During a recent visit to Dillingham, Vincent Kane pointed to collaboration and student involvement as two keys to a constructive learning environment. Dillingham City School District also offered an administrative position to Remembrance Jennings; if she accepts, she will serve as director of school climate and culture.
Vincent Kane has been selected as the next principal for the Dillingham Middle/High School. Originally from New Hampshire, Kane has a background in rural schools; for the past three years he has worked as an assistant principal in Gambell, Alaska.
At a community forum Friday evening, Kane outlined his priorities as an educator, citing the necessity of encouraging students to become decision-makers.
“I heard a lot today about what students would like to have, or like to see," Kane said. "One of the things I’ve told them is that one of my top priorities would be to create some kind of an outlet – whether it’s a student advisory council, or using the currently existing student council to really give students a voice in the decision-making process. I think that’s one piece.”
Another piece, he said, is to support teachers and build relationships with the community.
Remembrance Jennings was chosen as the director of school climate and culture. That position marks a shift for the district; neither the elementary nor the middle/high school will have an assistant principal next year. If Jennings accepts the offer, she will begin work in August.
Jennings hails from Georgia and has worked in education for 17 years at the elementary, middle and high school levels. She said that in Dillingham, she would help foster community feedback and extracurricular programs for students.
“They really talked a lot at our lunch group about wanting clubs," she said. "They were very interested in what kind of clubs can we have – is this possible? So definitely being interested in the kids, and when it’s possible to make some things like that happen to let it happen.”
From discipline to teacher retention, school culture was at the core of many questions. During the forum, one audience member asked how each candidate would approach behavior management for students. Jennings said that she advocated progressive discipline and positive reinforcement.
“I was pretty rebellious," Jennings explained. "I went to three different high schools, had difficulty with truancy and being suspended and that kind of thing. When I’m working with a kid who’s made some mistakes, I remember what it was like to be that kid who’s made some mistakes. It really took connecting with a couple key adults for me to get through high school and get to college and do some other things with my life. So if it’s not illegal or dangerous, I’m going to be pro-kid when I can.”
Kane agreed that positive behavior management was key. But he stressed the need for a collaborative plan of action as well, outlining the process he implemented at his current school.
“If there’s something violent that takes place, here’s what we believe the collective consequence would be," he said. "If there’s drug possession, here’s what we believe the consequence should be. We took that to students and we got feedback. We brought that to the local school board and we went through it line by line and got community feedback, until we sort of established like our own social contract for Gambell schools of, 'These are the behavioral expectations that we have, and here are the consequences that will happen if those behavioral expectations aren’t met.”
In another meeting, students asked the administrators questions. One used a fruity metaphor to get a sense of how long they might stay.
“So they were asking what kind of fruit we would be, and how that type of fruit reflects upon how long we’d be in Dillingham," Kane explained. "So I said I would be an apple, because if you put an apple someplace cold it lasts for a long time."
Jennings had had to answer the question first. She chose a pineapple.
"It's a happy fruit and it lasts a long time," she said. "And it has some spikey texture, but it can be sweet but also a little tangy. They make great smoothies. There’s just a lot of great reasons to be a pineapple."
Both concluded by saying that they want to be part of the community in which they work. Kane will join the administration at the beginning of the next school year in August.
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