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There’s no place like Colorado

New South Routt Elementary School principal leaves plains for mountains

South Routt Elementary School Principal Michael Young comes to Yampa from Perry, Okla., where he was an elementary principal for nine years.
Melinda Mawdsley

— Michael Young is counting down the days until it snows.

He doesn’t have a powder clause in his contract, but the new South Routt Elementary School principal, an avid skier, can’t believe he and his wife, Kim, are fortunate enough to live 15 miles from a world-class resort.

He also can’t believe that, in an effort to find the right fit in Colorado, he found South Routt.



“Our roots are deep in Oklahoma,” Young said. “But we came to visit Colorado so much. We said, ‘Let’s not turn 75 and wish we had gone to Colorado.’ We were selective about where we applied.”

Last week was Young’s first official week at the Yampa school. By Thursday, he was settled into his office. One corner had paintings and knick-knacks hanging above a floral print chair.



“My wife’s the decorator,” Young said.

Behind Young’s head hung framed pictures of his former classes and patches showcasing his interest in everything from marlin fishing to USA Wrestling to skiing in Steamboat.

He decorated that corner.

Scattered throughout the office are signs of Young’s passion for education. Cursive alphabet flashcards are stuck near the ceiling. A Dr. Seuss book is displayed on a shelf. Apple mementos are strewn about.

“I come from a family of educators,” he said.

Young arrived in South Routt from Perry, Okla., where he was an elementary principal for nine years. Before his time in Perry, he was an elementary principal at Mulhall-Orlando in Oklahoma for three years.

Before moving to administration, Young was an elementary teacher for 12 years. He taught every grade but kindergarten.

“The most difficult decision I’ve probably ever had to make was the decision to be an elementary principal,” Young said. “People who are in education and stay in education a long time have to love kids.”

And South Routt loves its children and its elementary school.

“You have to keep in mind that most communities take pride in their elementary schools,” Young said. “Schools are the backbone of the community – schools and churches.”

Young said an effective principal must have a vision for education in the 21st century, including goal setting, strategic planning and supporting and shaping existing school culture and climate.

Young, who isn’t afraid to say “y’all” and “yes, ma’am,” sees similarities between South Routt and Oklahoma.

He met many people in South Routt’s education system when he went through the interview process. He also held a social gathering so he could meet more South Routt residents.

“You talk to people here, and they are the third or fourth generations,” Young said. “Coal is the industry here, while oil and natural gas are the industry (in Oklahoma), but the work ethic is very similar.”

The biggest differences he finds are in the scenery and the climate.

“We are looking forward to the snow,” Young said. His wife wasn’t able to find a teaching job with the district, but she is optimistic for next year.

Young understands some people might not be ready or may not enjoy the longer winters, but he has a different perspective.

“Go back to 100 percent humidity in 110 degrees for 30 days straight,” Young said.

– To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com


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