West Seattle schools: Principal chosen for K-5 STEM at Boren

On the day before an informational meeting for West Seattle’s new public school, opening this fall, Seattle Public Schools interim superintendent Dr. Susan Enfield has announced a principal has been chosen for K-5 STEM at Boren. She’s moving here from Tucson. Here’s the announcement:

I am delighted to announce that I have appointed Dr. Shannon McKinney as principal for the new K-5 STEM at Boren, which will be opening in September 2012 in West Seattle

Dr. McKinney comes to Seattle Public Schools from Tucson, Arizona, where she spent the last three years as Turnaround Principal for Hohokam Middle School, an ethnically diverse middle school in the Tucson Unified School District.

She will oversee our new school focused on STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Starting in September 2012, the Louisa Boren Building in West Seattle will be reopened as a STEM Option School for grades K-5. Any interested student in Seattle who will be in kindergarten through 5th grade in September 2012 can apply to attend. School bus transportation will be available for students who live in West Seattle. Open enrollment is from Feb. 27-March 9.

With more than 22 years of educational experience, Dr. McKinney has a decade of classroom teaching, service as an Assistant Principal and Principal in two Tucson-area school districts, and impeccable credentials, including a doctorate in education from the University of Arizona. She is also deeply knowledgeable about STEM subjects, as she served as her district’s Mathematics Coordinator, and was responsible for facilitating the vertical articulation and subsequent curriculum development of K-12 Mathematics for the district.

I selected Dr. McKinney not only for her STEM expertise and her demonstrated record of improved student achievement at the schools where she has been a leader, but also for her enthusiasm for our new STEM school. She describes the opportunity to work collaboratively with families and staff to build a new school from the ground up as “a dream come true.”

Dr. McKinney will be starting at Seattle Public Schools on April 2. She will spend the spring and summer working with families and colleagues to develop a mission and vision for K-5 STEM at Boren, hiring staff, and coordinating the planning and logistics needed to ensure a smooth start to the 2012-2013 school year.

Dr. McKinney stood out as an excellent candidate for this position. I am thrilled she has agreed to accept it, and I am looking forward to introducing her to you once she moves to Seattle.

A reminder: Interested families are invited to attend a K-5 STEM at Boren Family Information and Input Night, 7-8:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 15 at Schmitz Park Elementary (5000 S.W. Spokane St).

If you have any questions about our new K-5 STEM school, please visit http://bit.ly/K5STEM

ADDED 10:45 AM: We asked district spokesperson Lesley Rogers whether Dr. McKinney would be flying in for tomorrow night’s meeting. Her reply: “She is not able to attend tomorrow, but Aurora Lora [executive director of SPS’s West Seattle schools] will run the meeting and communicate with Dr. McKinney on what transpired at the meeting and next steps.”

34 Replies to "West Seattle schools: Principal chosen for K-5 STEM at Boren"

  • WSTroll February 14, 2012 (11:23 am)

    I think I would have preferred someone local.

  • Leslie February 14, 2012 (12:37 pm)

    The stats over @ the saveseattleschools.blogspot.com page re her most recent AZ assignment Middle School and words like “integration” of curriculumn and “discovering math” and no direct reference to STEM makes me nervous ……

    Nonetheless I hope she is welcomed to WS and supported and this takes pressure off overcrowded schools and WS STEM finds a new home / building soon.

    Devils always in the details –

    Up next and currently hot in the Legislature – teacher evals – apparently moved over to Ways and Means fr Ed Committee …. And,

    Charters Leg not dead yet and lots of pushback from the 1 percenters like Hanuer, etc …. And,

    SPS Superint. Hiring process ….. And,

    BEX IV – will there be WS considerations reopen – rebuild schools?

    Interesting times indeed.

  • StringCheese February 14, 2012 (12:40 pm)

    I agree WSTroll. The benefit of having someone local is that they would have a relationship with local teachers as well. One of the best ways to get the best teachers is for them to be recruited by an administrator they know and respect. They agree to a school switch (not an easy process for teachers or children) because they will have an opportunity to work with someone they trust to “have their backs” during the difficult transition and inevitable squabbles with the district during start up.
    I imagine teachers to be less willing to give up cushy, comfortable positions at established schools to take a chance on an unknown.
    Perhaps they’ll be importing the teachers as well. Hmmm…

  • Denny February 14, 2012 (12:49 pm)

    I prefer an exceptionally qualified and eager leader ready to overcommit and deliver. Local is secondary concern. Welcome Dr. McKinney!

