Smashing the glass ceiling: Romona Miller

Her stare is contemplative and loving.

Thirty seconds go by before she finally looks to smile and compliment the student’s artwork. Their face lights up with pride.

Her voice is commanding yet soothing.

She finds a student with their head in their arms on the floor, crying. She leans down beside them to comfort them.

Her laugh is bright and frequent.

When she laughs, she’s happy. She’s happy because each and every day she gets to do what she loves most: spend time with her students.

But Romona Miller, assistant principal, is different than most of her colleagues in administration. Romona Miller is a woman.

But she’s never let that stop her.

“You can’t get fooled by the fact that I’m a female,” Miller said. “As I’ve worked my way up to administration, I’ve always been in [situations] where there were more males than females. [And] I realized I had to be that female voice. There was no room to be timid. I had to come in and be just as strong as my counterparts.”

Miller, during her 26 years at KHS, has worked her way from her biology classroom to the administrative table she now sits at with her majority male colleagues. And while Miller said initially there were times she felt stereotyped as a female in administration, she has worked hard to prove that she is just as qualified as any male. Be that as it may, Miller said that until Jessica Vehlewald became the new KHS assistant principal this year, she was not comfortable in her position.

“When you’re the only female, you worry that you have to be the female voice of reason, or always bring that perspective to the table,” Miller said. “You don’t ever want to feel like you have to be that voice, but you know you do. I had to learn to be comfortable with being that voice.”

You can’t get fooled by the fact that I’m a female. I’ve always been in [situations] where there were more males than females. [And] I realized I had to be that female voice. I had to come in and be just as strong as my counterparts.”

— Romona Miller

At the start of the 2017-2018 school year, however, the dynamic changed. Vehlewald entered her new administrative position, and she and Miller quickly became close. Vehlewald arrived at KHS after 25 years in education at another district, so Miller said it was refreshing to add a new, qualified female to the group. Vehlewald, in turn, said she has learned a lot from Miller already, impressed by both her love for the student body and how Miller has reaffirmed all that Vehlewald loves about education.

“I think [every] student needs to find their voice and passion,” Vehlewald said. “Once they find it, they have the ability to reach their goals. I believe [Miller] and I have modeled that in our own lives, and when you model those things, people tend to follow it organically. I think [Miller] does a really good job of helping [female] kids find their voice and realize their full potential. And I like to think I do that as well.”

Both Vehlewald and Miller said the two of them have become somewhat of a team. While they don’t always see eye-to-eye, they said they are constantly bouncing ideas off each other in a way that Miller wasn’t able to do with the other male principals. And since Vehlewald was hired, the dynamic in the KHS administrative team has gotten stronger and more effective, according to them both.

“There were times before [Vehlewald’s hiring] where I knew if I was not strong in how I presented myself, I would not be heard,” Miller said. “But that’s why having Jessica is great, because [now] I don’t have to worry about that. It’s just nice to have that balance with someone else besides me.”

But for Miller, the job has never been about the gender. It’s about the students.

Jayla Everet, senior, remembers all the times Miller has joined her and her close-knit group of friends during lunch. She never fails to bring a little notepad that lists the assignments Everet and the others have missed, in addition to all the work they need to make up. She remembers growing up as a close friend of Miller’s daughter, noticing the amount of care she had for kids in school and out. Miller has become more than a role model to Everet, and she said the same can be said for many KHS students. It’s like she’s a part of the family.

“She’s like a second mother to me,” Everet said. “To all of us, really. She’s one of those people you can honestly talk to and have a heart-to-heart conversation with. She will put her problem to the side and go out of her way to try and help you. Seeing her in [her position] is a big motivation for me, because I see how hard she works for me, which makes me want to strive to be great.”

Miller, as she waved happily to the students coming in and out of her office, said she hopes and believes she serves as a role model for her female students. She wants them to see her and know that women have the ability to be leaders, to make change. Because to her, women are still far too underrepresented in many careers. Because to her, every student needs to see themselves in administrative roles. Because to her, female leadership doesn’t just benefit females, but all students.

Because to her, a gender should never be a barrier.

“I hope that, in the future, we will have that balance [with] females in administrative roles,” Miller said. “You know, [women] have grown so much and we are now respected for what we bring to the table. I think that is what I’m proudest of. That we can bring our younger girls along and show them [they] can be whatever they want, [especially] since that’s not a place I started off [in]. It’s limitless. So to be able to see that now is something I’m very, very proud of.”