Kimberly MacKinney said she felt “called” to be an administrator and make a positive impact on students.
MacKinney brings passion and innovation to the job
August 9, 2021
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Name: Kimberly MacKinney Award: Curriculum and Instruction Administrator of the Year Title: Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services, Oro Grande School District ACSA highlights: member since 2003; Region 12 President, 2021-22; Region 12 Women’s Leadership Network Lead, 2019-present.
Kimberly MacKinney has never been afraid to step up and make changes happen. Words used to describe her include “passion,” “energy,” “innovation,” “integrity” and “dedication,” yet these almost don’t go far enough in conveying the impact of her steadfast, creative and courageous commitment to student success.
While a student at Long Beach State, MacKinney won acclaim for her spirited performance as school mascot Sandy the Beach Ball, and she has continued to bring that same enthusiasm to her work, her community and ACSA.
One of MacKinney’s first responsibilities as chief academic officer at Oro Grande SD in 2014 was to implement an Independent Study Program, ensuring that it held to the same instructional standards and quality of a traditional program. Five years after its launch, Oro Grande celebrated the graduation of more than 2,000 high school students as a result of the program.
MacKinney became assistant superintendent of Educational Services in 2017. In this role, she helped lead the district in the transition to distance learning during COVID, applying the same high standards of access to technology, support for teachers and meaningful learning for all grades.
“Dr. MacKinney’s ability to communicate her vision and garner support for that vision is without peer,” Heather Griggs, superintendent of schools for Oro Grande School District, wrote in a recommendation letter. “I have personally observed her move a staff and district from ingrained, dogmatic grading practices to that of a grading policy that reflects student achievement and mastery of standards rather than archaic punitive practices. Her ability to structure the voice of her audience and build a consensus only furthers to endear her to those whom she leads.”
What’s your favorite book on leadership? “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz serves as a framework for how I aim to live my life, but it also speaks to the challenges of leading people.
What’s your best strategy for work/life balance?
First, I had to accept that there is no such thing — it’s a myth that contributes to stress by making people feel guilty or inadequate. I have learned to look at life as a song with shifting rhythms and beats that complement and enhance one another, rather than a scale where everything must be even. Finding the right partner in life has been instrumental for me to adjust and appreciate the changing rhythms we face as leaders. I have always been an incredibly involved person, so scheduling is key. I look at my calendar and protect one weekend a month for me to rest my brain — no plans and no responsibilities. I then look at the rest of the month and sort out what my volunteer work, my family-friends, my personal learning and my work obligations have in store for me. It’s still a work in progress, but by planning for the ebb and flow of the rhythm of leadership I can enjoy the music.
What are some life hacks that you would recommend for a new administrator? Schedule time to prep for the work, not just the actual meetings, observations, presentations, etcetera. Use a tickler file for any paper that links to the work and it will be handy for you and your team. Send thank you notes … I strive to write two a week for #ThursdayThankYous to the people who have helped me either personally or professionally.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? One thing that most people probably don’t know about me is that when I was in college, I was the Long Beach State mascot, Sandy the Beach Ball. During the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, I was recognized by the Western Regional sportswriters to be the most entertaining mascot. I had a ball doing somersaults and bouncing around the court during timeouts and quarter breaks. We lost a hard-fought game, but it laid a foundation for the power of connecting with people through laughter and levity in tense and sometimes disappointing situations.
What made you want to become a school administrator? I figured out I wanted to be a teacher when I was in 5th grade. Through my years as a paraprofessional and then teacher, my sense of service and commitment to doing what’s best for students was solidified. Because I come from a family that celebrates working hard to make a positive impact on the people you serve, I couldn’t just sit by and wait for someone to make decisions and take actions that would support what was good for all students. I felt called to make sure those needs were met and each time I volunteered on another committee, another task force, or another project, I felt more fulfilled by the opportunity to bring groups of people together to make a difference for our students and our families. I quickly learned I could motivate others to believe a similar sense of responsibility.
How has ACSA supported you in your career/current position? ACSA has been key in helping me grow my professional learning network. Whether it was the Categorical Leaders Academy when I was just starting out, the Region 12 Women’s Leadership Network that encouraged me to get more involved, or connecting with peers as we prepared for meetings during Leg. Action Day, I have been able to connect with phenomenal leaders that are doing great things for students, staff and communities.
All of these experiences gave me the opportunity to leverage those relationships for mentoring and sponsorship, as well as connect other administrators to assist them in their leadership journey. None of these opportunities would have been possible without ACSA.
What has the impact of the COVID-19 worldwide health crisis taught you? One of the most important lessons I learned during the pandemic that will impact my leadership going forward is the value personal stories have in shaping how one can survive and eventually thrive in the wake of immense challenge. I saw how COVID brought out the best version or the worst version of people, and it all linked back to their personal story. Whether it was a new stress brought on by COVID, compassion fatigue trying to be there for others, adapting to non-stop change, or realizing the inequities that exist, the most important thing I could do was listen to their stories and then extend the grace, support and kindness that people needed.
2021 Curriculum and Instruction Administrator of the Year Kimberly MacKinney.
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