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Bayfield School District names two new principals

Brandon Thurston, who was placed on paid administrative leave, is out
Bayfield School District named two new principals Friday after the principal at Bayfield Middle School was placed on paid administrative leave and then resigned. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Bayfield School District on Friday announced the appointment of two new principals, including at Bayfield Middle School, where the principal last week was placed on paid administrative leave.

Bill Hesford, who has been with the district since 2005 as a teacher and a principal, was named the new principal of Bayfield Middle School.

Hesford has worked as principal at Bayfield Intermediate School since 2018.

Taking over Hesford’s position is Amber Connet, the assistant principal at the intermediate school.

“Bill is a consummate leader who always, always makes things better than he found them,” Superintendent Kevin Aten said Friday. “I think we need Bill’s fresh perspective to look at every aspect of that school. He’s worked in the community, he knows those kids, he knows those families.”

Hesford has been honored as a Colorado assistant principal of the year, Aten said.


In an interview last week, Aten said former Bayfield Middle School Principal Brandon Thurston was placed on paid administrative leave Nov. 11. He declined to provide additional details, saying it was a “personnel matter.”

On Friday, Aten said Thurston resigned. Efforts to reach him for clarification about the timing from being placed on paid administrative leave to resigning were unsuccessful.

Leon Hanhardt, assistant superintendent, and Sheryl Kaufman, a former dean at Bayfield High School, filled in last week at Bayfield Middle School, Aten said.

“It was amazing how everyone pitched in,” he said.

People have been wanting to know why Thurston abruptly left his position, but Aten said he can’t comment on personnel issues. “It did not involve the safety of students,” he said.

Connet will be the new principal at the intermediate school, where she has served as dean of students, as well as assistant principal.

“Amber is a fabulous teacher,” Aten said.

While the intermediate school is losing a popular leader, having someone familiar with the school makes it an easier transition, he said.

According to a news release from the school district, Hesford graduated from Stonehill College in North Easton, Massachusetts, in 1998 with a degree in business administration, then went on to complete his teacher licensure at Fort Lewis College in 2006. Hesford started as a student teacher with the Bayfield School District in 2005 and was later hired in 2006 as a teacher at the former Bayfield Elementary School. During his tenure with the district, Hesford has served as a coach, teacher, assistant principal, and in 2018 became the principal at Bayfield Intermediate School.

Connet graduated from FLC in 2006 and then in 2019 with a master’s degree in education-teacher leadership. She started with Bayfield School District in 2008 as a third grade teacher and spent a portion of 2010 in Honduras directing the kindergarten through third grade department. Connet later returned to the district in 2016, and upon the intermediate school opening in 2018, was hired as the dean of students. For the 2021-22 school year, Connet was promoted to the assistant principal of the intermediate school.

On Thursday, the district made a last-minute call to cancel classes on Friday, citing a staffing concerns and the need to give employees a chance to catch up.

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