The Hood River County School District has named Columba Jones interim principal at Hood River Valley High School starting July 1.
Jones, who grew up in the Hood River Valley, is currently an assistant principal at HRVHS. She takes over for Rich Polkinghorn, who was promoted last month to become superintendent of the district beginning July 1.
“We have a strong and very talented team at HRVHS, and I am confident that we will work collectively on a structure that will focus on providing students with the emotional and academic supports needed for an enriching school year,” said Jones, herself a 1997 HRVHS graduate.
After earning a degree in multidisciplinary studies from Eastern Oregon University, she returned to Hood River and got her first teaching job at Wy’east Middle School. She earned a Masters in education administration from Concordia University, and served as interim vice principal at HRVHS in 2013-14. From 2014-18, Jones was principal at Wallace and Priscilla Stevenson Intermediate School in White Salmon, then returned to HRVHS as assistant principal.
Jones, who moved to Hood River as a child from Mexico, becomes the first bi-cultural principal at HRVHS.
“Columba has a tireless motor,” Polkinghorn said. “She works so hard to support our students and staff. She has great ideas and is a great collaborator. She really has a heart for teaching and for kids.”
Chrissy Reitz, HRCSD board chair, lauded the choice of Jones to lead HRVHS. “Columba is very thoughtful in the way she approaches all sorts of situations,” she said. “She tries to see things from all different perspectives. She’s very open and wants to hear from everybody.”
The school district will work on filling Jones’s current position as assistant principal.
“I am excited and ready to continue my leadership work under a new role at HRVHS for the upcoming school year,” Jones said.
“I understand we are facing challenging and uncertain times, but I do believe this can also be seen as a time of opportunities for growth. I am committed to putting in the work to think creatively, re-evaluate, and reflect on past experiences that will serve to inform a plan that best supports our students.”
“Growing up in Hood River, there weren’t many opportunities to see myself within our community and educational system. I am a product of hard working parents and a supportive family structure who instilled the value of work ethic and whom always modeled perseverance. I’m not inexperienced when it comes to navigating tough times, and because of this I can relate to experiences shared of what it means to ‘grow up in two worlds.’ Through my journey, I was very fortunate to come across people who saw ‘me’ and served as mentors for me.
“Because of this, I’ve learned the value of building trusting relationships, and it is why I will work to listen to our diverse community and create partnerships with those sometimes unheard expert voices, so that together we can problem solve and work towards a community and educational system where every student can see themself.”
Jones’ class was 1998, but she graduated with the class of 1997.