TRANSCRIBED BY SOPHIE REVEAL, MANAGING EDITOR
The Beacon’s Erin Doherty had the opportunity to speak to Kimberly Martin, Wilson’s incoming principal for the 2015-2016 school year, in a phone interview. Martin’s appointment as Wilson principal was announced June 2 by DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson after a months-long interview and selection process.
Erin Doherty: Can you give me some background on your life?
Kimberly Martin: Sure, absolutely. I’m from Ohio. I went to college in Cleveland and spent all of my formative years, important years, in Cleveland. I went to Case Western University for undergrad. Then I got my master’s degree from John Carroll University, and I was working on my doctorate at Cleveland State. Before I moved to Colorado. I began teaching in Lorain outside of Cleveland, a kind of an industrial smaller city, not a city like DC or even Cleveland–but definitely an industrial city. So I started my teaching career in Lorain and I became an administrator there. This next year at Wilson will be my 13th year as principal, as high school principal.
ED: Do you have a family?
KM: Yeah, a 15-year-old son, who will be going into tenth grade next year.
ED: Oh awesome, will he be going to Wilson?
KM: Very likely, but I’m not sure how the District thing works. I haven’t figured all that out yet – I’ve been very busy between starting my life in DC with Wilson High School and closing things up here.
ED: If you live in the District do you think you’ll send him to a DC public school?
KM: Uh, yeah!
ED: Awesome. *KM laughs*
KM: We are going to live in the District definitely. I just don’t know how the schooling works, if he goes to the school that I’m at or if he goes to the school that’s nearest to our house.
ED: What do you like to do in your free time?
KM: I used to work out a lot. I think as part of our package as administrators or teachers in DC we get a gym membership, so I can’t wait to do that.
ED: Oh really, wow that’s cool.
KM: I also love watching Game of Thrones and eating barbecue. *laughs*
ED: What was the last book that you read?
KM: The New Jim Crow.
ED: In your resignation announcement you said you were going back to work on your PhD but then you decided to come to Wilson; why and how did that change?
KM: It hasn’t changed, because I still plan on working on my PhD. I intend on enrolling in a school in DC as soon as I get there.
ED: Why did you decide you wanted to balance the two and become principal at Wilson?
KM: You know, the reform efforts that are taking place in DC right now are unparalleled and the most important educator in our country right now is Kaya Henderson. A couple days after I met her I was like ‘okay, I’m going to DC. I have to work with her.’ And if you just look around, I’m not sure if from the student’s perspective you’re completely aware of what’s happening nationally or in DC, but it is very revolutionary and very transformative.
ED: What kind of role do you want to play in the reform that is happening? What is your goal?
KM: I want to be leader of that reform. I think Wilson is such a fantastic high school but if you look at all the statistics for Wilson it’s perfectly poised to be even better. I mean, Wilson has the resources, the student talent, the parent involvement, the strong staff, and all of those pieces are in place to help Wilson become better than it already is, I’m not saying it’s not.
ED: Do you have any overarching educational philosophies, or academic vision for when you come to Wilson or just your teaching in general?
KM: My personal philosophy has always been that all decisions that I make should be based on student learning.
ED: How do you plan to raise graduation rates and close the achievement gap?
KM: I have learned from 12 years being a principal that I can’t make those changes by myself. So before I could say, ‘what we need to do is…’, I need to talk to enough staff, get to know parents, and know what people’s expectations are – what’s their vision, what do they want. Then we’ll know what kind of strategies and what kind of interventions we can implement.
ED: Is there anything that you plan on doing at Wilson, any immediate changes?
KM: You just have to learn, you have to know what you want, what don’t you want. We’ll have a couple of meetings where I can meet with students, parents, and teachers just to hear from people what they want.
ED: Do you believe in freedom of the press for us or do you believe in prior review of the paper for students?
KM: I think in the last three years here in Aspen, I probably had two discussions with the newspaper about something they were reporting. I wasn’t trying to censor the content, it was like this is not an accurate quote or you have to dig to find this information here. I certainly think even if it’s a perspective that’s unpopular, meaning, even if it’s something that’s negative against me or towards me, I totally understand that. However, I do think that the best papers have to be accurate and honest, and have fair reporting – there are ethical standards that have to be met.
ED: We looked into your school that you were at in Aspen, and it was reported as having 561 students…
KM: Yes. *laughing*
ED: But Wilson is around 1600 kids.
ED: Yeah, so how do you think the transition will be for you?
KM: I think it will be great. I’m really looking forward to being part of this school that has a robust community where lots of people show up for basketball games and football games. I think it’s going to be fantastic, I actually just can’t wait to get started.
ED: How do you plan to welcome yourself to the Wilson student body? How do you plan to get your name out there so that people know who you are?
KM: If I do things right, it won’t have to be a big deal in August because you guys will know me before the first day of school. I’ll be there all summer so I plan on being around and as I mentioned a moment ago, I hope that I can have some opportunities to meet students before school starts.
ED: When are you coming to DC for the summer?
KM: My moving truck leaves here on the 19th of June. So then it takes, I don’t know, eight to 10 days for the moving trucks to arrive in DC.
ED: Is there anything else that you think is important for us to know or anything you want to say to the community?
KM: I’m just very excited to get started!
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity by Zach Essig and Rachel Page.
Photo Christina Capasso/Aspen Journalism