HOMEBioFilm rights, Screenplays, Representation2021 Commentaries2020 CommentariesOLYMPIC AFFAIR: HITLER'S SIREN AND AMERICA'S HEROTHE WITCH'S SEASONThird Down and a War to GoHORNS, HOGS, AND NIXON COMING'77: DENVER, THE BRONCOS, AND A COMING OF AGEMarch 1939: Before the MadnessPLAYING PIANO IN A BROTHELSave By RoyThey Call Me "Mr. De": The Story of Columbine's Heart, Resilience and RecoveryA Selection of Terry Frei's writing about World War II heroesOlympic Affair Excerpt: Chapter 1, Leni's VisitOlympic Affair Excerpt: Chapter 15, Aren't You Thomas Wolfe?The Witch's Season: Screenplay opening pagesThe Witch's Season Excerpt:Air Force Game, Bitter Protest, a Single ShotThird Down and a War to Go: Screenplay opening pagesThird Down and a War to Go Excerpt: Ohio State vs. WisconsinThird Down and a War to Go genesis: Grateful for the Guard, Jerry FreiThird Down and a War to Go: A Marines' game on GuadalcanalDave Schreiner, Badger and MarineBob Baumann, Badger and MarineLt. Col. John Mosley, Aggie and Tuskegee AirmanHorns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming: Prologue and screenplay opening pagesHorns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming Excerpt: James Street: Wishbone WizardHorns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming Subplot: The day they stopped playing Dixie'77 Excerpt: AFC Title GameMarch 1939 Excerpt: First NCAA Title GameMarch 1939, Excerpt: The StartersPlaying Piano Excerpt: S.F. EarthquakeA Year with Nick Saban before he was Nick SabanTommy Lasorda and the Summer of '70Press CredentialsThe Sporting NewsDenver PostESPN.comThe OregonianGreeley TribuneKids' sports books: The ClassicsJon Hassler, Terry Kay and other favorite novelistsBig Bill Ficke's Big HeartBob Bell's Food For Thought


Greeley-Evans District 6 Superintendent Deirdre Pilch reflects in wake of crash

July15, 2018


Terry Frei

A Weld County sheriffs deputy talks on the phone at the scene of a crash involving a school bus Thursday afternoon near Weld County Road 49. (Joshua Polson)

Dr. Deirdre Pilch, Greeley-Evans School District 6’s superintendent, was out of town last week, spending vacation with her family after a conference.

The first news she got about the Thursday crash involving a district school bus carrying 35 students and adults on Weld County Road 49 near Hudson was horrifying.

It came in a text message from John Gates, the district’s security director.

 Dr. Deirdre Pilch


» Superintendent, Greeley-Evans School District 6, since July 1, 2015.

» Previously deputy superintendent, Boulder Valley Public Schools.


“We actually had an initial report that a semi had hit the bus and caused the bus to roll,” Pilch said Friday, before she returned to Greeley over the weekend. “We thought it was much more significant than it turned out to be. The difference between a semi and a flatbed (pickup) truck …”

She left it there.

As bad as the accident was, injuring all but one on the bus, several seriously, nobody was killed. The pictures I saw and the descriptions I heard left me thinking: It was a miracle there were no deaths in the crash as the group returned from a program-capping excursion to Denver’s Elitch Gardens. This didn’t get into the realm of the bus crash in Saskatchewan that killed 16 members of a junior hockey team’s traveling party in April. But it could have.


“School buses are big pieces of equipment, carrying very precious cargo,” Pilch said. “It absolutely could have been worse. I don’t want to minimize the injuries that did occur and our concern for the staff and students who were injured … but we’re not dealing with fatalities and life-threatening injuries, so I’m thankful for that.”

Police later said the truck’s driver fell asleep at the wheel before the truck drifted across the center line and clipped the oncoming bus. The passengers included 29 Greeley Central and Northridge High School students (including incoming freshmen) in the privately funded Student Recovery Program that Pilch said is based at the University of Northern Colorado.

Pilch said the more accurate information came “pretty quickly,” via Brad Johnson, the district’s executive director of support services, who rushed to the scene.

“Maybe within a half an hour,” she said, “I was notified it was actually a vehicle that had cut the bus off and caused the bus to swerve, resulting in the bus rolling on its side.”

One potential problem in the district’s coordination and reaction to the summer accident was Pilch and several other district officials were out of town. Gates came back down from the mountains.

“But because of cell phones, we were all able to be in contact,” Pilch said. “Instantly, our immediate crisis team was in very close contact.”

That initial crisis team was Pilch, Gates and director of communications Theresa Myers.

Other staffers were brought into the mix as those available went to the various hospitals where the injured were taken. Pilch also was in contact with the Student Recovery Program’s director, Suzette Luster, who has been a vice principal at Greeley West and will become principal at Franklin Middle School in the upcoming school year.

So it gets tricky. The program is funded by Greeley philanthropist Bob Tointon and others, and it doesn’t take place in a District 6 school. Yet it is designed to enable struggling District 6 high school students to catch up heading into the next academic year. So it’s natural to wonder where boundaries of liability and responsibility are drawn.

Firefighters gather around a school bus that flipped Thursday afternoon near Weld County roads 49 and 22 near Hudson. (Joshua Polson)

“Here’s the thing,” said Pilch. “They’re our kids. It was our bus driver. Our bus. So, yes, those lines are really blurry. Right now, we’re not worried about that. What we’re worried about is making sure all of our students and staff are accounted for and safe.”

The plan is for those in the Student Recovery Program — at least those physically able to do so — to reunite Tuesday.

Emotions still are high and the injured are on everyone’s minds, but the other issue, because of those blurry lines of liability and responsibility, is whether an incident like this involving a privately funded program tied to the school district could put at risk these kinds of programs in the future.

“No, I don’t think so,” Pilch said. “We have great partnerships and we have contracts in place. No, because at the end of the day our job — all of us together with the community and the outside agencies — is to do what we need to do with our kids. So, no, that has not come into play for me. I worry about everything, but none of my worries have been, ‘Oh, my God, we can’t work with outside agencies.’

“We could not do the work we do in District 6 without the partnership and support of our outside agencies. It’s complex work and accidents happen. They do. And we cannot be so worried about the litigiousness of that, the liability of that, and allow that to prevent us from doing the right work for kids. We just can’t.”