Yampa Valley High School welcomes 1st principal
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In hiring new principal Karla Setter, Yampa Valley High School will have a full time administrator for the first time. Setter was one of the founding teachers of the school.
As leader of the small, alternative high school with an enrollment of about 30 students, Setter said she will have many roles — from answering phones to taking attendance and serving lunch.
“There are a lot of shared responsibilities at this school,” Setter said.
By chance and circumstance, there is an entire turnover of all four staff members of the school. The others either moved away to pursue other opportunities or took different positions within the district.
Chuck Rosemond served previously as the dean of Yampa Valley and as a lead teacher before that. He was named the Steamboat Springs School District’s educator of the year in 2014.
For the past eight years, Setter worked as a grant writer for the Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt school districts.
Earlier in her career, she worked at a nontraditional, environmental studies-focused school in Minnesota.
“I saw right away how a different school setting with a different focus can really help engage students,” Setter said.
As soon as she came to Steamboat, Setter said she saw the opportunity to create a school where some students find they thrive in a smaller environment.
At Yampa Valley, “There’s more opportunity for individual learning, and students are able to help influence how the school is structured,” she said.
According to the school’s vision, “Critical thinking, collaboration and self-direction are the foundations of YVHS’s academic system and serve to provide our students with the skills and abilities that will promote a successful and happy life.”
It’s truly a family, she said, and a place that fosters community building between students and staff.
“I believe all students have a passion, and for some who haven’t found that, a smaller learning environment can help students find their way and pursue their interests,” she said.
From the beginning, Setter set her sights on growing with the school. “I got my administrator’s license hoping Yampa Valley would grow to need an administrator,” she said.
Setter also sees an opportunity to partner with other schools in the county to develop additional nontraditional learning pathways.
During her tenure as a grant writer, Setter said her experience went far beyond grant writing, including helping to implement restorative justice and trauma informed care programming and training, as well as bolstering the team of counselors and social workers.
“I learned a ton as a grant writer,” she said, and is excited to put that into practice in her leadership role at Yampa Valley, in addition to the experience she brings from the classroom.
Setter said she was drawn toward administration “Because I love the big picture vision and strategy, and at the same time, enjoy building close relationships.”
She also notes the value in having built strong relationships with administrators across the county.
With Yampa Valley as a “school of choice” within the district, “Students ideally want to come because they really want to dig in,” she said. “And work toward graduation and career and post-secondary goals.”
Setter also lauds the opportunities for students to get out of the building, get hands-on learning experiences and contribute to the community.
She said she is excited to expand that programming, which incorporates overnight field studies and place-based, real world learning.
Before falling in love with the mountains, Setter spent her childhood in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, “with cornfields on all four sides of my house.”
She and her husband moved to Steamboat in 2003 to take seasonal jobs at Stagecoach State Park. They never left and are now raising two sons, ages 7 and 10.
Setter describes her educational philosophy as being “student-focused, so students are a collaborative part of decision making when it comes to their educational pathways and their school.”
The other part, she said, is that “everyone has something to offer the world and given the right educational environment, every student has the capacity to grow and thrive.”
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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