Principal change for West Seattle’s most populous elementary school: Gerrit Kischner leaving Genesee Hill

betterkischnertiles(WSB photo, Principal Kischner at Genesee Hill just before its 2016 opening)

Five years after presiding over the move of Schmitz Park Elementary‘s staff and students into the newly built Genesee Hill Elementary, principal Gerrit Kischner is moving on. Seattle Public Schools has just announced that he’s being transferred to Thornton Creek Elementary in North Seattle after the school year ends, and assistant principal Liz Dunn will succeed him. Here’s the letter Kischner sent to the school community:

Dear Genesee Hill Families and Community,

I’m writing today to share some news that may come as a surprise to many of you. On July 1st, I will be transferring to be Principal of Thornton Creek Elementary. While I am very sad to be leaving the community that I have been privileged to serve for thirteen years – time for a full generation of students from Kindergarten to graduation — I am also thrilled to announce that Liz Dunn has been tapped to replace me as Principal of Genesee Hill.

This news came as a surprise to me, and I did not ask for this transfer, but I am ready to take on this substantial challenge at Thornton Creek, a school which has struggled with frequent leadership turnover since its long-time principal retired. I hope that I can help to build the same collaborative community spirit that has made my job such a joy here in West Seattle.

While the substantial changes we have all faced in the last year make the timing of this transition somewhat difficult for many of us, Genesee Hill is in a great position heading into this next chapter. After year-after-year growth and the construction of a new building, we have thrived as a community. Ms. Dunn’s deep knowledge of the families she has served for now twenty years will give her an opportunity to bring a new leadership lens to the things we return to and the new lessons we have learned throughout this pandemic. In many ways, it’s a perfect time to make this transition, and I will be dedicated in these remaining months to laying the groundwork to make that possible.

There are too many people to even start thanking individuals for everything you have done to make Genesee Hill a great place for kids over these years. I will make every effort to connect in the coming months.

With that, best wishes for a restorative and hope-filled Spring Break.


Kischner’s 13 years at Schmitz Park/Genesee Hill is one of the longest principal tenures in West Seattle.

17 Replies to "Principal change for West Seattle's most populous elementary school: Gerrit Kischner leaving Genesee Hill"

  • GHEparent April 9, 2021 (6:23 pm)

    If Principal Kischner did not ask for the move, why did SPS feel the need to move him? Was this in retaliation for GHE rejecting the budget proposal? Their reasoning for moving him – a school that lost its principal and has been cycling through them since, just seems like a bad reason to move a principal that has been a pillar of support for the children during a bug transition in their lives. 

  • Admiral Mom April 9, 2021 (8:30 pm)

    Typical SPS move. Denise Juneau has less than 3 weeks left and Chief of Schools is leaving by the end of the school year so they really don’t care about the chaos they leave behind. Ask Thornton Creek community  how they feel about this appointment: BLINDSIDED. The district promised they would be engaged in the process and just inserted Mr Kirschner. This is not how you set a leader for success, especially when nobody trusts the district right now.Thorton Creek is a mess and Mr Kirschner gets to it clean up. Does he have the skills? Time will tell. But a school with a deeply divided community, allegations of staff retaliation based on racial discrimination and a $350,000 settlement to that family is not something I would like to deal with. Stay woke.

    • Fleet Admiral Mom April 9, 2021 (9:30 pm)

      Oh please, this comment is written by one of the several “woke” parents that have an issue with everything TC does. Everyone knows who you are, and to be honest the vast majority of parents are over your constant complaints/issues with the school.  Please stop!I think this new principal is exactly what the school needs. I feel for the school which are losing him, but it sounds like he has a fantastic succession plan. Besides, it’s SPS making the call…He just needs to be prepared for the whiny parents such as yourself that just don’t know when to stop.  

      • Michele Campbell April 12, 2021 (9:11 am)

        Racial harassment, intimidation, bullying, and retaliation is never okay. Your dismissive language of “whiny parents” is a micro-aggression against those that are dedicated to making lasting change to ensure harm does not continue and policies and systems at our school and in our district are student centered. 

