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'It's all about the students' | Community Profile
Vicki Puckett began her official position as Mercer Island High School's new principal July 1 after working 14 years in the Northshore School District as Woodinville High School's principal and, most recently, overseeing the alternative school programs there. She has also worked in the Renton School District, the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction and in Alaska, having been an educator for 28 years total.
She was named Educator of the Year in 2011 in the Northshore School District and was honored in 2005, as a Distinguished Principal of the Year within KingCo School Districts. She earned teaching, program administrative and principal's credentials from Central Washington University and has lived in Washington state since her high school years.
Puckett is married to a former elementary school principal, who she said knows very well what is involved in leading a school. She has two grown stepchildren and three grandchildren. She comes to Mercer Island with many honors.
Puckett brings a student-first attitude to MIHS. She sat down with the Reporter and answered a few questions about her vision of being a principal and what she hopes to do for the high school:
Q: What is your favorite thing about being a principal?
The students. It's all about the students. I love working with high school age students. The effect that a comprehensive high school has is amazing and it is so great to see the students grow to be young adults and our future. They bring so much positive, invigorating energy to the school and the community.
In the role as principal, there is so much variety working with students not only in the classroom learning, but with the variety of activities, sports, community connections, students are involved in. Most of all, it's watching high school students reach their potential and to be able to realize their dreams. That is so amazing and satisfying to a principal to know he/she had something to do with setting up the learning environment for that to happen.
Q: What is something people should know about being a principal?
Sometimes it is like “running a small city.” You have a lot of advocates who have many different needs. At the high school, we have a staff of around 125 and 1500 students. Everyone's got an opinion about everything.
My role is to make sure that we provide a safe learning environment for all students, and that our paramount focus is on student learning and helping students to reach their potential and to realize their goals for their pursuit of the future careers ahead of them.
Also, one of the principal's role is to work with the community to help to provide educational program options and community involvement that students can take advantage of at MIHS. At the high school level, the community is very much involved in different facets of the programs, whether it's in athletics, activities, or student learning.
It's also the principal's role to help with searching for resources for teachers and students. I think the Mercer Island School District does an excellent job job of this.
In a small community, I think it's really important to involve everyone. I want every student to know that I want to get to know them and that I'm there to support them. I show it in a lot of ways to the students, whether it's going to their events, supporting them in class, or supporting them with a social issue. When I plan the daily events in my calendar, there is always time for students. They come first, then staff's needs, then parents' needs. I don't want students to come to see me because they're in trouble. But, there are a lot of reasons why I would want to check in with the kids. I also want them to be a part of the solution to some of the challenges that high school can bring to the community.
Q: What are some challenges of being a principal?
You can’t please everyone all of the time. Sometimes the principal has to make very unpopular decisions that people don't want to hear. You never have one hundred percent of everyone supporting you on a decision, and you have to recognize that as a leader. The leader sometimes stands alone, but you have to do the right thing for students.
I make decisions that I believe do the right thing for students. Sometimes that's going to be unpopular with the staff, and sometimes unpopular with the community and sometimes unpopular with the students.
I also see my role as a principal to be a keeper of the vision of what we're all about and the mission of where we're headed to continue to have a high-performing school.
I am always looking for continuous improvement and sometimes people want everything to be status quo. A principal must continue to observe what our data tells us about instructional practices and our changing culture, and adjust the climate in the school, by working with many individuals, centrally within the district and outside the district in the community.
My hope is that our students and community know I have the students' best interests at stake and that I want to ensure their safety and open doors of learning for them daily.
Q: Outside of school, what is your favorite thing to do?
The career as a high school principal creates long hours daily to get the job done so my life has been pretty much devoted to running a high school. I do separate my personal life from school, very much so since the time away is not much. Outside of my life here at MIHS, I like skiing, playing golf, and riding motorcycles. I like to spend my time away from here outdoors.
Q: What appealed to you about this job?
The community who is so supportive of its teachers and students is the number one reason Mercer Island School District appealed to me. The students here are wonderfully welcoming students. They come with strong family values with their education being a priority, and they're very gracious and polite. They're funny and spirited. I'm really excited to be at the helm here.
What also attracted me was a staff that is very talented and skilled in their teaching disciplines. I was impressed with the culture of the district. It is a family- and community-oriented culture. The students have personal relationships with their teachers, and that's very cool. That's the kind of environment I want to be a part of. I do have to get used to the fact that I'm shedding all my Woodinville Falcon green and getting a new set of colors added to my wardrobe. Maroon colors are hard to find, by the way!