Back in the late 80s at the start of Mickel Kidd’s career, he alluded to an incident while teaching at Memorial Middle School that stuck with him that he never wished to repeat.
The Albany school had AM/PM class cycles where he taught the exact same class to two totally different groups of students. At one point, he’d cycle through 120 kids a day.
“One time, we were about halfway through second semester, a student walked up to me, knew exactly who I was,” Kidd recalled. “I was sitting there trying to figure out what her name was. She figured it out that I didn’t remember her name. Which was pretty sad. I felt horrible about that.”
He no longer worries about forgetting students’ names at Falls City High School as its principal for the last four years.
“I don’t have that problem here. I know every one of our kids. We can communicate with our families well,” he said.
That connection to the student body and caring for each students’ success was atop the reasons the Oregon Association of Secondary School Administrators (OASSA) and the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) named Kidd their 2023 Oregon High School Principal of the Year.
Kidd admits he never knew he was even up for the award. He contextualized the photo on social media of him getting honored at an all-staff meeting shaking COSA director Craig Hawkins’ hand.
“That photo of me shaking Craig’s hand? That was two seconds after I found out,” Kidd said laughing.
He explained he didn’t go to the Seaside Conferences this year, mostly because he didn’t have time, as he also farms and “had hay on the ground.”
But he found it odd that others kept asking.
Then when the staff tables were rearranged to all face the front, he knew something was up, just not what he expected.
“Even when Craig was up front talking and said he had a surprise for Falls City, I thought maybe we were getting some more funding or getting recognized for something we’re doing well,” Kidd recalled. “I did not even have a clue he was there to announce the principal of year award. It’s a pretty humbling experience, actually. I still don’t know what to stay.”
One might say Kidd seemed destined to be the Mountaineers’ principal, having grown up in Falls City, and attended school there all the way from kindergarten through graduation. But he said it was never in his initial plans to return, let alone as a teacher.
Kidd actually took a lengthy detour down the road of science. He graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in science and spent the next eight years working in a science lab.
When the company shut down, he went overseas, and they paid him to go back to school, where he got his master’s degree in teaching.
“They had a job opening here, I lived close, so I decided to do it,” Kidd said. “I loved teaching middle school. Probably were the best years of teaching.”
He began at Falls City Middle School in 2007 teaching math and science for five years, before “moving down the road” to teach science, P.E. and leadership at Fall City’s High School.
Then, he was asked to fill in as Dean of Students before advancing full time to the school’s principal.
In the interim, he’s always coached in the district. In 1990-91, he headed all three middle school football, basketball and track teams and was an assistant coach for the Mountaineers’ team that made it to the state semifinals. Then as basketball coach, in 2015 he got the girls to the state playoffs, “That was kinda fun,” he recalled, and the boys in 2018.
So, while it wasn’t inevitable that he ended up teaching at and leading Falls City High School, it wasn’t unexpected.
“I had a lot of mentors here, a lot of great teachers, great coaches, sometimes you just have that feeling of it’s your turn to step up and give back. I’ve always felt that way. We actually have quite a few teachers here that have graduated from here – Roxi Barnhart, Ascend Room; Sean Burgett, science/CTE; Miss (5th grade teacher Lyrell) VanPatten, and a few others came a while and left,” Kidd said. “So, it’s a big deal to me, giving back to a place that had given me so much.”
Ironically, Kidd was honored for doing so much while making do with so little. He has a staff of 11 (seven teachers, a counselor and three educational assistants) and a student body of 50 (that has fluctuated from 34 to 80 since he was dean of students. Kidd wears more hats than just principal, one of the challenges of heading such a small school.
“It’s not as simple as at bigger schools where this is your hat, here,“ Kidd said. “You’re coaching, helping set up for awards banquets, helping custodial move things. But it’s not just me. All of our staff members have to wear a lot of hats, because there are so few of us.”
One of his first tests as new principal was beyond his control – the pandemic which closed all schools to in-person learning.
“At a time that was unbearable for many educators, specifically educational leaders nationwide,” said Cory Ellis, Superintendent of Falls City School District, “Micke Kidd stood resolutely before his staff, colleagues, and peers, completely understanding that now was the time for leadership.”
In the award writeup, staff described Kidd as the calm in the storm, one with a voice of reason, and always ready to support. He frequently follows conversations with staff by saying, “What can I do to support you?” He has a firm belief that each person can grow and provides thought partnership and coaching for his staff.
In addition to knowing each student at Falls City High School, Kidd created school schedules for each student and monitors data to support each one on their path to graduation. The award also recognized the effort he put into developing extra programs to help the students succeed.
“I think some of our programs are kinda hidden little gems,” Kidd said.
Kidd developed a school leadership advisory team to monitor 9th-grade-on-track to graduate data, implement and monitor academic intervention initiatives, and develop an education plan for each student. He was involved in creating the “Ascend Room” at the high school, a place where students can go for additional social-emotional support and academic recovery.
He added there’s a concerted effort to get the kids off campus as much as possible.
“We just had a group of kids down to Caterpillar Papé training site in Albany, at a brand new dome, it was awesome. Try to get kids on college campuses as often as possible. We’re so small, we can take the whole class,” he said.
So, while his name is on the award, Kidd attributes the accolade to his staff’s contributions.
“I think the biggest piece is having a really strong staff here. I think people just don’t recognize how solid our staff is,” Kidd said. “Many have been there the past 10 years, all similar in age. We work really well together. Look at our students and parents who advocate for us, the staff is that kinda makes us over here.”
A sign of their success is the number of out-of district-transfers that come to FCHS.
“Last year 26 of 58 were transfers from other districts. This year he had 16 out of 50. We’ve had kids from Philomath, Corvallis, Dallas, Monmouth,” Kidd said.
And, he added, substitute teachers love getting assigned there.
“That’s one of the things I’ve loved hearing the last five years subs really like coming here. They call it an easier assignment. I can see it, but where you start listening to subs talk and parents talk, they’re validating what we’re seeing, I think it’s pretty special,” Kidd said.
In addition to being the town’s principal, he also owns a small farm just outside town where he raises cows and “cuts hay.” His wife of 27 years, Jami, is a licensed massage therapist and their daughter, Allison, just graduated from Oregon State University with a major in animal science.
At age 52, Kidd actually gets asked a lot how much longer he intends to stay at Falls City High School.
“I really enjoy the staff here. (I’ll stay) as long as it’s enjoyable and keep staff together,” he said. “The scary part is we’re all similar in age. We’re all going to come to retirement age around the same time. Could be some big shoes to fill for a whole district.”
He added that the biggest takeaway from the award is the dedicated staff behind it.
“To be honest, they seem quite a bit more excited for the award. It wouldn’t be possible without the hard work they put in,” Kidd said.
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