Sara LeRoy, North Salem High School principal (Special to Salem Reporter/Moriah Ratner)
For the second time in four years, North Salem High School will start the year with a new principal.
Sara LeRoy, a former North teacher who took over as principal in 2017 is stepping down at the end of the year to take a district job overseeing elementary schools.
“I’m really excited to help improve graduation rates for Salem-Keizer students starting with our youngest,” she said in an interview.
LeRoy said she loved her time at North and wasn’t looking to leave but said the open district job fit with her goal of moving into administration.
She is replacing former elementary director Sandie Price, who is moving into a new district role overseeing the district’s strategic plan.
During her three years at North, the high school has significantly improved its graduation rate through changes LeRoy and other administrators pushed to identify struggling seniors earlier on and help get them on track to finish needed classes.
When she came to North, the school was graduating about 68% of its senior class, a rate that had been flat for several years. The Class of 2019 graduated at 76%.
LeRoy was principal at McKay High School for four years before coming to North. Her departure in 2017 prompted pushback from students, who didn’t want her to leave, according to a Statesman Journal article.
Before that job, she spent seven years teaching at North.
LeRoy has never worked in elementary schools, either as a teacher or administrator.
Assistant Superintendent Kraig Sproles said district leaders selected her for the new job because of her experience driving change in high schools.
“Sara has demonstrated that she’s a transformational leader and that extends regardless of whether she’s at secondary or elementary level. She knows how to move change with an equity lens through the organization,” Sproles said.
He said an outsider like LeRoy is in a good position to suggest changes and improvements for elementary schools.
“We need to do things different at the elementary level and we’re looking for innovative practices,” Sproles said.
LeRoy said saying goodbye to colleagues and students remotely has been hard. She’s sent out letters and videos to students and teachers to let them know about her departure.
“I will be leading your graduation no matter what that looks like,” she told seniors in a message posted to the school’s Facebook page last week.
Tearing up while reflecting on her years at North, LeRoy said it’s difficult to pick a favorite memory from her time at the school.
“Graduation is really special, to be able to shake the kid’s hands. Just the pride that they have after graduation is pretty cool. So, I will miss that,” she said.
District leaders have not yet named a new principal for Salem’s oldest high school.
LeRoy’s advice for her successor? “Cherish the time there and really appreciate the students, the families and the staff because they’re amazing. It’s a wonderful place to work,” she said.
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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.