Mexican dinner supports Mountain Middle charter

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Mountain Middle School board member Jim McCarthy, left, and Interim Head of School Lloyd Carlton enjoy a moment to chat at the school’s Mexican dinner fundraiser at the Dalton Ranch Golf Club Pavilion. The public charter school is finishing its second year of offering project-based learning to grades six, seven and eight.

There were so many Cinco de Mayo activities last weekend, I doubt that anyone got away without a dip of guacamole, a sip of margarita or the spritely sound of mariachi music.

Mountain Middle School, the public charter school finishing its second year, got into the spirit with a golf tournament and Mexican dinner May 3 at the Dalton Ranch Golf Club.

Partygoers enjoyed a delicious dinner, including rice, beans, a Southwest salad with poblano vinaigrette, and potato-cheese-chicken-green chile enchiladas served with a smooth molé and a variety of garnishes. Molé, the Mexican sauce that, in its most famous incarnation is made with chiles and chocolate, can be a work of art, and this one was both rich to the senses and an adventurous choice in the land of red and green chile sauces. Cinnamon-sugar sopapillas added a sweet ending for the palates of the 60 or so guests.

I haven’t written much about Mountain Middle School, but that’s mostly because I’m in a constant state of trying to keep up with this hoppin’ community, so intentions and what actually shows up in Neighbors don’t always match.

These folks took on a big job, starting a school with all three grades – sixth, seventh and eighth – out of the box, unlike Animas High School, which added a grade each year for four years. And despite some bumps and challenges, it’s clear what a difference it is making for the students in those fraught years of young teendom.

Allison Epstein, who was one of the organizers of the fundraiser, and who has been involved in the school since the early organizing days, said her daughter, Ruby, is thriving at the school. She really noticed it at the 88th birthday party she threw for her mother, Barbara Denk. Ruby, a seventh-grader, was quite self-possessed when interacting with guests, not always the case in the awkward years of adolescence.

Michelle James, who contributed a yeowoman’s effort, and MMS Board President Erin Patla join Epstein in getting most of the credit for organizing the event.

An expansive silent auction drew some spirited bidding and included items from businesses one doesn’t always see at such events, so kudos to 6th Street Liquors and Natural Grocers for stepping up. I’m still coveting the wine and cheese cutting board, which had drawers filled with appropriate tools such as corkscrews and cheese knives from Urban Market. Newcomer to the restaurant scene Rice Monkeys donated a dinner and really cool chopsticks with chopstick rests.

Students in Brenda Macon’s class took the odds and ends she collected at the Habitat for Humanity Restore and, using glue guns and some wire, created centerpieces on the theme “Golf and the Environment,” which also were for sale.

Mark Epstein, vice president of the board, commended the hardy folks who came out to play golf on a day that was, as he put it, “about 28 degrees too cool for golf.”

The school is preparing for a new school year, when its first class will complete all three grades. There will be a new head of school (announcement to be made any day now) and other changes as it continues to grow and improve.

Charter schools face a lot of challenges, but probably represent our best shot at incubating new ideas to educate our children for the 21st century. It’s exciting to watch, and I encourage everyone, whether you have children of school age or not, to learn more about Mountain Middle School at

durango colorado

Happy Taurus birthday wishes go out to Sue Jackson, Barbara Bruning, Jeanne Park, Paulette Simmons, Sherrill Dickinson, Lacey Black, Barbara Colbert, Paul Staby, Rose Chilcoat, Stephanie Drover, Marilyn Garst, Jeff Nelson, Carol Johnson, Kaden Ollier, Elisa Christiansen, Teagan Mapel, Soren Van Winkle, Adeline Becay, Avery Clair, Jeane Furr, Lilly Lacey, Kate Simonson, Connie Bishop, Mariah Edwards, Paul Root and Bob Tyner.

durango colorado

Last year, during the Doodle 4 Google contest, we had a local student in the finalists. Because no press releases came our way this year touting a La Plata County student’s doodle, I had been oblivious to the contest.

And while it’s true no local student is a finalist, it turns out an image from our area was in the top doodles for students in grades 10 through 12. Samuel M. from Los Lunas High School in New Mexico drew a spectacular doodle of a Boy Scout fishing trip to Emerald Lake in the Weminuche Wilderness.

Hey, Durango Area Tourism Office, there must be something great you can do with that!

Alas, voting ended Thursday, so we’ll have to wait and see if it gets national exposure.

durango colorado

After 13 years writing Neighbors, I finally have a story about our local Masons, and it’s all about community.

More than 90 people attended the Durango Masonic Lodge No. 46’s annual award ceremony April 14. Worshipful Master Don Jeter served as master of ceremonies as the lodge presented awards to outstanding teachers, high school juniors and first responders.

Leanne Garcia, principal of Durango High School, was the speaker before Worshipful Brother Steve Jackson shared some of the background of Masonic ritual. I’m sure Masons feel author Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) has a lot to answer for, as he led the charge of popular culture in suspecting the motives of Masons and other fraternal organizations.

But since some of America’s most influential and respected founding fathers, including George Washington (along with 13 other presidents), Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere were Masons, and because its philanthropic works are legion, it’s time to get real.

The Masons of North America donate $2 million a day to philanthropic causes, including its most iconic effort, the Shrine Masons’ network of hospitals for burned and orthopedically impaired children, where there is never a fee for treatment.

On April 14, our local Masons performed some philanthropy of their own, giving the Emory E. and Goldie Smiley Memorial Scholarship to Layne Bulwan. (Yes, the Smiley Building is named in his honor.)

Outstanding La Plata County teachers included Cindy Smart, a principal on special assignment to Miller Middle School; Katherine Reed of DHS; Cody Haga of Ignacio High School; Anita Mayes of Ignacio Junior High School; Burt Baldwin of Ignacio Intermediate School; Curtis Gillespie of Bayfield High School; and Bill Collins of Bayfield Middle School.

Outstanding Junior Girl and Boy honors went to Sydney Corbin and Isaac Pacheco of DHS; Hannah Buck of Durango Big Picture School; Eva-Lou Edwards and Michael Semler of BHS; and Jayce Stricherz and J. Kelton Richmond of IHS.

Law enforcement recognized included Colorado State Trooper Jason Shrimp, La Plata County Sheriff’s Deputy Tonya Golbricht, Durango Police Officer Pete Malberg and firefighter Jim Applegate.

To learn more about the Masons, stop by the Visitor’s Center at Santa Rita Park, where brochures are available.

And congratulations to all the honorees.

durango colorado

Needing to do a little cuddling for their unseasonably cool anniversaries are Al and Sue Mages, Chris and Rap Dunker, Roger and Cora Landgren, Rod and Laurie Barker, Mike and Sandy Dalenberg, Marjorie Cornwell and John Waters, Ron and Mary Knowles, Ernie and Ruth Shock and Ken and Danette Jenkins.

durango colorado

Most Read in Columnists



Arts & Entertainmentarrow




Call Us

View full site

© The Durango Herald