The school district has named a Los Altos elementary school principal and Palo Alto middle school assistant principal as the new leaders for Jordan Middle and Palo Verde Elementary schools, respectively.
Katie Kinnaman, principal of Gardner Bullis School in Los Altos and a former Palo Alto Unified teacher, will serve as Jordan's new principal, the school district announced Wednesday. Hillary Miller, currently assistant principal at JLS Middle School, will be moving to Palo Verde.
Kinnaman will be taking over for Tom Jacoubowsky, formerly Gunn High School's longtime assistant principal, who served as Jordan's principal on an interim basis this school year. Jacoubowsky replaced Greg Barnes, who left Palo Alto after four years to become director of secondary education in the Milpitas Unified School District.
Kinnaman, a Palo Alto resident whose three daughters went through the school district (including at Jordan), did not start her career in education, but rather pharmaceutical sales and health-care public relations and marketing, she said in an interview Thursday morning. She holds a bachelor's degree in human biology from Stanford University.
When her youngest child was in kindergarten in Connecticut, Kinnaman said she was asked to help out at a local private school teaching middle-school mathematics and science. The family eventually relocated back to California, and she turned down another job offer at the last minute and said, "No, I'm supposed to be teaching."
Kinnaman got her California teaching credential at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont. During that time, she was working as a special-education aide at El Carmelo Elementary School in Palo Alto. She also did one semester of student teaching there, and then the district hired her for two long-term substitute teacher positions one teaching sixth-grade language arts and social studies at Jordan, and another teaching fourth grade at El Carmelo.
From 2008 to 2011, she taught second grade full-time at El Carmelo. From 2011 to 2013, she moved to the district level as a math-and-science Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA), providing coaching and professional development to teachers at all 12 of Palo Alto's elementary schools.
Three years ago, Kinnaman left Palo Alto to head Gardner Bullis, a 350-student kindergarten through sixth-grade school.
A notable achievement during her time there, she said, was overseeing a significant physical revamp of the school, made possible by a private donation. The school replaced a traditional library with a new student center and a traditional computer room with an "innovative, flexible, creative space," Kinnaman said. Almost all of the classrooms got new, "collaborative" furnishings no more individual student desks, but instead tables and standing desks, she said.
"The work we've done with space has allowed us to then change some of our programming and pedagogy around how we teach kids," she said. "We try to create spaces that don't constrain us to 25 kids in one room with a teacher. That helps us teach differently and really personalize learning."
Kinnaman also chaired a district Facilities Master Plan Committee that provided input about how to allocate a $150 million bond in order to accommodate enrollment growth and address existing facility needs, according to her LinkedIn profile. Other "representative activities" listed on her LinkedIn profile include "creating a collaborative structure for teachers to meet and share data about student progress with members of our special education team," collaborating with staff to implement a K-6 literacy benchmark assessment system and providing the training and resources necessary "to support small-group, differentiated, balanced literacy instruction."
Kinnaman told the Weekly she does not yet have any specific goals in mind for Jordan, but one of her first priorities will be to work "with staff, students and families to really identify where are some areas where we want to provide some extra support or think about things differently."
Jacoubowsky, for his part, said he is not sure what he will do next, but he would like to stay in the district.
"I've been in the district for 15 years; I'm open to serving the district in whatever capacity," he told the Weekly Thursday morning.
Palo Verde's new principal, a longtime educator with years of special-education experience, will be taking over after a year of not one, but three interim principals.
After former principal Anne Brown moved to Barron Park Elementary School in 2015, Tonya Bailey, a former Terman Middle School assistant principal, took over as interim principal. After Bailey left for medical reasons, two other retired educators -- Gary Prehn, a former Palo Alto Unified teacher and principal, and Susan Mispagel, a retired elementary-school principal from the Oak Grove School District in San Jose -- took over the position for the rest of the year, according to a Palo Verde parent. They served as temporary principals for short periods of time due to the fact that state law limits how many calendar days a retired public-school employee can return to work for.
Prehn is currently serving as temporary principal.
Miller holds a bachelor's degree in elementary and special education from the University of Texas, Austin, and a master's degree in education administration from Texas State University, according to the district.
She began her career in 2001 as a special-education teacher and academic support coach in the Austin Independent School District in Texas. Two years later, she moved to teaching fourth grade and special education in another Austin school district, where she stayed until 2007.
From 2008 to 2010, Miller served as coordinator for integrated services in the Ravenswood City School District's special-education department. She rose to director of special education and integrated services there in 2010 but left the position to work as an elementary English language specialist at Juana Briones Elementary School in Palo Alto.
Miller's work in the district also included time as an English language coordinator at Palo Alto High School, a special-education aide at Palo Verde and, since 2014, the assistant principal position at JLS.
Miller could not speak before this story's deadline, but said in the district's announcement that she is "excited to return to an elementary school within such a student-centered community."
Kinnaman and Miller "both have a deep understanding and appreciation for teaching excellence," Superintendent Max McGee said in the district's announcement. "In addition, because of their PAUSD history, they both know the PAUSD way they understand our strengths and our areas for improvement. These are two great leaders who are committed to our vision of empowering every child to reach his or her fullest intellectual, social, and creative potential."
The effective start date for both principals is July 1.