Sheree Gomez-Clark wasn’t planning on leaving her job as the principal at Washougal High School at the end of the 2021-22 school year. But, as she says, the universe sometimes works in weird and unexpected ways. It certainly did for her last month.
On June 24, less than two weeks after delivering the commencement address at the school’s graduation ceremony, Gomez-Clark interviewed for a position at the Camas School District. The next day, she sat down to write a pair of emotionally charged emails to her Washougal High staff members and families to let them know she was going to be moving on.
Gomez-Clark resigned as Washougal High principal, a position she had held since 2019, to accept a job as a special services coordinator at the Camas School District.
“It happened real fast,” Gomez-Clark said. “It has been a (quick) turnaround. The fact that I didn’t get to tell my staff in person, or my students and families in person, was a really big thing for me.”
“We are really sorry to lose Sheree,” said Les Brown, the Washougal School District’s director of communications and technology. “(But we) understand that this is an amazing opportunity and fits well with her next steps as a district leader and professional goals.”
In her email to Washougal High staff members, Gomez-Clark wrote that the decision to leave was “extraordinarily difficult.”
“This honestly was one of the hardest decisions that I’ve ever had to make. It certainly was not done lightly,” she told the Post-Record. “The vision of Camas School District is to see and serve each student, and their vision and values align with my vision and values. This new position in Camas is truly an amazing opportunity, and I am so grateful that they chose me. I am incredibly lucky to get to do this work there.”
In her new role, Gomez-Clark will help educators implement Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), a framework that focuses on intervention best practices within the areas of academics, behavior, and social/emotional support for the whole child, into Camas schools.
“The biggest part of that is working to provide interventions and teaching strategies, like Universal Design for Learning, so all students have access to their learning,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what demographic they come from, whether they’re bilingual or historically marginalized — everybody has the access and the tools they need in order to reach their highest potential. That’s the kind of work that I have been embedded in ever since I was a special education teacher. It’s where my skill set and my passion are. It’s a really, really awesome opportunity.”
Gomez-Clark worked at Skyview High School in Vancouver from 2004 to 2013 as a paraeducator and special education teacher. She accepted an assistant principal position at Washougal High in 2015, then succeeded Aaron Hansen as the school’s chief administrator in 2019.
“My time here in Washougal, specifically here at the high school, has been phenomenal,” she said. “I have been humbled to be able to serve and lead here. There’s a lot that’s happened over the last three years because of the pandemic, and we’ve had some other pretty big things happen here in the building. But I think one of the things that stand out is that no matter how bad things are, we are just as together when things are challenging as we are when things are going really well.”
Gomez-Clark noted that during her tenure as principal, the school has seen its graduates receive between $1 and $2 million in scholarships; reduced dropout rates; increased graduation rates; and implemented the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which strives to close opportunity gaps by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society.
“That’s because of the work of the teachers here in the building — they see these students and want them to be successful and work their tails off for it,” she said. “I don’t know how to explain the sense of community here, and that has been one of the best things. We have been all about putting students first. I’m leaving good people, and that’s hard. But they’re ready. They’re ready.”
Gomez-Clark said that the new role will open up more time for her to serve the Washougal community through volunteer opportunities such as Unite! Washougal, Sources of Strength, and/or Refuel.
“I really want to somehow be able to continue to serve,” she said, “because I live here, and it’s important for me to be a part of this community.”
Gomez-Clark wrote in her email to families that the Washougal School District will work over the next several weeks to announce a process, which will include student, parent/guardian, and staff member input, to select a new principal.
District welcomes new athletic director
The district is searching for a new high school principal, but has already found its next assistant principal/athletic director, with Brian Wilde taking the dual role, replacing Gary McGarvie.
“Gary shared earlier this year that he wanted to step down from his position to return to the classroom,” Brown said. “He is seeking a better work/life balance for himself and his family, and believes this change will support that.”
Wilde has worked as an associate principal for more than 10 years in the Camas School District and also served as a special education teacher in the Evergreen School District.
Wilde “brings experience creating positive relationships between patrons and the school community, monitoring student behavior, and mentoring new teachers,” according to a news release.
Wilde received a master’s degree in educational leadership from Grand Canyon University and an undergraduate degree from City University of Seattle.
“I am really looking forward to joining the Washougal community and supporting adults who are working to create transformative experiences for students at WHS, both in and out of the classroom,” Wilde said in the news release. “The robust extracurricular programs at WHS provide great ways for students to learn about themselves, develop teamwork skills, and be known within their community.”
WSD hires new leaders for upriver schools, district office
The district also announced the hiring of two principals to replace Brian Amundson at Canyon Creek Middle School and Cape Horn-Skye Middle School, and a new director of special services.
Admundson resigned his positions to accept a job in Naches, Washington.
New Canyon Creek principal Jake Healea worked for the Sherwood (Oregon) School District for the past five years as an associate principal at Sherwood Middle School and brings experience as a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support team leader and AVID site coordinator.
Healea previously served as a middle-school and high-school teacher in Portland, Lake Oswego, Oregon, and Beaverton, Oregon, teaching history, social studies, psychology, and economics, among other subjects.
Healea has a master’s degree in social studies education from Lewis & Clark College (Portland) and an undergraduate degree from Western Washington University (Bellingham, Washington).
“I am honored and humbled to join the Washougal School District and Canyon Creek Middle School,” Healea said in the news release. “I am excited to be part of such a great community. I look forward to doing all I can to support the staff, students, and families in fostering strong relationships, personalized learning, and equitable opportunities to ensure learning without limits for all students.”
Cape Horn-Skye Elementary will welcome Brooke Henley as its new principal this fall. Henley currently serves as principal of Rose Valley Elementary School in Kelso, where she has worked for the past six years.
Henley, who previously taught at the elementary level, has an undergraduate degree from Washington State University, a masters in education from Lesley University (Cambridge, Massachusetts), and an administrative credential from Washington State University-Vancouver.
“It is an honor to serve the staff, students, and families at Cape Horn-Skye,” she said in the news release. “My own children attended the school, and having the opportunity to lead here now will be a joy. The way the entire Washougal community works together for kids is inspiring, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”
Connor McCroskey has joined the district to serve as director of special services, replacing Penny Andrews, who has accepted a position with Longview Public Schools.
McCroskey is a former special education teacher, dean of students, and assistant director of special services. For the past three years, he worked for Vancouver Public Schools, overseeing special education programming for elementary-aged students.
McCroskey, a University of Oregon graduate, “has a strong passion for serving students with disabilities in an MTSS system that uses evidence-based practices to reduce exclusionary discipline,” according to the news release.
“I am excited to work with the Washougal School District and community to continue the work they are already doing in support of all learners,” he stated in the news release.