Their buildings are quiet right now – too quiet by their standards – but the five newest principals in the Kent School District are using their time to prepare for the first day of school, because they all know that when those doors open and the kids come piling in, the year moves very fast.
Like the district itself, the new principals at Sunrise, Park Orchard, Neely-O’Brien, Cedar Valley and Crestwood elementary schools are a diverse group from around the country, all of whom have come together in Kent to be part of something bigger.
Caught on the heels on their first leadership retreat with the district, the new principals were eager to get started and excited about the upcoming year.
“It’s good for parents to know that we’re just as excited as the kids are,” said Christine Castillo, the new principal at Park Orchard Elementary.
Christine Castillo: Park Orchard
Castillo is one of two new principals that Kent parents may recognize, having worked at Park Orchard as an assistant principal. Originally from Los Angeles, Castillo said the school and the district are a “good fit for what I can offer.” Castillo, who speaks both Spanish and English, said she feels at home with the Kent School District’s diversity, adding that the district is “richer” because of it.
“It makes the experience in the class so much more exciting for the students,” she said.
Jennifer Reuland: Sunrise
Jennifer Reuland, the new principal at Sunrise, also has experience within the district. Reuland said she came to Kent four years ago because of its size and diversity, as well as the level of support from the administration and other teachers and principals.
“There are some amazing people in this district,” Reuland said. “It’s like a large district with a small feel to it.”
Before taking the top chair at Sunrise, Reuland worked as educational assistant in Springbrook and Glenridge elementary schools.
Linda Butts: Crestwood
Linda Butts at Crestwood has come the shortest distance to her new school. Though originally from Virginia, Butts previously worked in the Renton School District, at Campbell Hill and Lakeridge elementaries.
Butts lives in the Kent district and has two children in Kent schools. She said she liked the district’s focus on students and goal-setting, and is excited to be involved.
“I know that everything they did was focused on what’s best for students,” she said.
Jody Metzger: Neely-O’Brien
The biggest culture shock among the new teachers will probably be for Jody Metzger and Chad Golden, both of whom come from much smaller school districts.
Before coming to Neely-O’Brien, Metzger was the principal at Friday Harbor Elementary in the San Juan Islands. Metzger said she wanted to be part of a larger, more urban school district and Kent provided the perfect opportunity. She also said she was impressed with the friendly people and the dedication of the staff, though she admits the district’s diversity, while exciting, will be a change from that of her former district.
“I’m used to economic diversity, but ethnic diversity is different,” she said. “I have a lot to learn from my staff and my families.”
Chad Golden: Cedar Valley
Also adjusting to life in a larger district is Chad Golden, the new principal at Cedar Valley. Before joining Kent, Golden was a teacher and principal in Castle Rock, Wash. After 10 years in the small, southwestern Washington district, Golden said he wanted a new experience in a larger, more diverse district and Kent seemed like ideal.
“It fit well with what I believe,” he said, adding that he appreciates the support structure of the larger district and plans to take advantage of his new staff’s experience.
“It is more diverse,” he said, “but the staff is more diverse as well.”
All five of the new principals cited the district and parental support as part of the reason they decision to sign on in Kent, and all credited Superintendent Barbara Grohe with finding the right school for each of them.
“She matched us thoughtfully,” Reuland said to nods of agreement all around the table. “I’m confident it’s the right match.”
All five said they were excited to get started and looked forward to working with their new staff. But as they all prepare for their new jobs and their new schools, there is no doubt that each is focused primarily on the students who will walk through the doors Sept. 2.
“We have to make it the best school year for them,” Castillo said, eliciting another round of vigorous agreement.