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This morning,  Colorado Mountain College (CMC) President & CEO Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, announced that Lake County High School Principal, Ben Cairns, has been selected as the new Vice President and Campus Dean of the Colorado Mountain College Leadville and Salida campuses.

Cairns will begin at CMC on Monday, August 2.

“Ben is exceptionally talented and a terrific fit to lead CMC’s Leadville and Salida campuses,” said Hauser.”He is a committed public educator and a natural leader who believes an affordable, high-quality, equitable education is essential to our mountain communities, state, and nation. As a local resident, he already knows CMC and the Arkansas River Valley.”

Ben Cairns has been named the next Vice President and Dean of the CMC Leadville and Salida Campuses. Courtesy photo.

Her message to community leaders reminded them that during multiple listening sessions, the communities asked for the next leader of the Leadville and Salida campuses replacing departing Dean Rachel Pokrandt, “to be ironclad student-focused, and that this person be someone who continues the incredible forward momentum at each campus and CMC as a whole.”

Salida resident David Armstrong, who serves as a liaison to the CMC Board of Trustees, agreed that Cairns is the right choice for the Salida and Poncha Springs communities, adding the longtime educator always puts his students first.

“I am confident he will be able to jump right on the train of positive progress that is happening here,” said Armstrong. “Growth and innovation will continue under his leadership.”

Cairns has been principal of Lake County High School since 2016. The Denver area native has a long career in education including time teaching in Uganda, developing a restorative justice program for Denver Public Schools, and opening a public charter high school in Denver.

While the leadership search was national, Hauser said that in the end, the best-qualified leader was found close to home in Leadville. “I’m proud of the work I’ve done to help Lake County High School become what it is today, and I’m thrilled by the opportunity to help Colorado Mountain College continue to serve the residents of the Arkansas River Valley,” said Cairns. “I am passionate about internships, concurrent enrollment, lifelong learning, and the role CMC can play in the community.”

“The college evaluated a large, diverse, and talented pool of applicants in its search for this important leadership role,” said Bob Hartzell, who represents Lake County on the CMC Board of Trustees. “We are grateful to Ben for his service to Lake County High School, and we look forward to the new energy he brings to the Leadville and Salida campuses.”

Lake County School District Superintendent Dr. Bethany Massey said the search for Cairns’ replacement is planned for the fall semester. As the start of the school year quickly approaches, Assistant Principal Erin Dillon will take on interim principal duties, and she will be assisted by Academic Dean Lisa Berman until a new principal is hired.

“While we are sad to see Ben go, we know he won’t be far as he starts his new role at the college,” said Massey. “In fact, this change will only further strengthen educational opportunities for students across the entire Arkansas River Valley.”

Pokrandt, who led the Leadville Campus for five years and shepherded the launch of the CMC Salida presence, was recently tapped for a college presidency in Oregon.