimes making it “all about the kids” can benefit the parent as much as the child.

Take, for example, the story of Jill Gaebler.

Anyone in charter school circles has likely heard of Gaebler, who has become one of the educational movement’s most vocal proponents after she founded the Colorado Springs Charter Academy in 2004.

At the time, her children were just entering school in Colorado Springs School District 11. Gaebler quickly became frustrated with curriculum and quality issues. Instead of just grumbling about the problem, she took matters into her own hands.

The school, at 2557 N. Chelton Road, has grown steadily and just opened a junior high, which brought total enrollment to 425. The school has earned several student-achievement awards and has a waiting list of parents who want their children to become Academy students.

Gaebler serves as board president.

“I have just always had a large passion for children and education,” she said.

“Public education, I strongly believe, needs to be provided to everyone. I know it’s in our constitution, but it’s not provided equally,” she said. “We purposefully put our charter in the center of town so we could reach out to lower-income families. Most don’t do that. Most sit in higher-income districts.”

Gaebler said she has no sympathy for those who complain without trying to change things.

“I strongly defend school choice and I know what I’m talking about,” she said. “When it costs a charter less to educate a child than a big, bureaucratic district, I’ve got no problem defending that.”

Her charter school experience is what led Gaebler to her current job as development director for Greccio Housing, a nonprofit that provides affordable housing for low- to moderate- income families. It owns and manages about 350 housing units.

As her children grew older and the school became more established, Gaebler found herself with more time. She had developed grant-writing skills launching the Academy and used those to get her foot in the door.

“My boss told me he hired me not because of my experience,” Gaebler said. “He said ‘anyone who can start a charter can probably figure it out.’”

As with the Academy, Gaebler believes passionately in Greccio’s mission.

“I couldn’t work for an organization that I didn’t have a passion for and strongly believe in,” she said.

Gaebler also serves as vice president for the Pikes Peak Library board of trustees and for years has been a member of the Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Advisory Board. Her husband, Matthew, is an airline pilot, and her children are now 11 and 12 years old.

Gaebler continues to focus her energies toward things that make life better not only for her children, but the children of Colorado Springs.

“Everyone has a responsibility to be involved in the local community,” she said. “I’ve also always felt that kindness is very important. Don’t underestimate the importance of just being kind.”

By Dennis Huspeni