The Vashon School District has chosen the current administrator of an alternative school in Edmonds to be the next principal of Vashon High School.
Danny Rock, the principal of Edmonds Heights K12 and a young father with ties to Vashon, was selected following a two-month search to replace current VHS principal Susan Hanson, who announced her retirement last year.
Superintendent Michael Soltman, who headed a 16-person search committee and made the final decision, said Rock, who has also taught at high school, emerged from among 17 applicants as the clear best fit for the job.
“There was really, really strong support on the part of the search team,” Soltman said on Monday after he announced his choice to school district staff. “I think the combination of his (high school) experience along with his alternative education experience gives him a well-rounded toolkit.”
Soltman will recommend Rock’s hiring to the Vashon school board on Thursday. He expects they’ll vote in support of his decision.
Rock, 37, has been the principal of Edmonds Heights K12, an award-winning alternative school with about 500 students in the Edmonds School District, since 2007. The school serves a wide variety of students who opted out of traditional school, from advanced elementary schoolers to high schoolers who struggle in a regular school setting. Each student has his or her own learning plan, which incorporates work both in and outside of the classroom, and parents are highly involved in the process.
“It explores lots of different ways learning can take place outside of the classroom,” Rock said in an interview. “It’s made me understand the different pathways students have to earning a diploma.”
The decision to come to Vashon High School was both a professional and personal one, he said. Rock, who has a master’s degree in education and a principal certification from the University of Washington, has felt ready to move on in his career. And with two young children, he and his wife were ready to settle down somewhere they could raise their kids. Vashon, a place they have family and have visited often, seemed ideal.
“It had to be a good fit for our family, and it had to be a good fit for me in the role of principal, and Vashon has both of those things.”
Before taking the helm at Edmonds Heights, Rock taught for six years at Roosevelt High School in Seattle.
Rock called his time at Roosevelt both busy and fulfilling. In addition to teaching history, humanities and psychology, he coached soccer and was the senior class advisor. He helped start the school’s ninth-grade academy — a program where ninth-graders shared a block schedule of classes — and led a team of teachers involved in it.
Rock also helped start an exchange program while at Roosevelt. Called Hands for a Bridge, the program, in collaboration with other organizations, still sends Roosevelt students to South Africa and Northern Ireland.
Rock is no stranger to Vashon. His wife, Taj Rock, grew up on Vashon, and her parents still live here — Zoe Cheroke runs a popular preschool, The Barbie School, and Geo Cheroke teaches science at McMurray Middle School. Rock said his family, which is active and loves the outdoors, is fond of Vashon and visits the island about once a month.
They’ll soon be looking for a home on Vashon, with hopes of moving permanently to the island by June.
“We’re really looking forward to participating in life on Vashon,” he said.
Soltman selected Rock from among three final candidates. Also chosen as semi-finalists for the position were Stephanie Spencer, the current assistant principal at VHS, and Chris Bede, associate principal at Eastlake High School in Sammamish. The three candidates met the public and answered questions at a forum at the high school last Thursday.
Soltman said that as the school district moved forward in its current strategic planning process, two of its goals were to better serve each individual student’s needs and to build stronger relationships with parents — two strengths Rock has exhibited in his current position.
“With the strategic planning in place and the new building coming on, I was looking for someone who could help us see ourselves and see our strengths and our challenges and have perspective from the outside,” Soltman said. “I think we’ll learn some things from Danny’s leadership. and it will be exciting for us.”