Submitted by Rene Carroll
October is National Principals Month, an opportunity to recognize school principals for their significant impact on the success and well-being of our nation’s students. We honor our Washougal School District principals by highlighting specific projects or work going on in their school that they are proud of.
Brian Amundson – Cape Horn-Skye Elementary and Canyon Creek Middle School
As the first ever principal of BOTH Cape Horn-Skye Elementary and Canyon Creek Middle School, Brian Amundson is proud of his work with the leadership team and staff to create a K-8 vision for both schools. Amundson was hired as CCMS principal and found out the day before school opened in August of 2020 that he was needed to lead both schools.
Amundson is extremely proud of the response of the staff to this change in leadership and structure. “This is an amazing staff who work hard every day to give all of our kids the best possible school experience,” he said. Amundson said the work towards creating one culture for these schools will still maintain the separate identity for each. “We want students to feel that they are going to a new school when they go from fifth grade to sixth grade, but not lose the community atmosphere that is so important on this campus,” he said.
Tracey MacLachlan – Columbia River Gorge Elementary
The very first and only principal ever of Columbia River Gorge Elementary, Tracey MacLachlan is very proud of their Awesome Otter reward tickets and Awesome Otter Store which supports rewarding positive behavior. The program recognizes students who are being safe, responsible, respectful, and kind.
“Students follow common area behavior expectations and collect Awesome Otter tickets where they can redeem them at the store,” she explained. “There is a variety of reward items at each grade level to incentivize positive behavior.” All staff can hand out Awesome Otters and are encouraged to do so. “We really emphasize the team approach recognizing that all students are a part of the CRGE community of learners,” she said.
Tami Culp – Gause Elementary
Gause Principal Tami Culp is in her fourth year in that role and said she is most proud of the resilience of Gause staff, students, and families have shown through the pandemic.
“I am so proud of how the Gause staff has worked together, and continues to work together, within the guidance and protocols for Covid this past year and a half to overcome barriers to serve our students and families,” she said. “Our students come each day ready to learn and have been so respectful in adhering to our current safety protocols. Our families as well have been so supportive in following the safety guidance for schools. We know we asked a lot of our parents during remote learning, and they hung in there with us. I am amazed every day how the entire staff works to support each other.”
Wendy Morrill – Hathaway Elementary
Wendy Morrill, principal of Hathaway Elementary School is very excited about the addition of our two Dual Language kindergarten classrooms and our two Transitional kindergarten classrooms. “Both programs enrich our Hathaway Community but also provide wonderful resources for both our students and families,” she explained.
Additionally, she is proud of the Hathaway staff. “We are coming up with creative ways to bring fun school activities to students despite the pandemic,” Wendy explained. “For instance, we are planning a fall field trip experience for our Kindergarteners on site. We want our students to have as many memorable, enriching experiences as possible.”
David Cooke – Jemtegaard Middle School
David Cooke, Jemtegaard Middle School principal and 2021 NASSP Washington State Middle School Principal of the Year, is most proud of his staff and how they responded to necessary changes in education through the pandemic.
“My teachers have had to put on so many hats, including teacher, counselor for students and parents, tech support, while mastering new skills to meet the needs of their student,” he said. “The last year has been the most challenging of their teaching careers.”
He added that the JMS support staff jumped in wherever they are needed and have been the glue of the building. “They have stayed positive throughout, focusing on supporting their students and solving problems,” he said. “It has been an honor to serve with them.”
If you are looking for Washougal High School principal, Sheree Gomez- Clark, you’ll find her everywhere and anywhere around campus, thanks to her new mobile desk.
Gomez-Clark found, with so much additional work needing to be addressed due to COVID, that she spent much of her day in her office. The last year and a half have also proven difficult in getting to know the students which left her feeling disconnected from them. “I felt like the only time I was with them was at lunchtime, reminding them to keep social distance and wear their masks,” she explained. “There were no authentic connections being made.”
So, after seeing the idea on Principal’s Principles Facebook group, she decided to take her principalship “on the road” with a mobile desk. She now tackles her inbox and completes routine computer work around the halls of WHS rather than in her office. A wheeled, waist-tall cart draped in a black cloth carries all the essentials of an office desk including laptop computer, phone, school radio, notebooks, pens and coffee cup.
“I love it,” she said “This has been fantastic! My rolling desk has helped me to spend minimal time in my office and have maximized my time getting to know students better. It is important to me to be ‘present’ for my students and staff, and this is one small step for me to do that.”
Jason Foster – Washougal Learning Academy
Jason Foster, principal of the Washougal Learning Academy, is proud of his team of teachers and their ability to quickly expand the program curriculum, transition to standards-based evaluation and offer enrichment activities.
“One of the reasons that students and families choose an alternative learning experience (ALE) for their students instead of traditional in-person classes is that they are looking for a more individualized experience,” Foster explained. “By providing multiple curriculum options for grades K-8, WLA allows families to choose from a more project-based approach, one with more audio and video engagement, and one with more traditional worksheets that are easily printed and worked on by hand– all with high quality instruction and the rigor that students need to grow.”
Foster knows all students are individuals with individual needs– and for a variety of reasons they have chosen an ALE environment as their school. “I am proud of the work that has been done so far to know and support our students and families, and I’m looking forward to what comes next,” he said.