By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Roaring Fork School District is accepting applications for a new Roaring Fork High School principal after Drew Adams announced he will be leaving the position at the end of the school year.
Adams took the helm at RFHS five years ago. In an email to community members on Jan. 11, he explained that he had previously contemplated working abroad and felt that the time had come to pursue his options in that regard.
“Traveling abroad is the best method of eliminating ignorance, and it’s a great opportunity for our kids,” he later told The Sun. “I’m privileged to work in a profession that’s marketable throughout the world.”
Roles in Colombia, Paraguay and Barcelona are on the table, as well as some possibilities on the Front Range, where he worked before coming to Carbondale.
“It’s beautiful here, but you don’t have to challenge yourself with dealing with complex issues,” he added. “I think that long-term people who are exposed to that at a younger age are able to deal with problems better later in life.”
That’s not to say he hasn’t appreciated some of the other aspects of living and working in a small town.
“I never had to worry about my kids’ safety. That mindset of watching out for each other is one of the beauties of this community,” he said. “It’s a really rare privilege to have a unique understanding of who students are. That’s a unique thing I don’t think I’ll ever encounter again.”
In the letter, Adams expressed pride in his time at Roaring Fork, particularly the development of the School Based Health Clinic and addition of a mental health clinician as well new opportunities for academic self-challenge such as expanded Advanced Placement courses. He declined to take credit for some other satisfying projects such as the construction of a major solar array.
“We have amazing students that really want to make a difference and a set of teachers in this building who are willing to do just about anything,” he observed.
Mostly, he said, his role has been as a diplomat and community liaison.
“The additional relationships that have been forged with different branches to the community have really opened up a lot of doors,” he said.
That’s not to say there aren’t still things left undone. Adams thinks the school could benefit from a more robust outdoor leadership program, and would like to see more unity in the student body.
“I do believe that our socioeconomic and ethnic groups come together in a lot of different ways, but when you look at them in the hallways sometimes, they’re not always united,” he observed.
Another challenge facing the school is big fluctuations in enrollment – currently around 360 – which impacts state funding and thus academic offerings. There’s also the matter of the high cost of living. Adams has had to actively find housing for some of his staff, and while it’s likely to be a factor in finding a replacement, he thinks the job is worth it.
“I don’t know why anyone would consider not coming here if they lived in this community,” he said. “This is one of the best schools I’ve ever worked with.”
Indeed, with the Feb. 20 deadline still well off, the district has already received numerous applications, according to Superintendent Rob Stein.
According to Stein, the District plans to involve teachers, students and parents in the hiring process, which should take place in March, though he’s unwilling to rush the process to meet a specific deadline.
“For every position whenever we hire, we’re looking for the best position possible to work with our kids. Leading a high school is a complex and challenging job,” he said. “One thing I’ve pushed for is more of a performance-assessment approach to hiring.I always wonder why we hire educators by interview and football players by watching them play.”
“We really appreciate Drew’s five years of service to the District,” Stein added. “There’s always sadness that we’re losing someone who’s a valued member of our community, and there’s always excitement that there might be new energy or new ideas.”
RFHS Vice Principal Keslie Goodman also had plenty of praise for her departing boss.
“Drew has been such an instrumental part in finding sources of revenue… and forming them into services we know are needed,” she said. “He really pushes kids to be their best and sets up an environment to help them get there.”
“He has really set us on such a positive course,” she added. “I hope his replacement can capitalize on that vision and run with it.”