  • Cindertang February 14, 2012 (12:54 pm)

    School bus transportation will be available for students who live in West Seattle. What part of west Seattle? This is confusing me Our son cant get transportation to his school in West Seattle because we live a block out side of the transportation zone.But all of West Seattle will have transportation to this school? What gives?

  • george February 14, 2012 (1:15 pm)

    So the lame duck Super makes the choice?

    It seems that local candidates should be cultivated to the point that one need not go to AZ to find an elementary principal, regardless of “exceptional qualifications”. Why isn’t our local administrators “exceptional canidates” inhouse? Perhaps the local teachers do know something about Dr. Enfield.

  • StringCheese February 14, 2012 (1:22 pm)

    There will still be a walk-zone for Boren, just as there is for Pathfinder. Students within a certain distance will not be eligible. However, because enrollment is from all of WS, transportation will be provided for all other areas.

  • StringCheese February 14, 2012 (1:33 pm)

    Nicely stated. I hope that she is what you stated. I have been doing my research since the announcement and find depressingly little information. I have even downloaded Dr. McKinney’s doctoral dissertation on the effects of AZ’s response to NCLB legislation. I am doing my best to glean what I can of her professional qualifications and history. There is very little to go on at this point.
    I’ll have to see what she says in her dissertation because the scores at Hohokam have gone DOWN dramatically in all subjects except reading since her arrival there (some areas by close to 50% drop).
    I am looking forward to seeing her full CV.
    That said, a principal is only one person in a school of many, many teachers. The quality of the teachers is paramount (hence my statement on local being helpful in the recruitment of quality teaching staff). The best administrator in the world can’t make the worst teachers into the best teachers. As in all professions, some people are better suited for certain positions (grade level, content area, education style) than others. We need someone who can attract and retain the best teachers for this particular model.

    • WSB February 14, 2012 (1:35 pm)

      Any particular questions, let me know. I am expecting to interview her by phone within the next hour or so. – TR

  • Brontosaurus February 14, 2012 (1:37 pm)

    Remember, John Stanford was hired from out of town (GA, I think). Let’s give Dr. McKinney a warm welcome.

  • yumpears February 14, 2012 (1:43 pm)

    What math curriculum will be used?

    Does she have experience at the elementary school level?

    Why are the test scores at the school she is coming from so bad? See 12th post down http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2012/02/tuesday-open-thread.html Why have most of the test scores decreased in the three years she has been there?


  • HPMom February 14, 2012 (1:46 pm)

    I would like to know:
    What experience does she have with elementary students?
    Is there any connection between her and TFA?
    As Stingcheese refers too, the scores at the middle school she is principal at have gone down dramatically duing the years she has been principal there, why?

    As a side (don’t ask her this), is this decision final or does the school board need to approve it first?

    • WSB February 14, 2012 (2:03 pm)

      OK, I’ll see what I can get. HPMom – the school board does not approve principal hirings. I believe there was a recent proposal along those lines, though.

  • StringCheese February 14, 2012 (1:54 pm)

    Tracy, I imagine you have excellent questions already prepared and I find myself wanting to ask very specific questions that she is unlikely to be able to answer because she is not familiar with the specifics of how SPS operates. A few general things I’m interested in knowing:
    – Specific STEM experience?
    – What math curriculum she is interested in incorporating. Will she be advocating for a particular one?
    – Plan for teacher recruitment
    – How did she find out about this position?
    – Elementary experience? (Her recent post and dissertation were limited to middle school grades)
    – Experience with advanced learners? (I know she has experience with remediation)
    That’s it for now. I’ll post more if I think of them… Thanks! I look forward to the report!

  • GreatSoFar February 14, 2012 (2:32 pm)

    Denny…is that you Jeff Clark?

    Here’s from her (old) school’s recent newsletter:

    “The Hohokum Weekly News (Feb 6-10), posted by the principal, opens with “45 DAYS UNTIL AIMS!” [the state test].

    Some reminders include, “make sure you have your Objectives posted [for district walk-throughs] and are reviewing through it throughout your lessons…Data talks will continue.” Coming up – “Grade level assemblies to review expectations and share achievement data.”


