Six questions with Roaring Fork High School Principal Brett Stringer
The Post Independent continues a series of question-and-answer profiles with our area school principals. This week, we caught up with Brett Stringer, principal at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale.
We hear a lot of talk about the importance of community acceptance and openness in the Roaring Fork Valley. How do you engage parents and community members in decisions for RFHS?
We are lucky to have a community where our parents and community members are such strong advocates for our students. Our parents and community want to be engaged with RFHS, which is a great starting place for strong communication and collaboration, and ultimately, for student success.
Over the past year and a half, consistent communication has been a goal of ours at RFHS. We want to make sure parents know about what’s happening at RFHS, what supports we can offer students and families, and how they can engage with or provide feedback to the school.
Good communication opens the door for feedback and constant reflection on how to improve.
I have a quote in my office from Elon Musk that says “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”
Like all schools in the district, we have several processes in place to encourage general feedback as well as feedback to inform school decisions. We all want what is best for our students. The trick is to make sure we are collaboratively making decisions that positively impact all students.
You rose from faculty, as a language arts teacher and later as an academic dean, to administrative roles on the Front Range. How important is faculty input in school decisions, and how do you implement faculty feedback at RFHS?
A strong school is one that is led by teachers. As principal, my main goal is to create an environment that allows teachers to flex their strengths and push themselves to continue to grow as educators.
At RFHS, this is exemplified by our Building Leadership Team (BLT), which consists of a representative from each content area. BLT’s driving objective is to be the voice of their colleagues and to ensure that what we are doing as a school is supporting our strategic goals.
We have some of the hardest working educators I have ever had the pleasure to work with. They want what is best for our students and dedicate countless hours in and out of their classrooms to make sure they get the best.
What are some unexpected challenges that you’ve encountered as RFHS principal?
As a country and especially in Colorado, we don’t pay teachers what they deserve to be paid. The cost of living in the Roaring Fork Valley is very high and it is difficult for families of educators.
We live in an amazing place, with extraordinary students that deserve to have teachers that can be a part of our community for many years. As principal, I wish I had more influence in how we compensate quality teachers so they stay in our valley.
Colorado has a high rate of e-cigarette use among high school students. Is it a problem at RFHS, and if so what’s being done to counteract the spread of vaping, and other drug use?
Like most schools across the state and country, we have seen a recent increase of youth vaping. Luckily, we live in a very supportive and collaborative community that cares for the mental and physical well being of our students.
At the beginning of this year, I joined a districtwide task force to help address the rising number of students vaping. The task force is comprised of school district officials, administrators, law enforcement and town representatives.
As a school, our first goal has been to educate. We need to teach our students about the effects that vaping and other drug use have on their bodies. This is done both at school and at home.
We have been working to make sure parents have the tools they need to speak to their students about the harms of nicotine. The town of Carbondale has also been a key partner in our efforts.
Mayor Dan Richardson and Police Chief Gene Shilling have been strong advocates to make sure our school and our students have the resources they need to be safe.
Would you describe a few of your most rewarding moments at RFHS?
The first day of school this past year is a moment that immediately comes to mind. Prior to students arriving, we literally rolled out the red carpet. Then, as students started coming in, our staff lined the red carpet and cheered them on. It was our way of saying that they are our VIPs and that we were so excited to see them back in school.
Many of my most rewarding moments involve watching teachers connect with students. They care so deeply for their students’ success. There are no words to describe the importance of those connections.
What is one thing you wish freshmen knew or understood before starting high school?
As a principal and a parent, I wish that freshmen knew that school is a safe place to take risks. When we push ourselves outside our preconceived boundaries, we learn so much more than if we just do what we know we are good at.
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The Healthy Rivers Youth Water Summit brought together water policy experts, decision makers and more than 100 students from Roaring Fork Valley middle and high schools to learn about and discuss water issues.