Chimacum High’s new principal optimistic about schools

Kirk Boxleitner kboxleitner@ptleader.com
Posted 6/13/17

Brian MacKenzie is set to take over as principal of Chimacum High School on July 1.

Chimacum Superintendent Rick Thompson said that MacKenzie, who currently serves as assistant principal of the …

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Chimacum High’s new principal optimistic about schools

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Brian MacKenzie is set to take over as principal of Chimacum High School on July 1.

Chimacum Superintendent Rick Thompson said that MacKenzie, who currently serves as assistant principal of the high school, is slated to take over for Whitney Meissner, who is to begin her new job as superintendent of the La Conner School District on July 1.

Thompson elaborated that MacKenzie, 47, was selected “from a competitive pool of qualified applicants.”

MacKenzie grew up in Federal Way and Enumclaw, and was the third generation of his family to graduate from the University of Washington and enter education, but his subsequent career in the field has seen him striving to serve student needs in Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

MacKenzie taught secondary history, math, English, German and Spanish for 14 years in the Mississippi Delta, on Arizona’s southern border and on the Pojoaque Pueblo in New Mexico.

Along the way, he also coached varsity football and baseball, plus debate, drama, Academic Decathlon, Brain Bee and National Honor Society.

MacKenzie earned recognition as a Mississippi Economic Council STAR (Student-Teacher Achievement Recognition) Teacher in 2000, as the Arizona Veterans of Foreign Wars High School Citizenship Educator of the Year in 2008, and as an Arizona Educational Foundation Teacher of the Year finalist and Ambassador for Excellence in 2009.

‘SUCCESSFUL TURNAROUNDS’

Focusing in MacKenzie’s career from 2010 forward, Thompson credited him with leading “successful turnarounds” at Dishchii’bikoh Elementary School and in the Ajo Unified School District, both in Arizona, as their principals.

“During those two principalships, I built cultures of continuous improvement, data-driven instruction, and mutual respect and accountability,” MacKenzie said. “Those reforms improved school climate, enhanced student learning and raised test scores.”

For the two years prior to his arrival at Chimacum, MacKenzie worked for the American Automobile Association’s innovation team in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“I was thrilled to come home, to education and to Washington,” MacKenzie said. “I’m eager to support kids, educators and the community in Chimacum.”

“He has a thorough working knowledge of the school, including the staff, the academic programs and the cocurricular opportunities,” Thompson said. “Brian presented a highly organized entry plan, which outlines what he will do to prepare for the school opening in the fall.”

‘FROM GOOD TO GREAT’

MacKenzie outlined his goals for the high school:

• Support the Chimacum School Board’s core goals of increasing student achievement, improving attendance and boosting participation in extracurricular activities.

• Engage school stakeholders – staff, students, parents and the community – “so we can work together to build Chimacum High School into a world-class school.”

• Update public perceptions of the school and the community.

“We have a peaceful campus with good, smart kids and a caring, capable staff,” MacKenzie said. “Our graduation rates consistently exceed the state average. Last year, Chimacum High School’s pass rate on the state math test beat the state average by 47 percent. We’re already a good school, and we’ll be a great one soon.”

While MacKenzie described his previous two principalships as “help[ing] failing schools turn around fast,” he asserted that Chimacum High School represented a different challenge: “taking a successful school from good to great.”

“Instead of starting from scratch, we can build on strengths as we address needs,” MacKenzie said. “It’s the same joyful, relentless improvement process. We’re just farther along here.”

MacKenzie freely acknowledged that, after only one year on campus, he still has much to learn about Chimacum’s schools and community, but he pledged to redouble his efforts to connect with staff, students and other stakeholders, “to learn what they value and need, and to hear their ideas for how we can serve our students and society even better.”

Art Clarke, who works in finance operations for the Chimacum School District, clarified that the 2016-17 salary schedule for the Chimacum High School principal starts at $102,025 and tops out at $106,311.

“Placement is based upon experience,” he added.

Stephanie McCleary, human resources director for the district, said that MacKenzie is to be placed at Step 5 on the salary schedule, based on previous experience, which amounts to $104,342 a year.

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