Vail Valley principal finalists meet kids, parents |

Vail Valley principal finalists meet kids, parents

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Lauren Glendenning/Vail DailyGrace Hess, left, meets staff and parents at Battle Mountain High School Thursday. Hess is one of two candidates up for the open principal position at the school.

VAIL, Colorado ” Parents, students and staff at Battle Mountain High School in Eagle-Vail, Colorado and Eagle Valley Middle School are anxiously awaiting the announcement of each school’s new principal.

Committees at each school, made up of school district officials, parents, students, staff and community members, narrowed down the largest pool of candidates the Eagle County School District has ever received for a principal position, said Jason Glass, director of human resources for the district.

The committees chose three finalists for each school. One Battle Mountain High finalist, Mark Brewer, dropped out of the running because of the cost of living in Eagle County, said Brooke Skjonsby, spokeswoman for the school district.

Another Eagle Valley Middle candidate, Byron Darnall, was eliminated from the finalists after Superintendent Dr. Sandra Smyser decided he didn’t have the administrative experience for a principal position, Glass said.

“We hope we land him in another role, though, because he was a great candidate,” Glass said.

The search for the new principals started with a pre-screening Feb. 13, and ended Thursday when Smyser interviewed the remaining four candidates. After her interviews, the candidates went to their potential schools for a meet-and-greet with teachers, students and parents. The informal meet-and-greet turned out much like an interview, as parents and teachers showed up asking the finalists some tough and straightforward questions about their intentions as principal.

Grace Hess, one of the Battle Mountain finalists, warmly greeted everyone and answered questions about her experience and background. She has a lot of experience teaching English- language learners and said she would be able to bring that expertise to Battle Mountain, a school with a high Hispanic population.

Phil Qualman, a Battle Mountain finalist and the current assistant principal at the school, also answered many questions dealing with the school’s diverse population and culture ” a subject parents and staff are clearly concerned about.

While Qualman is already a part of the Battle Mountain administration, Glass said Smyser and the committees that selected finalists do not consider that during the interviewing. He has no advantage over Hess, Glass said.

Eagle Valley Middle also has a finalist that is the current assistant principal at that school, John Trinca. The other finalist for Eagle Valley Middle is Scott Noller, an assistant principal at a middle school in Colorado Springs.

Smyser should make her final recommendation for each position by Monday afternoon. The principals won’t officially be hired until the School Board approves their hiring at its Wednesday board meeting.

Glass said any one of the four candidates would be a great addition to both schools. The decision ultimately comes down to student and community needs, and whether the new principal can keep building what Glass calls a “successful school culture.”

Feedback about any of the four finalists for principal positions at both Battle Mountain High School and Eagle Valley Middle School should contact Jason Glass at (970) 328-1925, or

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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