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JFK, St. Mary’s get new principals

By Stephen Floyd

Students in the Mt. Angel School District were greeted by new faces at John F. Kennedy High School and St. Mary’s Public School after both received new principals over the summer.

Jessica Brenden, formerly with the Oregon Association of Education Service Districts, joins as JFK principal, while former Molalla River School District administrator Kathleen French is now principal at St. Mary’s.

MASD Superintendent Rachel Stucky said she is confident in the skills of Brenden and French and their willingness to connect with the community.

“We are so fortunate to have principals coming in that show their passion, show their joy and are highly committed to their vocation and serving others,” Stucky told Our Town.

The positions became open after former JFK Principal Dale Pedersen retired over the summer and former St. Mary’s Principal Jasmine Winslow became a regional director for college prep firm AVID.

Pedersen had been with MASD since 2018 after former JFK Principal Sean Aker resigned. Winslow had been with MASD for 22 years, including 15 years teaching first grade at St. Mary’s.

Brenden was hired in July from her position as program administrator for the Oregon Association of Education Service Districts. She has 10 years of experience as a principal in the Salem-Keizer School District, most recently at Hallman Elementary School, in Salem.

French was hired in August from the Molalla River School District, where she served as director of teaching and learning for the last five years. Before this she served as principal at Clarkes Elementary School, in Mulino.

With these two hires, all head administrators in MASD have joined since the COVID-19 pandemic, including Stucky in 2021 and Mt. Angel Middle School Principal Jeff Taylor in 2022. Stucky said these turbulent years helped reaffirm that a community and its students should be the focus of education.

“Respect the community that you serve and listen to them, and respond to what they tell you,” she said. 

“In Mt. Angel that’s particularly true. This is a community with a lot of pride and they have a lot to be proud about.”

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