New Administrators at Loy Norrix
School Sees Change with New Principal, Assistants
Loy Norrix High School has a new team of administrators this year. Chris Aguinaga, former dean of students, was named principal this summer. Loy Norrix also saw assistant principal Erin Middleton became the new dean and the naming of two new assistant principals, Brandon Lukes and Kim Kirshman.
Also hired to join to the the Kalamazoo Public Schools administrative team this summer was Geoff Howe, who was named the director of School Improvement, Title I and Assessments.
Loy Norrix High School
Aguinaga has worked for Kalamazoo Public Schools for 12 years. He has been at Loy Norrix for four years — one year as an assistant principal and three years as assistant principal and dean of students. Before coming to Norrix he worked at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts as a social studies teacher for six years and a leadership coach for two years. He was a member of the 2010-2011 KPS Aspiring Administrators Academy, is a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and has served as vice president of the Kalamazoo Education Association. He holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Western Michigan University.
Excelsior: Did you always plan to be a high school principal?
Aguinaga: My initial goal was middle school, but then once I arrived at the high school, obviously that changed. High school is a bigger animal, but it’s so much more rewarding in my opinion. The build-up of the four years, the journey toward graduation. Ninth graders are still practically kids, then they mature to adults in four years. Graduation night, being able to shake all of their hands, I’m really looking forward to it, particularly since this graduating class will be the last class I ever taught.
Excelsior: Do you see major differences between middle school and high school?
Aguinaga: In high school you see all of the social interactions and the choices they make as teenagers change the dynamics. Kids you would never think would struggle educationally, but given the new pressures adolescence you watch how that can change the trajectory you’ve always seen for them in middle school. You especially see the importance of the ninth-grade year and success in algebra. If they’re not successful in algebra, they most likely won’t be successful in geometry and most definitely won’t pass algebra II, and if you don’t get all three of those you won’t graduate. Then a sense of hopelessness occurs. It’s so important. You have to make choices as an administrator. I’m sending all of my freshman math academy and geometry teachers to a conference in Grand Rapids. I feel the resources have to be poured into those subject areas where you can see student trajectories change significantly.
Excelsior: What are your goals as principal?
Aguinaga: I want to change the culture climate. I hit the ground running with really wanting students to take ownership and to have pride in the school That’s starting with cleanliness in the cafeteria. This is our second home and we need to take care of it. I’ve also been pushing the idea of “Knights Rising” on social media. I want every student to have instilled in them some type of goal. They don’t have to publicize it, but it should be something they are going to achieve. Excelsior: Can you talk about the importance of extracurricular activities?
Aguinaga: I was not an athletic person. I was not a performing arts person. My thrill growing up was going home and playing video games. I don’t even fully understand the rules of football. Coming into the high school, I would think, ‘Why do we waste money on athletics?’ Now, the connection is so evident. I can’t tell you how many kids on the football team would have dropped out if they did not have that connection. So now when (athletic director) Mr. Laboe comes to me and says, “Hey I might want to spend a little extra money here.” I don’t balk at it, because it has ripple effects throughout the school. Our forensics team has great potential. And so does the performing arts department. I put additional resources into both of those.
Excelsior: Do you have any plans for parents?
Aguinaga: Parent communication is big goal of mine. I’ve created a Loy Norrix Facebook page. And we have started Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram accounts. All of our announcements are going on Facebook. We still have our Parent Advisory Council that meets monthly in the evening, and I’ve started a monthly morning coffee.
Excelsior: Loy Norrix has gone through quite a leadership change this year.
Aguinaga: I think it’s a great opportunity to hit the reset button on some things that have been set in place for years in the school. For example, the principal was typically never seen. I’ve made it my mission to be in as many lunches as possible. Kim Kirshman and Brandon Lukes are in every single lunch period. Erin Middleton, the dean of students, has second lunch, and I’ve asked Mr. Laboe to take the third lunch. I think we have a good team with a wide range of viewpoints and experiences.
Dean of Students
Loy Norrix High School
Middleton has been assistant principal at Loy Norrix for two years and before that she was a guidance counselor at Kalamazoo Central High School for four years. Before her work in Kalamazoo, Middleton was in the counseling field with the State of Indiana Department of Child Services and Youth Villages in Memphis. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ball State University and a master’s degree in school counseling and guidance from the University of St. Francis. She recently earned her administrator’s certification from the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals.
Loy Norrix High School
Kirshman was principal of Climax-Scotts Junior/Senior High School for the past seven years. Before that she was an assistant principal at Portage Northern High School and Portage North Middle School, and served as an assistant high school principal in Mount Clemens and Grand Ledge. She began her educational career as a vocational family and consumer science/health teacher for eight years in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Central Michigan University, a master’s degree in K-12 educational administration from Michigan State University, and an educational specialist degree from Grand Valley State University.
Loy Norrix High School
Lukes has been an English teacher at the Middle School Alternative Learning Program for the past two years. Prior to that, he was an English teacher at Carbondale High School in Carbondale, Ill., for four years. He was a member of the KPS 2017- 2018 Aspiring Administrators’ Academy. He has a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s degree in secondary curriculum and instruction from Southern Illinois University.
Director of School Improvement, Title I and Assessments
Howe was the state and federal grants administrator for Lakeview Public Schools in Battle Creek for three years. Before that position, he was curriculum director for Home Community Schools for three years. He began his educational career in Decatur Public Schools, where he worked for 11 years as a general education teacher, a special education teacher, and, finally, as a middle school principal. He has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Western Michigan University.