    This fits in with Enfield’s drive to have principals push teachers to push Push PUSH the test. I don’t know about you, but my kid was already “practicing” for the MSP this week. Yeah, more of this to come.

    Ask Aurora Lora for specifics on her new principal’s track record with improving “student outcomes”.

  • GreatSoFar February 14, 2012 (2:39 pm)


    That’s because it is spare no expense when it comes to pushing the latest ed reform fad. Yeah, I know. I thought we were hurting for money. Instead, we’re opening a school that, at the present time, nobody knows how many students are even attending? AND we’ll still get 30 more portables around town.

  • GreatSoFar February 14, 2012 (2:43 pm)

    HPMom, the RCW allows for the Board to review and approve principal hires. This was apparently anathema to Enfield. So she had a snit and left (or will soon).

  • Denny February 14, 2012 (3:30 pm)

    @ GreatSoFar – My apologies to Mr Clark, didn’t mean to create any confusion. Denny has been my WS Blog nickname for years. I do not work for schools, am just a native of WS who sometimes comments on the blog.

  • george February 14, 2012 (3:34 pm)

    Was John Stanford hired as an elementary school principal? I can expect a national search for the superintendent. Why so far for a principal? Why don’t we have inhouse candidates qualified? A team is only as good as its farm system.

  • GreatSoFar February 14, 2012 (4:12 pm)

    Okay Denny, then you are not shilling…

    Tracy, can you ask whether she applied for this position, or a different one originally. I ask because i would like to know whether this was an “opportunistic hire”.

  • Very Concerned Parent February 14, 2012 (6:09 pm)

    Oh dear… After seeing the kinds of politicians that Arizona has produced, and the homophobic, racist, and anti-civil rights legislationthat has come out of that state, I’m VERY concerned that this woman is coming to teach OUR kids here in West Seattle. I want to know more about her political leanings, and her stance on some of the most controversial legislation in American history – in Arizona.

    Although this post will most likely be deleted from this forum, my voice will be heard by the school board, the PTA, all teachers, and at tomorrow night’s meeting. This is a most troubling development.

    • WSB February 14, 2012 (6:16 pm)

      Um, no, you didn’t break any rules. So you think EVERYONE in Arizona is right-wing? Anyway, I spent about 20 minutes speaking with her this afternoon and will have the resulting followup published here, barring breaking news later tonight. I did not talk politics with her. I did ask some of the other questions suggested here earlier – TR

  • Very Concerned Parent February 14, 2012 (6:25 pm)

    I think that many of today’s Arizonans are extreme right-wingers. They have produced some extraordinarily partisan politiicans, and frankly the legislation, and proposed legislation that has come out of that state scares me. It scares much of freedom-loving America. Extremists in any capacity have no place in America’s education system. I hope there are other parents who can empathize with my concerns, whether you be liberal/conservative/independent etc.

  • GreatSoFar February 14, 2012 (6:41 pm)

    Tracy, I hope you can locate the job posting she replied to. It should show the unique characteristics desired in a leader of a never-before done K-5 STEM model. She was principal of a “tranformative” middle school. That means she was placed in charge to “turnaround” a low-performing school. Don’t know how that comes into play here in WS at Boren. The evidence would indicate that she was not succeeding in turning that school around (if one looks only at test scores, which Enfield and others are wont to do).

  • Denny February 14, 2012 (7:41 pm)

    23 comments in and we have questioned this woman’s core qualifications, political affiliation, personal beliefs, motivation for moving here, ability to effectively lead change in a school.
    All off of an 8 paragraph announcement and a few hours of Internet browsing. It’s unfortunate that this level of distrust in the district that we rely upon to educate our kids seems to sour every move made in the effort of educating our kids.
    While the district may have earned this reaction, Dr McKinney hasn’t even had a chance to begin her work. Our kids deserve better from us, as well.
    Welcome to West Seattle.

  • HPMom February 14, 2012 (7:55 pm)

    GreatSoFar- What is the RCW?

  • Punk'd February 14, 2012 (8:08 pm)

    Something is not right here. An AZ Principal with no documented record of success (or web presence) is coming to Seattle to start a STEM School (which is not her expertise) in a community seeking reasons to abandon their own home schools to flee overcrowding. SPS did not post the job, but here comes an “expert.” Meanwhile, the same day, a principal down the street quits her job (Lafayette). All this while other highly qualified local education leaders are left out of the hiring pool.