    • JRB April 17, 2021 (6:43 pm)

      Hey admiral mom, your response to a comment that provided an article regarding a family who was ran out of Thornton Creek because they were targets of racial discrimination and retaliation is shockingly repulsive. Reading your words is sickening. What does “woke” have anything to do with teachers intentionally causing harm to children and their families? This poor family suffered!!! Then the mother chose to PAY IT FORWARD! All $350,000? Wow! That’s class…something you lack so deeply. We all have to do better and support families who are suffering in our schools! We must hold teachers and administrators accountable. This is non sense. Whatever’s going on at Thornton Creek needs to be handled with compassion and support. Hopefully this new principal will align with holding harmful teachers accountable and knocking out the racism and discrimination going on.

  • kbro April 9, 2021 (9:36 pm)

    All of SPS owes Gerrit large debt of gratitude. His passion for making sure kids are shepherded, advocated for and inspired to thrive is undeniable. But his real talent is building amazing communities. Our family is so lucky to have experienced the Schmitz/Genesee Hill elementary schools. I hope he is excited for the new challenge, if anyone can change the trajectory of school community, he’s the person for the job. And Ms. Dunn is ready to maintain the standards and also put her own stamp on things. They’re both assets and expect they will exceed expectations for years! Thank you both, we have so much love for you both. 

  • hmmm April 9, 2021 (9:38 pm)

    Interesting back story of the school he is going to. It does make me wonder if his transfer is related to his staff speaking their mind about the budget. I was not a fan of Kischner, but involuntary transfers are not cool. 

  • randy April 10, 2021 (8:05 am)

     A true friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.

  • Clay Eals April 10, 2021 (10:50 am)

    Thank you, Gerrit, for everything you have done to connect Schmitz Park and then Genesee Hill elementaries to the greater West Seattle community.

  • WS Realtor April 10, 2021 (12:20 pm)

    Mr. Kischner lives about a mile from Thornton Creek Elementary.  Its entirely possible that commute time weighed into his decision and I can’t blame him for that, the detour would be grueling.  Lets get the bridge fixed sooner rather than later.  

  • Belvidear April 10, 2021 (1:03 pm)

    This is wonderful news for GHE and TC. Best of luck to two capable, hardworking leaders!

  • Anonymous April 10, 2021 (6:27 pm)

    Note to Thornton Creek Elementary Special Ed families: get your childrens’ IEPs in order and *know your rights*. Pay attention to the changes as they come. If you haven’t already, consider joining the district-wide SpecEd PTSA.

    • wsresident April 10, 2021 (8:59 pm)

      What does this really mean?

      • BoulderBlue April 10, 2021 (10:19 pm)

        Practically speaking it means if churn is affecting who is on your child’s IEP team (I.e., the teachers, staff, and family members that reviews the child’s special education supports each year) then refresh your understanding of how to engage with that group because others on the team may not be familiar with what your child needs to succeed. Also, if you feel like you’re not able to advocate for yourself on the IEP team, or just want to engage with other families with Special Ed students in Seattle, consider learning more about the Seattle PTSA specifically focused on their needs:

  • bradley April 12, 2021 (10:23 am)

    What is the “budget” issue that is being mentioned from the staff?

    Our first impression of SP was elevated greatly by Mr. Kischner above and beyond all the other schools we toured.   He also cleaned house of teachers well beyond their usefulness.  Best of luck to him and Ms. Dunn.

  • Batty April 12, 2021 (10:28 pm)

    Gerrit Kischner is one of the best principals in the Seattle Public School District, I wish we had many more like him. Our 3 kids went to Schmitz Park / Genesee Hill. Thanks to Gerrit for his many years of leadership, commitment, kindness and hard work at remembering so many names. I always loved seeing him walk the playground and out at the bus stop welcoming children to school. Thornton Creek is one lucky school. 

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