Bend’s Summit and Mountain View high schools will have new principals at the helm this school year. Their plan: Spend the first year listening and learning.
“A lot of (leading) is being able to listen to what they need and where they think they can improve the best and then being able to facilitate that,” said Michael McDonald, Summit High School principal. “It’s not necessarily me flying in with a bunch of big ideas, but it’s listening to the adults and the students and the parents about what they think the community needs.”
Although McDonald and Michael Hicks, who will lead Mountain View High School, come from different backgrounds, both are experienced high school administrators, and both emphasize the need to observe their schools before making any big moves.
“We’re not going to do anything overwhelming,” Hicks said. “I think the best thing we can do as a new leadership team is listen. We need to inquire a lot; we need to ask a lot of questions, which we’ve already began doing.”
Katie Legace, executive director of Bend-La Pine Schools’ high schools (and former Mountain View principal), also in her first year, said she was excited to work with Hicks and McDonald.
“I see it as a fun opportunity, and I know they feel the same way,” she said of having two new principals in the same year. “They’re both collaborative, visionary leaders, and I think they’re going to do a great job.”
McDonald, 53, is comfortable with Summit’s staff and culture because he’s worked there since 2002 — one year after the school opened. For 14 of those 16 years, he served as vice principal, and three of his four kids have attended Summit (his fourth is an incoming freshman).
“There’s still some folks that have been here longer than I have, but not very many,” he said. “I feel like I have built great partnerships with the teachers in this building and with the parent community and with the coaching staff.”
A Salem native, McDonald taught language arts in the Salem and Portland areas before arriving at Summit.
During his time in west Bend, McDonald said he’s grown to appreciate the area’s support of its school, as well as Summit itself.
“I have a really good template to start with,” he said.
McDonald said he had no major changes planned for this upcoming school year, but he simply wanted Summit to be a more welcoming environment for both school staff and the community at large.
“We have a lot of people who are interested in helping schools out in any way that they can, and I want those folks to feel like they can walk into this building and say, ‘I’ve got an idea for something I think might help your students,’” he said.
He also wanted to hear from Summit’s students. This summer, McDonald said he sent a letter to each incoming freshman introducing himself and asking the students to send a letter back letting Summit staff and teachers know more about them.
“I’ve been reading and trying to respond to all of those, and it’s been great to get to know the kids a little bit, and to hear what their immediate concerns are,” he said.
“That makes me really excited to get the school year started.”
On the other side of Bend, Hicks, 40, enters Mountain View with a much different background. While McDonald has spent over 15 years at Summit, 2018 will be Hicks’ first year at Mountain View. In fact, besides spending last year as Bend High School’s vice principal, much of his administrative experience comes from the Bay Area.
Hicks, who was raised in a small town north of Sacramento, played minor league baseball in Louisiana for three years. He left his research job to become a teacher because teaching gave him summers off to play ball.
After his baseball career ended, Hicks spent 11 years at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California, first as a biology teacher, then as a dean of students and assistant principal. He said he moved to Bend last year “looking for a lifestyle change.”
“We enjoyed our time (in the Bay Area). It’s a great area … but I’ve got three little kids,” he said. “We were thinking of a place that was a little more family-centric and a place that was easier to navigate.”
Despite California and Central Oregon having different demographics, Hicks said there are “more similarities than differences” between students at his old and new schools.
“What do kids want? They want to be challenged; they want to be supported; they want to feel like they’re something bigger than themselves, and they want to have fun,” he said. “Whether that’s kids in the Bay Area, kids in Bend, kids in Indiana, they’re all looking for that.”
Hicks is the head of a fresh administrative team for Mountain View, which also includes two new vice principals and an athletic director. The principal said he and his group are ready to “get (their) hands dirty” to learn more about Mountain View’s culture and community.
“I think it’s our unofficial theme as a team this year, is just learning about Mountain View, learning from the students, learning from the staff,” Hicks said. “Next year, we’ll be in a better place to kind of say, ‘Here’s what we’ve learned, here’s where we’re at as a school. Now, what are some things we can do to keep us moving in this direction?’”
Hicks said he hopes to implement a system where “people recognize that failure is an opportunity to learn,” and that eventually every staff member and student enjoys his or her time at Mountain View.
“It’s hard to get that at 100 percent,” he said. “I’ve never seen that, but that doesn’t mean it’s not what we shoot for.”
— Reporter: 541-541-617-7854,