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New LWSD principals bring wealth of experience and excitement to schools

By SAMANTHA PAK
Redmond Reporter Reporter
September 1, 2011 · 3:43 PM
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Karen Barker is the new principal at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, Emily Dickinson Preschool and Explorer Community School. The Bellevue native has previously taught in the Northshore School District and this is her first year as a principal. / Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

Getting ready for the first day of school and a new academic year is not just for students and their families.

Despite its name, summer vacation is a time for educators and administrators to plan and prepare for when class is back in session.

For three Lake Washington School District (LWSD) principals, this has meant more than just buying supplies and a few new outfits. On Tuesday, Karen Barker, Kirsten McArdle and Matthew Livingston will begin the first day of school as principals new not only to their respective schools, but new to the district as well.

And while being the new kids on the block can be intimidating, the three principals are looking forward to their new jobs.

KAREN BARKER

Barker — the new principal at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, Emily Dickinson Preschool and Explorer Community School in Redmond — comes to LWSD after teaching in the Northshore School District for nine years.

The Bellevue native received her bachelor's degree in education from Western Washington University and a master's degree in science from Emporia State University in Emporia, Kan. In the spring, she completed the one-year Danforth Educational Leadership Program at the University of Washington, a program that trains teachers for leadership positions in education.

Although the Danforth program ended in June, Barker was hired for her new job in March.

"That was really exciting because it's really my dream come true to work here," she said about joining the LWSD team. "The approach they have toward student learning is phenomenal."

All new administrators in LWSD begin their new jobs on July 1 and Barker has spent her first two months on the job learning about her new schools, which are all on the same campus, and the district.

"It's a steep learning curve, but there have been so many people supporting me," she said about her school staff as well as the staff and administrators at the district office.

Additionally, Barker has been spending this week with staff on development and training, discussing curriculum, assessment, collaboration teams and how they will meet their goals for the year.

One thing Barker is looking forward to this year is the new net books, or mini laptops, that will be brought into the school. These computers are part of a district-wide program in the elementary schools to eliminate student desktop computers and have mobile access to technology.

But the thing Barker is most excited about for this school year is just meeting her students.

"I have loved kids my whole life," she said. "I have never really wanted to be anything other than a teacher."

KIRSTEN MCARDLE

Like Barker, McArdle (right) spent her years before coming to LWSD in another Washington school district.

The new principal for Norman Rockwell Elementary School in Redmond previously taught in the Issaquah School District for seven years and was a fellow cohort in the Danforth program with Barker. Her additional experience includes teaching in schools in California, Vermont and Connecticut.

McArdle said she applied to work at LWSD because the district really embraces and believes in big things for their students and works hard to make these things happen.

"It really aligned with my core values and what I believed in," she said.

McArdle said she wanted to work at Norman Rockwell because the community is very close knit, with students whose parents have also attended the school. But new families — international families — are moving into the neighborhood as well. McArdle said because of this, the community is in flux and she would like to see how they can build bridges between the two populations.

Since she's been on the job, McArdle said she has been learning as much as she can about the district as well as her building, adding that she has been encouraged to ask as many questions as she can. She said her staff and colleagues at the district have been great and very supportive, making it easy to ask for help.

"They're not just giving me lip service," she said.

McArdle has spent this week working with her staff revisiting the school's mission and vision, refining it and figuring out how they can acheive it.

When asked about what she's looking forward to this school year, McArdle said:

"Being in a position to make kids' education better. I think we can build a lot of bridges here."

MATTHEW LIVINGSTON

Although Livingston's (left) new schools — Community School (grades 1-6) and International Community School (grades 7-12) — are in Kirkland, the choice schools serve students district wide.

Unlike Barker and McArdle, this is Livingston's first time working in a Washington school district. Before coming to LWSD, he worked at the San Francisco Unified School District as a teacher and then a principal.

He received his doctorate in education leadership from the University of California Berkeley in May.

Livingston is originally from Los Angeles, but does have some ties to the Pacific Northwest.

"My wife is originally from Seattle...We wanted to be closer to family," he said about his decision to apply the LWSD.

Livingston said he applied to his schools specifically because he was attracted to the model of a small school with a collaborative teaching environment and close relationships with students and families.

"I was very impressed with the community focus," he said. "And I like that."

Livingston said LWSD has the same sense of community as his schools and he likes that as a principal, he's not just a name or number.

Because he's also new to the state, Livingston said one of his biggest challenges is learning new terminology, graduation requirements and other aspects of the Washington school system.

Despite this challenge, Livingston feels fortunate to be where he is and is excited to meet his students come Tuesday.

"They're the reason I do this work," he said. "I'm really excited to meet them and of course see the classrooms in action."

OTHER ADMINISTRATION CHANGES

In addition to new principals, Redmond schools will also see a few principals moving within LWSD:

Tina Livingston, the former principal at Norman Rockwell, has moved to Rosa Parks Elementary School.

Cindy Duenas, the former principal at International Community and Community as well as Environmental and Adventure School (another choice school open to all students in the district), will become the planning principal for the new STEM school just outside of Redmond in unincorporated King County, set to open fall 2012.

Victor Scarpelli, the current principal at Finn Hill Junior High School, will add principal at Environmental and Adventure School to his assignment.

Additionally, Craig Madsen, who has taught at Horace Mann Elementary School in Redmond and Mark Twain Elementary School in Kirkland will serve as the interim principal at Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School in Kirkland. Jamie Warner, a former teacher at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Kirkland and Rachel Carson Elementary School in Sammamish will be the new principal at Samantha Smith Elementary School in Sammamish.

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