Bainbridge High School’s new principal is not going to be a transplant from outside the district, but rather, a seasoned islander with four years of experience working at the high school.
Kristen Haizlip will be making the shift from associate principal to BHS’s new head honcho starting July 1.
Haizlip grew up in Washington and left home to attend Santa Clara University, studying journalism and political science. Haizlip later attended Washington State University to pursue her master’s degree. It was at WSU she first dabbled in teaching, leading an independent section for an “Intro to Journalism” class.
After earning her master’s, Haizlip worked in public relations in San Francisco, but she never strayed too far from the teacher’s path.
“My mom, she was a teacher and a principal and so she always said that she could see me going into teaching. I feel like I was actively resisting that for some reason,” Haizlip said.
Despite her hesitance to initially pursue a career in teaching, Haizlip seemed to keep finding herself doing the work of a teacher. In San Francisco, she spent her free time volunteering to help homeless youth earn their GED.
“I would talk more to my mom about that work than my actual career. I think she was, again, kind of reminding me of my love of that work, my love of being an instructor,” she said.
Haizlip later moved back to Washington from San Francisco where she would finally surrender to her calling as a teacher. After earning her teaching certification and administrator’s certification, Haizlip moved into BHS as the associate principal.
“I think I’ve had these little notifications throughout my life that this is where I’m supposed to be — in an educational setting,” Haizlip said.
In terms of leadership, Haizlip said she’s demonstrated that she’s an administrator who will put the kids first in order to meet the needs of every student.
“I think I have proven, in the four years I’ve been here, to show that I’m a student-centered leader, that my work is really driven by the needs of our students and that my goal is to find space for every kid at Bainbridge High School.”
The soon-to-be principal also said that much of her leadership comes from her “values-driven leadership style.”
“I try to walk the talk, so I really try to lead with integrity and with empathy and with a social justice frame,” Haizlip said.
“My goal is to provide equity of access for all kids and to really make sure that every kid has a successful high school career, whatever success looks like to them,” she explained.
Haizlip has seen four principals throughout her time at BHS, as for the lessons she’s learned by watching other principals who have come before her, Haizlip has more than a few to choose from.
“Mary Alice [O’Neill] was a seasoned administrator and provided a strong guiding force for our staff in a year of transition,” Haizlip said.
“That year we also experienced the death of two of our staff members,” she noted. “She really was able to lead us through a process in which our staff was grieving, to be honest.”
“Jake [Haley] had a great way of building a community; he was part of this community, he grew up here himself and had a deep understanding of the place,” she said.
“With Duane [Fish], I’ve just found strength in his willingness to tackle tough issues head-on and address them with this community, and not sugarcoat things but really provide a look at some of the work we have to do here with our youth,” Haizlip said.
The new principal will be conducting a listening tour as one of her first tasks at the new position.
“I ask a lot of questions, I kind of lead with questions to get a sense of what students feel about this space. What do teachers believe in, what are they striving for and what does the greater community hope for this place,” she said.
“I want to pull together different stakeholders and groups of people that I may not have interacted with over the past four years, and hear what they are looking for from this educational space,” Haizlip said.
As for whether or not the principal truly is here to stay this time, Haizlip said she has a vested interest in remaining at the helm.
“I have three small boys in this district. We moved here believing in the strength of this community and the strength of the schools in this community,” she said.
“So I have this personal investment in this space as they’re all going to come through this high school,” she added.
“I’m committed to being here to see that through.”