Four local schools replace principals

Leanne Garcia to lead Durango High

Durango School District 9-R announced the hiring of new principals Wednesday for four of its schools, including the high school.

The announcement marks a year of high turnover in leadership positions for the district, which also hired a new superintendent earlier this spring.

Leanne Garcia has been named to replace Diane Lashinsky at Durango High School. Lashinsky resigned in April.

Garcia has been an assistant principal at DHS for the last four years, leading development of various programs.

“In addition to many other tasks at DHS, she was responsible for overseeing the Gifted and Talented program and the Safety & Security plans,” a news release about the hirings says.

Garcia has more than 17 years teaching experience. Before coming to Durango, she worked as a teacher and administrator in Las Cruces, N.M., and Deming, N.M. Garcia earned her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies at the University of Texas, El Paso, and her master’s degree in educational administration from Grand Canyon University.

Lashinsky had been at the school since 2007.

The district has refused to provide a copy of Lashinsky’s resignation letter, citing an exemption to the open-records law for personnel files. She came under fire early in her tenure for deciding to end a tradition of 4.0-GPA graduates wearing different colored robes. She reversed the decision after an outcry.

Three other 9-R schools will get new principals.

Vanessa Fisher will replace Libby Culver as the principal of Sunnyside Elementary School. Fisher is a Durango native and Fort Lewis College graduate with 11 years of experience as a teacher and administrator.

She holds both a master’s in reading and an educational specialist degree from the University of Northern Colorado.

David Tanaka will replace Pete Harter as principal of Needham Elementary School. Tanaka has 16 years of teaching experience, and served in the Boulder Valley School District as a teacher, site coordinator and assistant principal, in addition to time spent teaching in Mexico.

Tanaka, who is bilingual, got his bachelor’s in English literature from the University of California at Los Angeles and his master’s in culturally and linguistically diverse education from the University of Colorado at Denver.

Kathleen Lau will become principal of Park Elementary School, where she has served as interim principal for the past year. Lau has more than 11 years of teaching and administrative experience, including serving as a teacher, counselor, coach and as the assistant principal and athletic director of Miller Middle School.

Lau earned her bachelor’s in psychology at Fort Lewis College, her master’s in counseling at Adams State College and her educational specialist degree at the University of Northern Colorado.

Interim Superintendent Bill Esterbrook said he was, “proud to announce our new slate of principals to the community.”

Esterbrook said that when Dan Snowberger replaces him as superintendent on July 1, “I think he’ll find a remarkable team to lead our innovative and excellent school district. It’s been a privilege to help get the school district ready for the next school year and beyond.”

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