With the Hood River County School District and Horizon Christian School back in session Sept. 8, there’s been a fair amount of buzzing around the various sites in the past week or so. And for four new principals — two of whom are new to the area — the work is just beginning.
They are Sarah Braman-Smith, Amy Moreland, Kim Yasui, and Renee Rieke.
For Sarah Braman-Smith, newly installed at Wy’east Middle School, preparations have included posing two questions to teachers, students and parents — “What’s important for me to know as your next principal? What do you like best about Wy’east?”
What she’s found is that “everybody here loves being here,” she said. “That is not that common at a middle school.”
Braman-Smith spent nine years as an administrator at Madras High School, the last four as the principal. But she’s wanted to be at Wy’east since first visiting the Hood River Valley from her home state of Michigan in the summer of 2005. The position had just gone to Catherine Dalby (who is now Director of Human Resources at the district office). While it didn’t work out at that time, she’s kept the school in mind.
“I feel incredibly fortunate that the school saw me as a fit and chose me,” she said. Now living in Odell with husband Jamie Smith, she’s enjoying being a part of the middle valley.
“I’m really excited to be in Odell, to be able to go to Mid Valley Market and be a part of the community,” she said. “I have so much gratitude.”
Down the road at Mid Valley Elementary, principal Kim Yasui might be new to the position, but not to the school — or Odell. Yasui attended both Mid Valley and Wy’east in the 1980s. She taught ELL and migrant classes at Mid Valley from 2002 until 2013, when she moved to the district office. She takes over the position from Dennis McCauley.
“I love the feeling of community that Dennis has created at Mid Valley,” said Yasui. “I am looking forward to continuing on the great things that have already been done, and working with the wonderful staff and families to build even more academic success.”
In Cascade Locks, Amy Moreland is replacing longtime principal Kim Vogel — and will additionally serve as a part-time reading teacher.
Her experience includes 10 years as an elementary classroom teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District and, more recently, as the Literacy Specialist and Title I Coordinator at Charles F. Tigard Elementary School. She also served as the Title I Grant Coordinator for the Durham Education Center (grades 8-12) in the Tigard-Tualatin School District.
She came to Cascade Locks because of “family I never met” — her grandmother grew up here, and her grandfather helped build Bonneville Dam. “I saw the job opening and I thought that was perfect,” she said.
“I want to really work with the community, but I don’t want to come in and just change everything,” she said. “Everybody’s pretty happy with how things are going.”
She plans to bring the community into the school on a more regular basis. To that end, she held an ice cream social to meet students and families, the will hold a back-to-school night once the school year gets underway.
“I think Cascade Locks is an amazing school and a great opportunity,” Moreland said. “So far, the children and families have been great and the staff are phenomenal. I’m just really excited to be here.”
Horizon primary level kids will know their new principal. She’s Renee Rieke, who has taught for six years at Horizon, after five years in the Oregon City School District.
Rieke, originally from Portland, earned her undergraduate degree from Concordia University in Irvine, Calif., and Masters at George Fox University in Newberg.
She has always enjoying teaching for “getting to know the students and see the light bulbs come on.”
Now, she will learn about “the other side of teaching,” Rieke said.
“It will be new adventures, new corners in the education word. I feel I know the classroom pretty well, but this is a new stepping stone,” she said. “I love seeing Horizon grow and I would like to do my part to help it.” Rieke said she brings “imagination and organization” to her new job.
“I’m excited for new traditions to happen, to make kids get excited,” she said. For example, she is looking forward to the return of the March 2 “Seussapalooza” that debuted last year in honor of Theodore Geisl’s birthday. “I took things I had picked up at other schools, and added it to what teachers here had already started, and we created a reading festival. The kids were all talking about what a blast they had.”
Rieke’s husband, Abe, works as network administrator for Hood River County School District. They have two daughter: Mylee, 4, who starts preschool at Horizon this year, and Alina, who just turned 2.