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By Zach Hively

There can hardly be a better place to grow up than the Durango area. The decision to raise a family here takes education into account. With Durango High School Principal Jon Hoerl earning recognition as the 2024 Colorado High School Principal of the Year, local schools are receiving acknowledgment for their innovation and community-wide participation.

“Being a small town, it’s pretty cool to celebrate all the work we’ve done here,” Hoerl says. “It’s an even greater acknowledgment for our staff and incredible kids.”

Hoerl received the award in March 2024 from the Colorado Association of School Executives, which noted his focus on building a collaborative school environment, an emphasis on innovation, and DHS’s expansion of education opportunities.

“I’ve always said that I wanted to create a school that was good enough for my kids,” Hoerl says. “Because, if that’s the case, it will be good enough for every kid who walks through our door. That’s the mindset we bring to Durango High School. Our vision is to be the top public high school in the State of Colorado. If we come anywhere close to that, then we know we’re doing right by all our kids.”

Hoerl recognizes that education needs to adapt to the evolving needs of students and works tirelessly with educators and staff members to reinvent what a comprehensive high school experience provides students. Under his guidance, DHS has revamped its career and technical education programs, with 14 distinct pathways for students to earn certifications and other work-based learning opportunities.

“I want to continue to achieve the goal of getting kids ready for who they want to be and what they might want to do,” Hoerl says. “Our job is to help support them through that journey and spark an interest in what they’ll be doing next.”

The award, he says, simply validates the work happening at every level in the district and the community.

“And to put a little more Durango on the map?” he adds. “I think that’s pretty sweet.”

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