Danielle Van Esselstine, center, chats with parents, teachers, students and other community members Monday evening in the Moffat County High School library. Van Esselstine is one of four candidates being interviewed this week to fill the principal position at MCHS.

Photo by Andy Bockelman

Danielle Van Esselstine, center, chats with parents, teachers, students and other community members Monday evening in the Moffat County High School library. Van Esselstine is one of four candidates being interviewed this week to fill the principal position at MCHS.

4 candidates emerge for Moffat County High School principal job

Assistant principal, athletics director among contenders

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— The Bulldogs of Moffat County High School soon will have a new top dog.

The Moffat County School District has reached the final step in the process of hiring a new principal at MCHS, with four candidates interviewing for the position this week. The school hosted a meet-and-greet event Monday night for parents and community members to interface with those vying for the job.

Moffat County High School principal candidates

Moffat County School District is reviewing candidates to fill the principal position at MCHS, with the following four people as finalists in the search.

Name — Current Job, City

David Grabowski — Assistant principal at MCHS, Craig

Kelly McCormick — Assistant principal at Delta High School, Delta

Rick Schmitz — Athletics and activities director for MCSD, Craig

Danielle Van Esselstine — Principal at Ellicott High School, Ellicott

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Rick Schmitz, center, speaks with community members Monday evening in the Moffat County High School library. Schmitz, the athletics and activities director for Moffat County School District, is interviewing this week to fill the principal position at MCHS, as are current Assistant Principal David Grabowski; Kelly McCormick, of Delta; and Danielle Van Esselstein, of Ellicott.

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David Grabowski

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Kelly McCormick

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Rick Schmitz

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Danielle Van Esselstine

Among the finalists are current MCSD employees David Grabowski and Rick Schmitz.

Grabowski began teaching math at the school in 2006 before stepping into his current role as assistant principal in 2012. Although taking on the mantle of principal was not his original intention when he first started at MCHS, Grabowski said he thought the time was right when he learned about current principal Thom Schnellinger’s plans to leave in June, which Schnellinger announced in February.

“I knew right away that would be the right step for me,” he said.

Schmitz likewise had a different game plan in mind when he took on the job of the district’s athletics and activities director last July, but with two decades of experience as part of Garfield School District in multiple functions, moving into the principal’s office sounded like a good opportunity.

“I’ve had such a great experience the first nine or 10 months on the job, working with coaches at the high school and middle school, and I guess the challenge of leading a building was just too good to pass up,” he said.

Although the other two candidates have yet to work in Moffat County, they are no strangers to the Western Slope.

Kelly McCormick currently works as the assistant principal of Delta High School and before that served in the same role at Delta's middle school. McCormick said traveling to Craig as part of the coaching staff of several of Delta’s sports teams got him interested in MCHS.

“I always loved the facilities and thought they were beyond anything that I was ever involved in,” he said. “Every time we came here, something good has happened.”

Danielle Van Esselstine first experienced what the region is like while attaining her associate degree from Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Rangely campus. At the moment, Van Esselstine is the principal of Ellicott High School, in Ellicott, near Colorado Springs.

“I always loved this area, so when I saw this job opening, I was very excited,” she said. “This is a nice welcome from the community and the students.”

Christy Gonzales was among the parents who attended Monday’s event, taking the chance to speak with each of the four people who could become the principal for her daughter Abigail’s senior year at MCHS, starting next fall.

“I believe that all of them have great possibilities and potential, and I think it will really come down to how they interview and how their visions and ideas fit in with our superintendent-elect and our board members,” Gonzales said.

Hiring the new principal is one of the bigger duties Brent Curtice has had since transitioning into the MCSD superintendent job. Much like that process, interviewing principal candidates — whittled down from a list of nine to four — consists of official meetings this week with groups of community members, parents, MCHS staff, students, administrators and the senior leadership team, composed of Curtice, Director of Student Services Renae Dove and Financial Director Tinneal Gerber.

“They’ve each got about five hours of pretty hard interviews,” Curtice said. “I would hope, if all goes well, we’ll make our decision by the end of the week. Any one of these four would be great, and now it’s about listening to the voice of the people and trying to bring that forward.”

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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