CASTLE ROCK — Although she just recently started her job as Castle Rock High School principal, Brooke French said she already feels like part of the community.
“People have been amazing. In my car I have two full loads of vegetables” donated to her from the community garden, French told the Daily News last week. “I don’t feel like an outsider anymore. I just feel very comfortable.”
That sense of belonging is important for the 16-year educator, who wants to strengthen the community-minded sentiment in the high school, she said.
“Castle Rock has a sense of family and home. People want to be here,” French said. “We want to make sure everyone (in high school) feels that.”
French said she is also working with teachers to improve instruction and raise student test scores. It’s an effort already underway by the district, which recently adopted new math and English curriculum for the first time in almost 15 years.
French, 40, replaces Ryan Greene, who stepped into the superintendent’s position when Jim Mabbott retired in June.
She will make $109,000 a year.
“I’m proud because what she’s talking about (doing) is what we’ve been trying for four years,” Greene said. “It’s the same philosophy and mantra we’ve been using.”
Greene said it’s bittersweet to turn over the reins to a role he served in for the last five years. However, he said he’s looking forward to watching French “continue with what we’ve built already.”
“She is quality, quality, quality,” Greene said. “(When she applied), she just felt right for the job, like she’d take the high school to the next level.”
French has worked in education since 2003.
She holds a bachelor’s in humanities degree from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and a masters in teaching from Whitworth University in Spokane.
For most of her career, she worked as a high school English teacher. About four years ago, she moved into K-12 administration.
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She’s held positions such as a director of teaching and learning, an elementary school principal and a middle school principal. Most recently, she was the principal at McFarland Middle School in the Othello, in Central Washington.
French said she decided to apply for high school principal positions because “to me, it was the next step.”
“I’m the type of person that loves to learn and loves to progress, so I started looking for a high school (administrative) position. … It was an experience I didn’t have yet,” French said.
She also considered district-level positions, but French said she decided against those spots because they offer less time with the students.
“I absolutely love everything about high school, the education and the feel of it. There’s the prep assemblies and the sports and the community getting involved in all of that,” French said. “That’s what I am excited about getting back into.”
When she found the opening at Castle Rock, it felt as if she had uncovered a “hidden gem,” she said. The close-knit, small town community was exactly the place she was looking for.
“It’s absolutely beautiful, and the people have been amazing … It’s just the sense that people take care of one another and look out for each other,” French said.
Students started classes at the high school Tuesday, and French said she’s already looking forward to their first athletic events of the season. Attending the games is a great way to build bonds with students, she said.
“I don’t have a classroom of my own, so just being involved and seeing their activities (connects us),” French said. “Students need to know you care, and being very visible is important.”
French added that “all (the students) have to do is look up and see the principal in the crowd” to know she supports them.
French, her husband and their three children live in Lexington. She said the family plans to stay in the area for several years.
“It’s very common for principals in secondary schools to only be around for three to five years … but I want to be here for a very long time,” French said. “I want to be a Castle Rock community member, and I want to be a Rocket. And once you’re a Rocket, I think you are a Rocket for life.”