Q/A with Dr. Ulrich on hiring new KHS principal

Dr.+Mike+Havener+announced+his+retirement+on+Oct.+14+after+12+years+employed+as+KHS+principal.

Liv Timp

Dr. Mike Havener announced his retirement on Oct. 14 after 12 years employed as KHS principal.

Q: Do you choose the candidate for principal that is brought to the board of education?

A: “It is my decision, however, it’s important for me to say that [the district] is committed to a process, and I believe that a good, strong process will find us the right person for the job.” 

Q: Since the final principal application ended on Dec. 31, have any dates in the process changed?

A: “Things have stayed on track. It’s our intention – if I feel like we have found the right person for the job – to bring that person forward at the Jan. 23 board meeting.” 

It’s our intention – if I feel like we have found the right person for the job – to bring that person forward at the Jan. 23 board meeting.”

— Dr. Ulrich

Q: What qualities are you looking for in a new principal?

A: “From the very beginning, we reached out with Thought Exchange (a survey tool) to KSD parents, staff and students to fill out a survey asking what are you looking for in the next principal. We have used that as a foundation.” 

Q: Is there anything from the Thought Exchange that surprised you?

A: “I don’t think anything really surprised me. I was excited about how many of the ideas that I would hope and have for the principal were reinforced by the Thought Exchange results.” 

Q: Who will be involved in the interview process?

A: “Teachers, parents, community members and students. We want to make sure we are [being] as representative as we possibly can. We want to make sure we get it right, and we do that by getting voices.”

Q: Is there anything you would like to see the new principal do about mental health?

A: “The one thing I will say, and I am happy it emerged as one of the most reinforced thoughts on the Thought Exchange, is the ability to build relationships and trust. That’s a skill that’s hard to teach, but if you get it right, it can be a very positive thing.” 

Q: How important is the district strategic plan during the interview process?

A: “I would expect a prepared candidate to speak to their skills on building relationships, open-mindedness, [being] student centered and how those skills can partner together with working with adults, students, parents and staff to achieve the goals of the strategic plan.” 

I was announced [as superintendent] in February, and some people may [ask] why you need four months to transition, [but] I promise you, you do. So we are treating this role much the same way.”

— Dr. Ulrich

Q: Has the plan for the transition from Havener to the new principal been set up yet?

A: “Not specifically, because we want that person to work directly with Dr. Havener and his team to make sure [the transition] is done in a way that is not disruptive. I was announced [as superintendent] in February, and some people may [ask] why you need four months to transition, [but] I promise you, you do. So we are treating this role much the same way. That’s why the timeline is in January.” 

Q: There are two other principals that need to be hired in the district. Are there differences in what you are looking for when it comes to hiring a high school principal versus an elementary school principal?

A: “As a leader, there’s a certain subset of skills that has to be consistent across all good leadership. [They should have] the ability to build relationships [and]work with teachers and support staff to improve professional practice and in turn improve outcomes for our students.” 

As a leader, there’s a certain subset of skills that has to be consistent across all good leadership. [They should have] the ability to build relationships [and]work with teachers and support staff to improve professional practice and in turn improve outcomes for our students.”

— Dr. Ulrich

Q: If there are any students who are worried about a transition that could shake things up, could you address the worries they might have?

A: “To alleviate any fears someone may have in regards to transitioning to a new principal, Dr. Havener has left a very strong foundation upon which to build. KHS is a great school through the work of Dr. Havener[and] the leadership [of] teachers and staff that have been working there. Dr. Havener has created a process that is not contingent just on him.” 

Q: Would you say the short term or the long term future is more important when choosing a new principal?

A: “I want, and the Thought Exchange revealed this [as well], a student-centered principal. I think that finding that balance on the day-to-day management of the school, while at the same time keeping your eyes out on the horizon and inspiring continued greatness on behalf of the school. It’s a very fine balance, and I’m confident the process will reveal that person.”

Q: In Missouri, KHS is a top public high school, do you feel there is more pressure on the job of being principal at KHS or is it the same at other schools?

A: “I would never say the job is the same no matter what. Every school has their unique challenges. However, the level of expectation of performance for anybody, whether you’re a student, a teacher or the principal at KHS, is very high. We want someone who can come in and maintain that and create a climate that is positive.”