Battle High School won’t open its doors until August 2013, but the school’s future principal is already busy making plans. KBIA’s Camille Phillips recently caught up with Dr. Kim Presko at Oakland Junior High, where she has been principal for the past twelve years.
In a year and a half, many of the students now at Oakland will make the switch over to Battle to become the first sophomores and juniors at the new high school. Making the move with them will be Oakland’s principal, Kim Presko.
“I’ve spent the majority of my career here at Oakland Junior High, working with the families on the northeast end of town. So, it was the opportunity to continue to work with those families. But to kinda be someone they trusted,” Presko said.
One of Presko’s top priorities for Battle is putting together a committed group of teachers.
“We normally call it buy-in. But I really believe that it’s more of a commitment. That they are going to do what they need to do to help kids,” Presko said.
Oakland Social Studies teacher Joshua Johnson says the focus on the students is one of the things that makes Oakland stand out as a school.
“I think letting students know that they are cared for and that they are valued and that we care about their success if very, very important. And when I left Oakland as a student, I just kind of thought that’s how it was everywhere, and then once I started going out in the real world and teaching at other places I realized that, you know what, this is not the same as Oakland, and I realized how special it was,” Johnson said.
For Johnson and Presko, showing students you care and putting them first becomes all the more important when the school has a high percentage of students living in poverty, like Oakland does and Battle will. Fifty percent of Oakland students are on Free and Reduced Lunch.
“A lot of people view us as being different and having different challenges, and I would argue that we have the same challenges as at other schools, and we have to really focus our energy and make sure that those students that may not be getting the tools they need at home are given those tools here when they are at school,” Johnson said.
“It’s about being visible, all the time. So, in passing time our teachers are at their doors greeting kids as they come in, trying to identify those kids who might need a little TLC before class gets started, too,” Presko said.
To build relationships with students, teachers need to have time to give the attention needed to each one. Presko says today’s teaching standards make small class sizes and manageable teaching rosters especially vital.
“Before it was either, it’s right or it’s wrong, go back and redo it. Now it’s you’re almost there, try this, and so the feedback is real important and to give constructive and effective feedback it takes a lot more time,” Presko said.
Presko is aiming for 25 to 28 students per class at Battle. Another priority she has for the school is collaboration. That’s the focus of two practices from Oakland she plans on bringing with her to Battle; one: a school-wide intervention system.
“What do you do when the kids aren’t getting those learning outcomes and how do we work as a team to make sure that we meet those rather than as individual teachers?” Presko said.
And two: common assessments:
“Every student who’s taking Algebra I has the same type of assessment at the end of the end of each unit so that we know that we are teaching similar things and preparing kids for those types of tests,” Presko said.