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Each week, Education World profiles a different school principal. His or her responses offer insight into what it takes to be a principal, what a principal's day is like, and the special challenges a principal faces.


Principal Profile: All About Duane Kline


Duane Kline Your school:
Jackson High School, a 9-12 school in Jackson, Georgia (925 students)

Education experience:
I was a high school teacher for eight years, then a middle school assistant principal for five years, before I took this position.

How did you get your current job?
On a lark! I met an old friend at a conference and asked if his school system had any principal openings. He said they did and suggested I apply. I figured the interviewing process might be good for me and would get me out of my large-school-system comfort zone. Before I knew it, my interviews had gone excellently. Within a couple of weeks I was the principal of Jackson High School! I love it!

Do you expect to finish your working life in this career?
Absolutely. Friends sometimes ask me when I might think about moving into a county office job or a superintendency. I can't envision being that far away from students. I truly enjoy the close proximity to people, and to their successes and failures.

What is the biggest challenge you face this school year?
Continuing to improve faculty morale while focusing on students as well as implementing significant portions of the Learning Focused Schools reform program authored by Dr. Max Thompson.

What is your education motto?
Every student. Every class. Every day. (Not original, but too good not to steal from an elementary school somewhere in Florida, I think.)

If you have a bad day, what is it that gets you out the door and off to work then next morning?
The thought that I am working to build a school good enough to send my own children -- who are now 5 and 8 years old -- to someday.

Who most influenced your decision to become an educator?
My grandmother, Mrs. Doris Wood. She was an elementary school teacher for 26 years. I'd spend my summers in the back of her classroom with an SRA Reading box while she taught summer school. She was a principal for 10 years, then retired and became mayor of her town for two terms.

What do you do to relieve stress?
I ride my bicycle, read my Bible, and spend time with my family and friends. (Oh yeah, in the interest of honesty, I smoke an occasional cigar.)

What is the most important quality of a strong school leader?
Visibility to the people in the school, and having a vision for them. If you are visible and always sharing your vision, people will follow that vision.

What special thing do you do that you think all principals should do?
I seek out the borderline students who need encouragement, call them to the office, offer them a Coke and talk with them about their lives. Personal connections are at the heart of what we do.

How do you motivate your staff to go above-and-beyond?
I do a fair amount of extra "perk" stuff through a staff attendance program and a Teacher of the Month program. We've also begun a staff recognition program based on the book Fish. That program is driven by staff members.

What motivates you?
A belief that I have been so richly blessed by God that if I don't return that in some way to the world around me, I haven't done my part. It's hard for me to complain about my education, or my children's, if I am not willing to step up and give the best I have every day of my life to those around me. I'll admit I do a shabby job some days, but I always step back up the next day, apologize when necessary, and make things better.