Sarah Hepworth, currently the head of the Moffat County School District Early Childhood Development Program, stretches her arms in the air for this portrait Friday at the school district preschool. Hepworth was appointed principal of East Elementary School during Thursday night’s school board meeting.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Sarah Hepworth, currently the head of the Moffat County School District Early Childhood Development Program, stretches her arms in the air for this portrait Friday at the school district preschool. Hepworth was appointed principal of East Elementary School during Thursday night’s school board meeting.

Familiar school, new job

Sarah Hepworth to take over as East Elementary principal in August

The last time Sarah Hepworth walked the halls of East Elementary School as an employee was 12 years ago. In the upcoming school year, she’ll be back again but in a different capacity.

Starting in August, Hepworth will be the new principal of East Elementary.

The school is where she got her start in the Craig education system, teaching first grade during the 1997-98 school year. Appointed to the job by the Moffat County School Board at its April 22 meeting, Hepworth said she is very excited to return.

“I’m still familiar with a lot of the staff, so it’ll be great to work again with people that I know,” she said. “It’s a great school with great teachers, and it should be really fun to be back.”

The requirements of the job will be a change of pace from Hepworth’s current position in the school district.

Having served as the director of the Early Childhood Center, not only has she been working with children younger than elementary school age, but she also has had more administrative duties.

“I’ve been working with a large staff of childhood educators, and I’ve really enjoyed that. But I was seeking out a new opportunity to grow,” she said. “It was a timing thing as well, with East having the job open and my having taught there and having a daughter who went to school there.

“It was a comfort thing, and I wanted to be able to stretch my skill levels with responsibilities that are a little bit different.”

One element of the principal job Hepworth expects to differ from her current job is the need to enforce discipline with students. Working primarily with children ages infant to 5 years old, she said her charges rarely need punishment for misbehavior.

“For 3- to 5-year-olds, you can pretty much be sure they won’t remember the next day what they did wrong the day before, whether they hurt somebody or tried to escape out the back door,” she said. “Older kids will remember things like that, and so as a disciplinarian, it’ll be important to maintain a good relationship with them.”

Hepworth said she wants also to stay well-connected with parents and keep them in touch with the school.

“I love the parent part of teaching,” she said. “Working with adults and parents is something I didn’t realize I would enjoy when I was working as a first-grade teacher at East or when I taught kindergarten in Fort Collins. I love working with other adults toward a goal. My research says that if you get parents into the building and feeling comfortable, they talk more positively about their child’s school.”

Hepworth’s own connection to East as a parent began when she was a teacher and her daughter, Emily, was attending school there at the same time.

The connection continues between mother and child, with Emily now a sophomore at Sarah’s alma mater, the University of Wyoming — although she is studying physiology with a minor in music, whereas the elder Hepworth got her bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

Hepworth received her master’s degree in early childhood special education from the University of Northern Colorado. She also is completing her principal’s endorsement from Mesa State.

“I’m almost caught up with my husband,” she said. “He has four degrees, and now I’ll have three.”

Hepworth will officially start the principal position in early August, but she will be meeting with interim principal Joel Sheridan during the summer to get up to speed on the position.

“We’ll be consulting and collaborating a lot over the next five weeks,” she said.

Hepworth said replacing former principal Diana Cook will “be some big shoes to fill.”

“She used to be my daughter’s teacher and I think she did a lot great things for East,” Hepworth said. “We have different leadership styles, but I have to acknowledge all the work she did there. I think there will be high expectations of me to build on her foundation.”

Hepworth’s replacement for the Early Childhood Center director position has not yet been selected, though she believes a number of people would be qualified, especially with the quality of her current staff.

“We’ve made a lot of changes and improvements and we’re really starting to be recognized as a four-star program,” she said. “We’ve all done that together. I can’t take the credit, myself. It was definitely a team effort, and that’s the hardest part of the departure.

“They’re all a big part of my success, people who I’ve consulted with and have coached me. There are many pieces of them that are part of me.”

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