John Stuart, former APS superintendent, dies at 87

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AURORA | Educator, administrator and former Aurora Public Schools superintendent John Stuart died Wednesday in Denver of lung cancer. He was 87.

Stuart started as APS superintendent in 1974, after serving as a teacher and administrator at school districts across the state. During Stuart’s tenure at the district from 1974 to 1988, Aurora Public Schools saw significant expansion. Stuart oversaw the construction of dozens of new school buildings, as well as the kickoff of fundamental changes in curriculum.

“At that time, APS was one of the fastest growing districts in the country,” said wife Jane Dooley-Stuart, a former APS principal. “He brought many curriculum innovations to Aurora, including a seven-year curriculum plan.”

Before starting at APS, Stuart founded the Colorado Association of School Executives in 1969. Stuart founded the organization after the National Education Association shifted its structure to only include teachers. Since its founding, CASE has grown into one of the state’s most largest education groups for public school administrators, with more than 2,000 members from each of Colorado’s 178 school districts.

John Stuart’s push to connect administrators with continuing education and representation was part of a deeper passion for learning, according to his son William Stuart. William Stuart, currently the Deputy Superintendent at APS, said his father’s career was always about meeting the goals of every type of student.

“He was not a good student when he was a kid. He admitted that. He struggled in school. As he grew older and became a young man, he realized how important education was,” William Stuart said. “He wanted to meet the needs of every kid, because his needs weren’t met.”

Those priorities left an impact on John Stuart’s children. Three of his five children are public school educators, William Stuart said, including teachers in New York City and in the Cherry Creek School District.

“Teaching and public school education was a part of our life throughout our childhood. I always felt it was a wonderful profession as I learned about it from my dad,” said William Stuart, who worked as teacher, coach and principal in APS before starting as an administrator. “His influence was very strong in terms of exposing us to that profession, how great it was.”

John Stuart’s interests went beyond public education. After retiring from APS in 1988, he started pursuing his passion for art, starting local galleries and studying in-depth the work of American artist Maxfield Parish.

“He turned his energy into his other passions. That’s how he was,” William Stuart said. “He was interested in exploring other things.”

But the importance of public education was never far from his focus. He kept up in trends in public education and kept up his passion for meeting the needs of every student. He titled his memoirs “It’s About Time,” a reference to what he thought was missing in the American school system.

“What he meant by that was it’s time we change our educational system so it meets the needs of all of the kids,” said daughter Rosemary Stuart. “Education was very close to his heart.”

A memorial will be held Nov. 16 in Aurora. The family has not announced where it will be held. In lieu of flowers the family is suggesting donations be made to the Aurora Education Foundation and The Denver Hospice.

 

Reach reporter Adam Goldstein at 720-449-9707 or [email protected]