Our Mission and Who We Are

Cougar Run Elementary is a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School. Cougar Run is located in beautiful Highlands Ranch, Colorado, a suburb just south of Denver.  Highlands Ranch is home to 96,000 residents in one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Originally named “Elementary #23,” Cougar Run opened its doors in 1996 to 400 children in kindergarten through sixth grade.  Currently, Cougar Run supports just over 400 families with 500 children in kindergarten through sixth grade, and an additional 44 children in our pre-kindergarten program.

The strength of our organization is the daily dedication of the entire learning community to encourage, inspire and empower children to achieve and learn in a respectful environment. Our stakeholders sincerely care about what our children learn and who they become. The passion of the leaders, teachers and community sets our school apart as a unique place that prepares our students for career and college readiness. The Cougar Run learning community’s core philosophy is to always do what is best for our children each and every day.

When you first visit Cougar Run Elementary, you will notice several majestic Bradford Pear trees lining the walkways, and several hundred painted rocks along the xeriscape areas.  At first glance you might think these rocks look like jelly beans, but upon closer inspection you will notice that each rock is painted with unique designs, colors, dates and many include names of students, staff and families. Together, the rocks capture the essence of the eclectic but connected learning community at Cougar Run Elementary. Separately, each rock represents an individual, but together they provide a pathway to excellence. Each spring students add their own unique rock as a symbol of their place in our community.

Some of the ideals that set our school apart include our investment in student performance data, our support of the social and emotional growth of our students, our priority on creating a strong school identity, our teachers, and our parent community.  

Our school is highly invested in collecting and analyzing student performance data to appropriately drive meaningful and differentiated instruction for each student’s individualized learning plan.  Our Multi Tiered System of Support is a district model that supports at-risk, advanced students. The MTSS program has been instrumental in Cougar Run’s achievement of the Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award in 2011 and 2013.  This award acknowledges schools that demonstrate exceptional student growth.

We are also fully invested in supporting the social and emotional growth of our students, and helping them become responsible citizens who give back to the community.  Our ROCKS Character Education Program, focusing on Respect, Responsibility, Power of One, Compassion, Kindness and Safety as well as our emphasis on Restorative Practices illustrate our belief in the importance of identifying and recognizing positive behavior.  Our intent is to decrease less positive and anti-social behaviors, create a better understanding of relationships and their influence in building a quality learning community, and identify a process to restore relationships when they have been negatively impacted.  

Cougar Run Elementary has consistently been rated as a high performing school for the past decade.  Student achievement and growth are celebrated and consistently keep pace with the top schools in the state. We focus on creating a our instructional philosophy to encompass Project Based Learning (PBL). PBL is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge.  PBL has significantly enhanced student engagement and teacher enthusiasm.

As a byproduct of the PBL instructional philosophy, our new Learning Commons was developed. This unique educational space provides support for staff and students engaging in a variety of activities such as use of information technology, remote or online education, tutoring, collaboration, content creation, meetings and reading.  Once two separate entities in our building, the library and technology resource room now cooperatively and seamlessly support our staff and students in authentic inquiry for their PBL projects.

Our teachers are exceptionally caring and dedicated professionals.  90% of our teachers have advanced degrees and just over 40% of these teachers work on district leadership committees.  The experience of our teachers provides authentic staff development in support of district initiatives and enhances the craft of instruction. Our support staff consistently works to support the staff, students and parents of Cougar Run to achieve a culture and climate that values thoughtful communication, respect, attention to detail, and puts customer service as the highest priority.

Our parent community is actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the building.  Volunteers are key in supporting the teachers, classrooms, clubs, health and wellness initiatives, Learning Commons and safety initiatives.  Cougar Run was a proud recipient of the Healthier US School Challenge - receiving a Bronze Medal in 2012. Additionally, we stress the importance of PLC’s (Parent Learning Centers) to actively inform parents on best instructional support strategies and curriculum.  Our parent teacher association, Partners in Education (PIE) and our SAC (Student Advisory Council) are instrumental in providing fundraising opportunities, managing community engagement events and providing recommendations to our leadership team that represents the thinking of our community for the benefit of our students.  Uniquely, there are 14 staff members, certified and classified, who are also parents of Cougar Run students. This fact offers a clear affirmation of one of our catch phrases, “Cougar Run is a great place to work and learn". We look forward to seeing you on your next visit to the school. Shannon McPherson, Principal

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In compliance with Titles VI & VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, and Colorado law, the Douglas County School District RE-1 does not unlawfully discriminate against otherwise qualified students, employees, applicants for employment, or members of the public on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, religion, ancestry, or need for special education services. Discrimination against employees and applicants for employment based on age, genetic information, and conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth is also prohibited in accordance with state and/or federal law. Complaint procedures have been established for students, parents, employees, and members of the public. The School District's Compliance Officer and Title IX Coordinator to address complaints alleging sexual harassment under Title IX is Aaron Henderson, 620 Wilcox Street, Castle Rock, Colorado, [email protected], 303-387-0127.

Outside Agencies

Complaints regarding violations of Title VI, (race, national origin), Title IX (sex, gender), Section 504/ADA (handicap or disability), may be filed directly with the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, 1244 North Speer Blvd., Suite 310, Denver, CO 80204. Complaints regarding violations of Title VII (employment) and the ADEA (prohibiting age discrimination in employment) may be filed directly with the Federal Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 303 E. 17th Ave., Suite 510, Denver, CO 80202, or the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 1560 Broadway, Suite 1050, Denver, CO 80202.


Special Education records which have been collected by Douglas County School District related to the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or the provision of special education in the district, must be maintained under state and federal laws for the period of five (5) years after special education services have ended for the student. Special education services end when the student is no longer eligible for services, graduates, or completes his/her educational program at age 21, or moves from the district. This notification is to inform parents/guardians and former students of Douglas County School District's intent to destroy the special education records of students who exited special education services as of June 30, 2016. These records will be destroyed in accordance with state law unless the parent/guardian or eligible (adult) student notifies the school district otherwise. After five years, the records are no longer useful to the district, but may be useful to the parent/guardian or former student in applying for social security benefits, rehabilitation services, college entrance, etc. The parent/guardian or eligible (adult) student may request a copy of the records by requesting the records at this link ( Douglas County School District Transcripts and Records Requests ).