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Native son moves into interim principal role

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MILTON-FREEWATER — A native son has been appointed interim principal at McLoughlin High School.

Mario Uribe will step into the role for the 2020-2021 school year, said Superintendent Aaron Duff.

Uribe temporarily fills the position that opens June 30 with the previously announced resignation of Principal Mindi Vaughan.

Uribe is vice principal at Mac-Hi, a position he started this school year. The educator is the Milton-Freewater Unified School District’s first Latino administrator in anyone’s recent memory, Duff said when he hired Uribe.

After arriving in Oregon from Mexico at age 8, Uribe grew up in Milton-Freewater, wrestled for and graduated from Mac-Hi, a fact that pleases Duff.

“We are excited that we have an internal person already established at Mac-Hi who can help with all of the COVID-19 uncertainty that has happened this school year and that may spill into next year,” the superintendent said.

Rebuilding the post-pandemic high school community will be a top priority in his interim position, Uribe said Thursday.

“We will have to take it easy, slow down and make sure we are checking in with students … just having some social time when we can interact and catch up,” he said.

Uribe said after the months of Zoom-centric student and staff relationships, people will have to relearn to be in the same classroom, and his team will need to examine rules and procedures to see what makes sense in getting teens back into participating and learning.

Taking some time to help students re-adjust to the physical school setting will help them adapt faster, he said, acknowledging those kinds of conversations will happen in every school district.

Duff said Uribe has had a positive experience in his year at Mac-Hi and knows the new interim role requires much learning, listening and continuing to build a positive school culture.

Uribe said in addition to debriefing students from the current health crisis, he’ll work to make school a safe environment, build connections with families and the community and expand opportunities to get students ready for college and career.

Before coming to the Milton-Freewater district, Uribe taught in Walla Walla Public Schools’ dual language program for seven years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Idaho and two master’s degrees in education and administration from Heritage University. Uribe also coached wrestling and managed a soccer club.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 509-526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.