Carbondale principal resigns, can’t move school ahead |

Carbondale principal resigns, can’t move school ahead

A search will begin soon for a new principal at Carbondale’s struggling Crystal River Elementary School to succeed Heather Cremeans, who recently announced her resignation effective at the end of the school year.

Cremeans, a former Eagle County teacher and coach, was selected to replace longtime CRES Principal Karen Olson in 2013.

“The diverse interests of the school and community have made it challenging to move the school forward,” she wrote in a letter to staff. “Resigning now should allow the district enough time to thoughtfully select a candidate for this position. It is my hope that this leader will be successful in refocusing the school’s energy on what matters most — the job of educating our children.”

Cremeans did not return phone calls seeking further comment.

Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Diana Sirko also sent out an announcement districtwide.

“We greatly appreciate Heather’s hard work and commitment to the students and staff of Crystal River Elementary School,” she wrote. “Her enthusiasm and genuine caring for our students will be missed.”

Sirko told the Post Independent that RFSD will work with staff, students and parents to craft a job description, post the position and select a new principal.

“Although final decision is made by myself, it’s really done with a lot of input from the community, from kids, and from staff,” she said.

Some parents are worried that parents who become involved in the process won’t be representative of the school.

“I’m worried that the new principal is going to be hired by people who are still pushing Expeditionary Learning,” said parent Suzanne Horwich.

Expeditionary Learning (EL) is a curriculum model that encourages hands-on, community-focused education. It’s already in use at one RFSD school — Glenwood Springs Elementary — and has been viewed by some staff and parents as a good fit for Crystal River.

Others, including Horwich, think the school has bigger fish to fry.

“I believe in the school. I believe in the teachers. That’s where I’m choosing to send my daughters,” said Horwich. “The majority of parents were not opposed to the EL model, but we’d like to focus on fixing the problems in our school now and then start looking at curriculums.”

The school, which was assigned priority improvement status after poor test results last fall, is working with a turnaround network at the Colorado Department of Education.

Recent surveys have also indicated some discontent among the staff, according to Assistant Superintendent Rob Stein.

The school was looking into EL partially in an effort to combat those issues, Stein said, but was encouraged by West Regional Director John LeCavalier to make sure everyone was on board before moving ahead.

“What we’re finding is that the staff has to feel like they’re really going to work smarter as a team before we get to specific questions” like using EL at the school, said Stein.

Ultimately, Stein is more concerned about recruiting a strong pool of candidates despite the Roaring Fork Valley’s cost of living than he is about school politics tainting the process.

“It’s not like this is a party election where we’re looking for someone with pre-existing ideas that agree with ours,” he said. “We’re looking for someone who’s relatable and has the skills to do the job.”

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