MCSD Whiteboard: Sandrock welcomes new principal |

MCSD Whiteboard: Sandrock welcomes new principal

Moffat County School District
MCSD Whiteboard

Ashley Johnston knows she has lots to learn, but she feels right at home.

Johnston, the new principal at Sandrock Elementary, took the helm at the school at the
beginning of the new semester, moving her family to Craig not long before. She said she is
thrilled to be in a new home that feels like it has fallen right into place.

“We were really looking for an area that aligned with our values and our needs for our family,”
Johnston said. “We want a good small-town community like the one we used to have back in
Texas, and we were looking for opportunities. When Mrs. (Jill) Hafey, the superintendent, called
about this opportunity, wondering if I’d be willing to make a quick move, we felt guided. God puts
something in our path, and we try to go that direction. Here we are, and we love every second of

Johnston comes to Sandrock from a principal position in Ignacio, near Durango in the southern
part of the state. A long and winding path has taken the Johnstons to Craig, but they feel
hopeful this is the destination it’s all been leading up to.

Johnston started her education in the world of finance, but soon found herself back at her old
school coaching basketball with a legendary mentor. Johnston’s own high school coach at
Granbury High School, Leta Andrews, was and still is the record-holder for most wins as a high
school basketball coach.

Andrews brought her former player — Johnston had suffered a career-ending injury early in her scholastic career but had clearly forged a strong relationship with the legendary coach — back home to work on the court again. That tipped off a career in the schools.

“I figured out education is really my gig,” Johnston said. “It kind of blossomed from there.”

Numerous teaching and leadership positions in schools in Texas led to building leadership in
Ignacio, starting as an assistant principal. Then the opportunity in Craig popped up.

“It felt right,” Johnston said. “We took a family trip up here, did the interview and it felt good from
the moment I walked in. Everyone was friendly, and I left there feeling so positive. I heard from
Mrs. Hafey soon after, we talked about commitment and the quick turnaround, and then talked
as a family. We think this will be our forever home. We think we’ve found our spot.”

It’s challenging taking over a school in the middle of a school year, but Johnston has jumped
right in, along with her two children who are both attending school at Sandrock with her.

“The challenges have mostly been in logistics,” she said. “And then making sure the kids feel
good about the move. They’ve already started building great friendships here. Now it’s just
having boots on the ground and getting to know everybody. I didn’t have that opportunity at the
beginning of the year, so I’ve got to really spend time. Teachers, kids, I have to overload my
schedule and make sure we have opportunities to talk. That puts other things on the back
burner for now, which is fine. The biggest piece is getting to know teachers and kids here. That’s
the priority.”

There are goals for the school, too, and more will come into focus with time, Johnston said.

“We’re looking at some things on the academic front, some critical components that we can
really focus on,” she said. “You can’t go in and focus on everything at once, but we want to get
started on making some decisions on what will move the needle. What will put that progress in a
forward direction? We’ll keep coming together with our teams to really take a look at our data
points, our highest priority needs, and how we can utilize our resources to meet those needs
and still continue growing kids at all levels and all needs. We can focus on high-needs kids all
day long, and that moves the needle, but bubble kids, kids achieving at high levels, we need to
grow them as well. We need to diversify opportunities for growth.”

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