The Durango school district lost a valuable member of its community Tuesday when former Needham Elementary counselor and current 9-R school board member Carla Mulkey died unexpectedly.
District staff were informed Wednesday that Mulkey died at her home Tuesday afternoon from causes that remain unknown. She was 61.
Mulkey was a counselor at Needham for 27 years before she retired last May. She was elected to the 9-R school board in November.
“She will be greatly missed,” said Bill Esterbrook, the district’s interim superintendent. “Retiring, then coming right back in to serve the district, she has demonstrated a passion for education in the district.”
While working at Needham, Mulkey won numerous awards, and in 2009, she was named Colorado Elementary School Counselor of the Year. She also was president of the district’s teachers union.
Needham Elementary staff remembered Mulkey as a person who always had a kind word and went above and beyond to help teachers and students.
She helped with fundraising, volunteered with the nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters and organized friendship and study groups for students at Needham, the elementary’s staff members said.
“She was a pillar of Needham,” said Principal Pete Harter, who worked with Mulkey for 22 years. “The kids would always love to go see Carla.”
When she was running for the 9-R board, Mulkey mentioned her desire to create the best schools for her two young grandchildren. She has two daughters and the youngest is a sophomore at the University of Colorado.
The news came as a shock to Mulkey’s fellow board members, 9-R board President Jeff Schell said.
The board will formally announce it is looking for a new member at its next meeting Tuesday, Schell said.