Don Riley takes a long look at the entrance of Sandrock Elementary School, where he will serve as interim principal later in the year. The building, which has undergone numerous name changes, is where Riley began teaching in Craig in 1964. He retired in 2003 after nearly 40 years as a teacher, assistant principal and athletic director in the Moffat County School District.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Don Riley takes a long look at the entrance of Sandrock Elementary School, where he will serve as interim principal later in the year. The building, which has undergone numerous name changes, is where Riley began teaching in Craig in 1964. He retired in 2003 after nearly 40 years as a teacher, assistant principal and athletic director in the Moffat County School District.

Sandrock Elementary names interim principal

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Don Riley poses for a portrait on his Suzuki Burgman 400 cubic centimeter scooter Wednesday in front of Sandrock Elementary School. Riley will act as interim principal while Sandrock principal Kamisha Siminoe is on maternity leave later this year.

Don Riley got a phone call a few weeks ago, and it was one he was happy to receive.

The call was from a former protégé, requesting that he return temporarily to the education career he ended seven years ago.

Not long after, he agreed to step back into the role of school administrator.

On Wednesday, Riley was named the interim principal of Sandrock Elementary School, a role he will take on later this year.

He will assume the temporary position once current principal Kamisha Siminoe, the former protégé who reached out to Riley, goes on maternity leave in coming months.

Riley, who retired in 2003 from the Moffat County School District, was a Craig educator for nearly 40 years.

Working at Sandrock will be a return — of sorts — to where he began his Craig career.

Riley started in the school district in 1964 after teaching for three years in Iowa.

He taught at what was then Craig Junior High School — now Sandrock Elementary — for 12 years before becoming an assistant principal and the school’s athletic director.

The school consistently had seventh- and eight-grade students, teaching as low as sixth grade and as high as ninth, until 1982, when the high school, now Craig Middle School, was relocated to 900 Finley Lane.

“We didn’t really start calling it the middle school until after we’d made that switch,” Riley said.

The seventh- and eighth- grade classes were moved to the former high school, while fifth and sixth grades remained in the old middle school.

Riley was transferred with the older half of the school.

“My whole career here has been in the seventh- and eighth- grade building,” Riley said. “My joke was that I couldn’t get out of there, so I just dropped out.”

He kept the assistant principal position with CMS, becoming the school’s principal in 1996, the same year that the school split from its fifth- and sixth-grade campus, which went on to be dubbed Craig Intermediate School, the name it retained until becoming Sandrock Elementary last year.

Riley stepped down from his position at CMS in 1999, and began teaching again on a part-time basis until retirement.

He said he didn’t expect to be working again after his retirement, but Siminoe helped change his mind.

“Because she knows me and I’d helped her with her first year of teaching, and she knew I had a lot of experience, she thought that I’d be able to help her out and do a good job,” he said.

Riley said the length of time involved in the job was part of what appealed to him.

“It’s fairly short-term — a six- to eight-week stint — so I think I can handle that,” he said.

And, as Sandrock staff returns to the building before the school year begins Monday, so will Riley.

He will be meeting teachers, gauging their expectations and readying himself for when he needs to take over.

There is no set date for the transition.

“It depends on her baby,” Riley said. “I’m going in right away to get all the things that I need to know, like the building goals, the everyday operations. If the baby comes early, I’ll be ready, and if not, that’s fine, too. It just depends on how long she wants to work.”

Riley said he doesn’t expect to have make any significant adjustments as interim principal.

“It’s down to the basic things: student safety, student welfare and providing the best program you can,” he said. “The teachers are the professionals, and I can give them the support they need to do their job.”

Riley said he intends to make sure teachers have just what they need, whether it’s classroom supplies or backup in discipline.

“I don’t think those things have changed over time,” he said. “If you’re out long enough, you forget a few things, but it’s a short-term thing, and I feel like I can help things run smoothly during that time.”

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