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Ben Cairns

Ben Cairns has been named vice president and campus dean for the Colorado Mountain College Leadville and Salida campuses. The Denver area native has a long career in education, which includes serving as principal of Lake County High School since 2016.

After an extensive national search, Colorado Mountain College has named Lake County High School Principal Ben Cairns as the next vice president and campus dean for its Leadville and Salida campuses.

Cairns will begin the transition from the high school to CMC effective August 2.

“Ben is exceptionally talented and a terrific fit to lead CMC’s Leadville and Salida campuses,” said Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, president & CEO of Colorado Mountain College.

“He is a committed public educator and a natural leader who believes an affordable, high quality, equitable education is essential to our mountain communities, region and state.”

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.

“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,” Cairns said. “I am passionate about internships, concurrent enrollment, life-long learning and the role CMC can play in the community.”

The leadership role at CMC is available after the departure of Rachel Pokrandt, who led the Leadville Campus for nearly five years. She was recently tapped for a college presidency in Oregon.

“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.”

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.”

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.”