    Translation…private money is buying this school as the test lab for a future Charter School. Buyer beware (and consumer).

    A careful examination of this Principal’s record at turning around her AZ school demonstrates it is a dismal failure. Math scores tanked – massively.

  • GreatSoFar February 14, 2012 (8:32 pm)

    RCW is the Revised Code of Washington.

    RCW 28A.150.230
    District school directors’ responsibilities.

    … (b) Determine the final assignment of staff, certificated or classified

    Unfortunately Denny we have good cause to question the actions and motivations of SPS senior admin. I love our schools and teachers, but closely scrutinize the top bosses. Look at the dust-up at Lafayette. I wish only the BEST for our students.

    • WSB February 15, 2012 (8:19 am)

      FYI for anyone checking back, I apologize, but I’m still writing the story … though we’re at this 20 hours a day, there still just aren’t enough hours some days. Hoping it’ll be up by midmorning. – TR

  • george February 14, 2012 (8:52 pm)

    Denny, why don’t you think there are deserving internal candidates at SSD? Do we really need to reach so far for just a principal?

  • Jasperblu February 14, 2012 (9:07 pm)

    To those who think AZ is full of right wing conservatives & racists…
    You have NO idea what you are talking about – and unless you have lived there, worked there, paid taxes there, owned a home there, raised children there, or equivalent? Zip it!
    Saying something so completely asinine is like making the same assessment that every person in the state of WA is a long haired, Birkenstock wearing, bleeding heart Liberal who thinks Obama is the bees knees & that everyone deserves & is entitled to a Free Lunch.
    Hogwash (especially if you take a drive outside of Seattle city limits, like ever).
    First: I lived in AZ for 12 years of my adult life (I’m 45 now), my mother was born in San Diego, CA but raised in Yuma (1929-1945, when her family moved back to CA). I worked at the Univ of Arizona Colleges of Medicine & Public Health, and received my BA in social sciences there as well.
    Second: Did I mention you have NO idea what you’re talking about?
    Yeah. Exactly.
    I have no idea why this gal is being brought here from Tucson. I am also very curious as to her background, her track record, etc. especially since I’m the parent of an elementary school student here in WS. But to call into question her abilities because she is coming from Tucson?
    You’ve missed the point. And lost your minds.
    Tracy, I look forward to hearing more about your interview with her. Thank you!

  • kayo February 14, 2012 (9:59 pm)

    Amen Jasperblu!

    I plan to keep an open mind and welcome some fresh perspective to Seattle.

    Test scores are heavily influenced by many factors which are out of the control of a principal. Socioeconomic, language barriers, etc, all play a huge role in this data. Look around west Seattle at the different schools and you’ll see large differences. These differences often correlate with all of those factors. Honestly, I think testing is overrated and as a parent of a kindergartner I already hate it and am skeptical of it. I don’t think scores tell that much of the story and you can’t make a snap judgment about a principal based on that without knowing much more about the specific school.

    I am hearing a lot of sour grapes and skepticism of the stem school from people who seem to be looking for any excuse to hate this concept for a school. Unfortunately, I already see this directed at a new principal. Can’t we try to work together as a community to find the best way forward for all the kids in West Seattle? All this complaining and looking for reasons to criticize is disappointing.

    As someone else said. “welcome to Seattle” and add to that “good luck, you will need it!”

  • Melissa Westbrook February 15, 2012 (7:04 am)

    String Cheese, you are right in your comments that a good leader can attract good teachers but
    “That said, a principal is only one person in a school of many, many teachers.”

    That said, the principal IS the leader and frankly, has a lot more power and sway in a school than the teaching corps.

    I think given how crucial the principal role is you should ask good questions especially as SPS rarely recruits from out-of-state. Your Ex Director says she has experience opening a STEM school so maybe that’s what she brought to the search process.

    I’m an Arizona girl so I can say you will find all sorts of people with all kinds of views in Arizona. It does skew conservative (c’mon, it’s the land of Barry Goldwater,one of the original conservatives) and there are some dumb people in office (as there are in every state). But don’t make assumptions about Arizonans as a group and apply it to one person. Not fair.

  • ghar72 February 15, 2012 (8:23 am)

    Thanks, Tracy! I’m looking forward to reading it.

Sorry, comment time is over.