The second Coffee County Schools employee to be interviewed for the director of schools position was the current principal of Coffee County Middle School.
Kim Aaron was the fourth candidate to be interviewed by the board on Thursday, June 20. She relied on her knowledge of the educational and leadership side of her experience, as well as her lifelong residency in Coffee County.
“I have been an employee for Coffee County Schools for all but one of my educational year – that was actually Manchester City the very first year I taught, I worked there. But ever since then, I’ve been here. I had opportunities to leave and I’ve chosen not to,” Aaron said.
Aaron later added she believes she is a person of integrity.
“I’ve tried to do what I say. I’ve tried to live up to the words that I’ve shared with people by example. I think that’s important. I’m just who I am. I’ve never tried to be anything but that,” she said.
Aaron explained she is not applying to make a name for herself; she is in it for the children and the things she can do for them. However, she admitted her passion for helping students can cause her to forget to ensure faculty are supported as well. She said this is her greatest weakness and something she has been trying to overcome over the past few years.
“Everything I do is to help students in whatever capacity. And sometimes I have to remember that the teachers are important and I can’t overlook that,” she said.
One the opposing side, Aaron believes her greatest strength are the connections and experience she brings to the table.
“I have had a variety of roles in education, from teacher to coordinator to grant writer – I have seen a lot of aspects of the education experience,” she said.
As a leader, Aaron described herself as fluid.
“I think every situation demands a different kind of leadership,” Aaron said.
“When we were moving from the old middle school to the new middle school and things were needing to be done quickly and in order, I had to be quite authoritative to move along the process,” she explained.
She later added, “When we recently had the opportunity to have a new assistant principal at the school, I was a collaborative leader. I wanted input from my teachers on that.”
When faced with challenging interpersonal situations, she explained she tries to encourage her employees to understand the importance of maintaining relationships.
“An employee that I worked with is a person who is very well-trained, very good at the position, but not always the best at getting along with other people,” she explained. “So it’s one of those hard battles – you need the person for the skills they have, but not so much how they interact with other people.
“It’s not good enough to just be able to do your job. I think that trying to encourage people to understand the importance of those relationships is critical to being successful,” Aaron said.
Leading by example, being honest and being upright with people are qualities Aaron listed about herself in a leadership role. She would want to be upfront with her employees and the board of education, as well as have open communication.
Her biggest priority as a leader would be to ensure everyone in the district is in agreement and sharing the same message to stakeholders. She wants staff, faculty and administration to become one voice and let the community know they are all trying to accomplish one thing – the success of their students.
Aaron is committed to helping teachers on all levels, from the budget side to ensuring they have what they need.
“I can have that passion and plea for what we need. I also have a little feisty side in me – I can stand up and fight for what we think we need. I think that’s what we need for someone who sits in this position. Someone who understands, who wants this as well and is willing to go get it,” Aaron said in reference to handling the district’s budget and the Coffee County Commission.
She admitted she would have to learn about budget procedures, but vowed to be dedicated when it came to fighting for reasonable budget increases and raises for the teachers.
Aaron wants to turn teachers’ jobs into their passion.
“I would hope that we could make it a thing people want to be a part of and they can do it because it’s passion for them, to educate children and to want the best for children and their families. To make that happen, it’s got to be a great place to be. You have to want to be at work every day. You have to build good relationships, you have to have connections with the folks you work with and you all have to be unified about what we’re doing,” she said.
“I think we have to build capacity in our teachers so they’re comfortable with what they’re doing, they’re proud of what they’re doing, they know what they’re doing. When that happens, then they have confidence and they feel happy and content to be at work because they know they’re making a difference,” Aaron said.
Aaron’s vision to better the district is to eradicate averageness. To do this, she wants to examine data and look at what works and what is falling behind.
She has a three key things to do that – make connections, build the capacity of teachers and build their confidence.
“I want to get my principals on board and around me to do that kind of work,” Aaron said. She explained she will be present and visible in all of the schools as well to let faculty know she supports them.
“I want them to have the same message about what we’re doing and why we’re here – it isn’t me in this place alone, we all have to do the work together,” Aaron said. “I don’t want to be seen as a person that sits in the office, I want to be a part of what we do.”
Aaron wants to continue programs that look at the whole child, such a trauma informed programs, the Family Resource Center, Read to be Ready and more. Her emphasis will be on kindergarten through third grade.
“If they can read when they get out of third grade, the years come easier. But I think we’ve got to have a focus on those early years,” she said.”
Aaron is very data driven, though she knows there is more to seeing a school’s success than data.
“It’s always good to be number one when you look at data, but that’s not all there is to it,” Aaron said. “If we can say to yourself that it’s not good enough to be at the state average…I think that’s important to dream like that and not just dream, but take those steps to make that happen.”
Other areas she would want to measure are students who have community service, who do things beyond school, students in sports, what are our kids doing after high school and setting a goal for ACT scores.