Jeff Durbin has spent decades in the education field, first helping mold students as a teacher and then guiding schools and districts to be the best they can be as an administrator. Currently, he is serving as superintendent for Peetz School District and while he is only in his second year there, he has already made a significant impact, leading efforts to get the school a much-needed new building.
Durbin, who grew up in northeast Colorado, has had a career spanning over 32 years in education, including 20 as a school administrator. His past positions have included superintendent for Stratton School District, superintendent and principal at Otis School District and teacher in Weldon Valley School District.
“I had two wonderful teachers at my high school who took me under their wings when I wasn’t the most well-rounded student. They very much encouraged me to look at what I wanted to do and I liked wood, and carpentry and I liked kids and they said I would make a good teacher,” Durbin said when asked why he went into the education field.
When he moved up to a principal position he was fortunate to have a strong administrator who believed in him and told him he would make a great superintendent. So, he gave it a shot, and he’s had some great mentors along the way, including Dr. Martin Foster, the current interim superintendent for RE-1 Valley, who in those early days was always willing to help when he had questions or issues.
A 30-year career isn’t without its challenges, Durbin points out that just the amount of paperwork alone in regards to reports and feedback that districts must give to the Colorado Department of Education has increased 85 to 95% since he first started in education. But for him, the students and staff make it all worth it.
“At the end of the day what motivates me the most about my job is I have great kids that I get to work with on a daily basis, I have some phenomenal educators, the teachers surrounding me who make it a lot easier to do my job and focus on what I need to be focusing on,” Durbin said, adding that he also has a great counterpart in Peetz Principal Mike Forster, a strong school board and a strong chief financial officer. “When you have a team and a family — and that’s what we truly consider ourselves out here is a team and a family — we work together and we support each other. I look forward to coming to work every day and have a smile on my face. We all have our bad days, that’s part of life, but I can tell you those days are few and far between. I love the opportunity to be out here with some great people.”
When he was first appointed interim superintendent for Peetz in 2021, it was after he’d spent a year enjoying retirement. But upon hearing about the job opening he saw it as an opportunity that was too good to pass up, so he decided to dive back into the education world.
From the start, he was determined to help Peetz get a new school. While he had done capital construction projects throughout the districts he’d been in previously and even started the process of building a new school when he was at Otis, he didn’t get to finish it and that was something he had always wanted to do.
“I was excited when Peetz was interviewing they were looking for somebody who had some experience with the BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) grant and master planning and I think that excited them as a board to consider me as one of their top candidates for the position,” Durbin said. “I told them this was something that if we were to do this that I would be committed to and I think my commitment has shown through. I’ve worked diligently with the board and the people and the staff, and this community has been very supportive of seeing so many positives of the district needing a 21st century school.”
Another driving factor behind his determination to get Peetz a new school was the fact that of all the districts he has been in “there was not a doubt in my mind that this district was probably the one that needed the most improvement in structures as it was very dilapidated and in need of major repairs and updates,” Durbin said.
Right away, he got to work on a proposal asking voters in the November 2021 election to approve a bond to help fund the construction of a new school. When voters rejected it on a slim margin, that didn’t deter Durbin, his colleagues, or the school board from believing the project could still move forward. They forged ahead and after countless hours of planning and strategizing with Neenan Archistruction the district was awarded a BEST grant in the spring of 2022.
Once the grant was secured, Durbin and his crew went to work trying to further inform voters why a new building is needed and gain more support for the project in hopes that a second bond attempt would be successful. In November 2022 that hard work paid off, as voters passed the question with strong support.
But the work is only just beginning. In recent months, Durbin has worked with Neenan to collaborate with school staff, students, parents and community members on design plans. Those plans which include keeping and upgrading the schools existing gyms and ag shop and adding a new addition to house preschool through high school classrooms, school library, administrative offices, etc., are now nearing completion and a groundbreaking ceremony has been set for May 5.
And during the construction process, which is expected to be completed 20 to 22 months from the groundbreaking date, Durbin will be diligently working to make sure it stays on time and on budget.
“I think with getting the BEST grant and the bond passed, we’re going to have a facility that’s going to be one that many communities are going to say, ‘wow, someday maybe we can get that for our community,” he said.
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