Principal puts students, teachers first
Eagle Valley High School’s new principal, Mark Strakbein, says he wants only one thing: to give students the best education possible.
Strakbein, an educator for 20 years, has been a principal in Eagle County schools for the past eight years, three of those at Battle Mountain High School. From 1999 to this spring, he was principal of the district’s alternative high school, Red Canyon High School.
Last month, he stepped into the principal job at Eagle Valley High School. He has committed to remaining as principal for the rest of this year and next year. Beyond that point, Strakbein says his future plans depend on the community’s and district’s response to his performance at Eagle Valley High School.
Strakbein’s work for the district is also a family affair. His wife, Karen, is the district’s director of finance and assistant superintendent. Their three children, twin daughters Amy and Morgan, and son Chad, all attend district schools. The girls are students at Eagle Valley High School.
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Strakbein said he’s comfortable with having his daughters in the student body. He said the school’s goal to provide what is best for all of the students.
“When your own kids are a part of that, it hits closer to home,” said Strakbein, who considers himself a “hands-on” principal.
Since starting his new job, Strakbein has been talking and meeting with the teachers and students. His goal, he said, is to ensure Eagle Valley High School continues to be a place where students are challenged in every aspect of school life, including classes, activities and special programs.
On his first day, he visited 32 classes and introduced himself to the students, talking about his expectations and the goals.
“I’m a simple person. I have three rules: know right from wrong and do what is right; second, always do your best; and third, treat people with respect,” Strakbein said. “I’m out and about with the kids as much as possible. They need to see me and they need to be able to visit and talk.”
His daughters, Amy and Morgan, said they are at ease with their dad as their principal.
“My friends really enjoy having him here. Most already knew him. Now I get to see him during the day,” said Morgan.
“Its been pretty cool so far,” said Amy.
Full of ideas
Strakbein acknowledges he has set some hefty goals for himself and for the school. He’s working to incorporate the values and beliefs of staff, parents, the community-at-large, and students with his own goals, he said.
Strakbein will continue to focus on the Teacher Advancement Program – better known as TAP. The TAP program is the district’s sometimes controversial teacher pay-for-performance evaluation system.
Strakbein said he has a firm belief in the program and believes it helps bring together good teaching strategies with the school’s classes and students.
“What TAP looks like every day is kids who are engaged in learning,” Strakbein said.
He also wants to improve the school schedule, he said. Some of the improvements he and the high school’s staff have discussed are the addition of new or expanded programs and the implementation of student-tracking technology.
Strakbein said he also wants to offer expanded culinary and automotive programs as well as strengthen current dual enrollment courses. The dual enrollment program allows high school students to take Colorado Mountain College courses for both high school and college credit.
The school’s advanced placement courses program for excelling students is also on his radar. He wants to increase the number of those courses.
Strakbein noted that because the high school has grown so much, the athletic department will also be changing. The school will move next year from a 3A to 4A classification in the Colorado High School Sports Association.
With that growth, Strakbein said he wants to boost student participation in the sports programs. He said he will also work to ensure that the school is in compliance with Title IX, the federal mandate which regulates the number of girls’ and boys’ sports that must be offered.
Strakbein will also focus on communication and involving parents in their children’s education, he said. A new, on-line software program will allow parents and teachers to track their students’ attendance records, grades and homework assignments.
“It’s a tool to keep parents informed. Part of my job is communication. A better informed community gets better results,” Strakbein said.
For the time being, Strakbein is focusing on getting his students through the rest of this school year, he said.
“If (the principal’s job) is a good fit we’ll run with it,” Strakbein said. “The community has a voice in ensuring this is a good match for everyone.”