Sarah Strassburger promoted to Aspen High School principal
With the uncertainty of the school year amid the drastic changes brought on by the pandemic, there will be a familiar face leading Aspen High School students in the fall.
Sarah Strassburger, who started in the district in 2006, was approved as the new principal Monday night by the Aspen Board of Education. She has been assistant principal for the past four school years and replaces Tharyn Mulberry, who was hired as principal in 2015 and recently was named the district’s assistant superintendent.
“The school leadership at the high school has a really high rating, so I think in that sense some consistency is always helpful,” Strassburger said Monday. “There are pros and cons to having an internal candidate, and I think far more pros than cons.
“I know the community, the staff, the students, and I think that is a real positive.”
The board also approved three other hires: Adric Arndt (most recently from Colorado Springs) as director of student services; Jorge Calderon (from the city of Louisville in Boulder County) as director of facilities; and Reghan Mahaffey was promoted to director of transportation.
Strassburger started as an English teacher at the high school in 2006, and from 2009 to 2016 she chaired the school’s English department. Before Aspen, Strassburger taught at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale and also at an academy of science and technology in San Francisco.
She received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from Colorado College in Colorado Springs and a master’s degree in arts literature and culture from the University of Denver.
Mulberry will work with new superintendent David Baugh, who was hired in March. Baugh and Mulberry are scheduled to begin their new positions July 1.
“Tharyn is really good at listening,” Strassburger said. “I think the graduation at Buttermilk is a great example of that. He listened to everyone, the students, parents, faculty and community and we had an incredible event.”
One board member pointed out Monday night that before Mulberry started, just 57% of the high school staff said in a survey it was a good place to work. That number now is up to 93%.
“There is no such thing as a finish line in education,” Strassburger said. “It’s not like we can check a box and say, ‘We’re good. Everybody just close the book.’ There’s always work to be done, and any information you get from surveys is just that, information. We have to take it to heart and see what we can do better. But I think the high school is in a pretty solid, positive place moving into these uncertain times.”
She said teachers and others are working this summer to come up with a plan to get back that sense of community among the students and staff after in-class learning abruptly stopped in mid-March.
The school has postponed the Experiential Education program, which is usually the start of the year and builds friendships and community.
“A big thing is how do we create a sense of community with the social/emotional needs of everyone, students and staff, in the new normal?” she said. “We don’t have Ex-Ed to start the year, which is the grounding introduction to the school year. We have a group of teachers working on that. … We have a phenomenal teaching staff here. People who are really experienced, really bright, really passionate about a myriad of things, not just their content area.”
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Cam Daniel is a former youth addiction counselor who’s been a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy for three years.