The 2017-18 school year was such a successful one in a number of ways for the St. Vrain Valley School District that the district's administration found itself searching for a way to inspire the community it serves to do even better.
SVVSD superintendent Don Haddad had an idea.
Haddad's vision was to create a shared mantra and a way to rally the whole community around the goings-on in the St. Vrain Valley School District and, more broadly, in public education. He believed a guiding beacon might help generate momentum from district and school-level administrations, through the district's teachers, through its students and parents, and inspire them all to reach higher and go farther in whatever it was that they did.
The district's methodology for realizing Haddad's idea was to publicly and visually highlight its members' accomplishments via a social media initiative by which community members could categorize worthy accolades as, "taking public education by #StVrainStorm." Haddad believed a co-creative social media campaign would have a unifying effect, and it caught on quickly.
So far, #StVrainStorm appears to be working.
"The crux of the purpose is two-fold," Haddad said. "It's to emphasize how important public education is in terms of our community, our state and our nation. It's also designed to show that we as a school system, even though we have 57 schools, are one unified team working together for the entire community. To take something by storm implies that you're doing it with a lot of intention, purpose and value.
"What it has done is highlight the accomplishments of some schools and those things have inspired other schools to go out and do their own great things."
In the realm of athletics, for example, the St. Vrain district high schools — Erie, Frederick, Longmont, Lyons, Mead, Niwot, Silver Creek and Skyline — combined to win four team championships during the 2017-18 school year. SVVSD student-athletes also claimed 16 individual, tennis doubles or track and field relay titles.
Through just the fall season of the 2018-19 school year, St. Vrain teams already have won four team and four individual state championships.
In cross country, the Lyons girls won Class 2A behind Katie Fankhouser's individual title, and the Niwot girls won the 4A team trophy while Layla Roebke and Cruz Culpepper claimed individual gold in the girls and boys races, respectively. Niwot also won the 4A gymnastics team championship with Lindsay Chohon winning an individual title in the floor routine. Erie won the 4A cheer title at the spirit state championships.
The SVVSD's teams also made dozens of playoff appearances and deep playoff runs, including runner-up finishes by Skyline football and Lyons boys cross country, as well as Niwot's volleyball and boys tennis teams. Between football, softball, boys soccer and volleyball, a total of 16 district teams qualified for their respective postseasons this past fall and SVVSD athletes claimed eight runner-up finishes for individual titles.
"Last year, the St. Vrain had a pretty phenomenal year in athletics with a bunch of state titles and state appearances," SVVSD athletic director Rob Berry said. "So as ADs, we looked at #StVrainStorm as a way to help us keep getting better on top of what our student-athletes had already done."
People have been posting with the #StVrainStorm hashtag from as far away as Europe, Asia and Africa. But while the initiative remains heavily rooted in social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, it also plays a prominent role in all other district communication channels such as newsletters, pep assemblies and banners.
The #StVrainStorm initiative isn't focused solely on athletics, either. It aims to highlight any and all district-related endeavors from exemplary test scores to the thousands of students participating in district arts programs to teachers doing professional development on weekends. Other examples include Lyons community members raising money for those impacted by the California wildfires, technology integration in preschools, opportunities for students beyond the classroom. It also highlights teacher recognitions, special guests, parent engagement and a wide variety of SVVSD-related happenings.
"The idea is to encourage people to go out and do bigger and better things," Berry said. "We look at it as a way to challenge the students in our district to push their grades and test scores higher, but also to challenge themselves in the arts, music, athletics and everything they do."
How much of its success is directly motivated by Haddad's #StVrainStrom design is up for debate, but it is undeniable that the SVVSD is taking just about whatever it approaches by storm.
Fall 2018 St. Vrain athletics top finishes
Lyons, girls 2A team champion
Niwot, 4A girls team champion
Lyons, boys 2A team runner-up
Katie Fankhouser, Lyons, 2A individual champion
Cruz Culpepper, Niwot, 4A individual champion
Layla Roebke, Niwot, 4A individual champion
TJ Shehee, Mead, third place
Skyline, 4A runner-up
Mead, 3A quarterfinalist
Erie, 3A semifinalist
Frederick, 3A first round
Longmont, 4A first round
Niwot, 4A team champion
Lindsay Chohon, Niwot, 4A floor champion and all-round runner-up
Grace Stephenson, Niwot, floor runner-up
Hattie Katachis, Niwot, bars runner-up
Silver Creek, second round
Niwot, second round
Silver Creek, 4A semifinalist
Erie, 4A quarterfinalist
Longmont, 4A first round
Erie, 4A cheer champion
Niwot, 4A team runner-up
Riley Black, Niwot, 4A No. 2 singles runner-up
Ben Bicknell, Niwot, 4A No. 3 singles runner-up
Sam Keronen/Manas Saini, Niwot, 4A No. 1 doubles runners-up
Anton Lavrouk/Riley Mulshine, Niwot, 4A No. 2 doubles runners-up
Xavier Moy/Jon Lee, Niwot, 4A No. 4 doubles runners-up
Niwot, 4A runner-up
Longmont, 4A semifinalist
Mead, 4A consolation second round
Silver Creek, 4A first round
Lyons, 2A second round