New principals will take over at three Helena schools this fall, but the leaders will be familiar faces within the Helena School District.
Former Superintendent Jack Copps and former Assistant Superintendent Greg Upham worked to finalize all of the principal roles and other leadership positions in the district before their last day on June 30.
Josh McKay, the principal at Helena Middle School, was hired as assistant superintendent and started on July 1. McKay said having all internal hires this year is a sign the district develops good educators.
“Our teachers are really really strong leaders, so we’re pretty proud of that,” he said.
Cal Boyle, the former assistant principal at Helena Middle School, is the new principal. McKay said they’ve worked together for years and was confident in Boyle’s ability to seamlessly take over.
“He’s a very trusted teammate and leader for the staff already,” McKay said. “He has a rapport with teachers parents and students.”
Boyle said he started as a science teacher at HMS in 2006 and finished his master’s degree around the time the assistant principal job opened up.
Boyle said his goal as principal is to focus on celebrating student achievement.
“What we hear in feedback is the kids who do get recognized, it’s so meaningful to them. It’s such a big part of their experience. We need to do a better job to make sure we recognize all those kids in a positive way,” Boyle said.
Dawn Rowling accepted a job as assistant principal at HMS. Rowling was previously at Access to Success, a high school diploma completion program based at the Helena College. Boyle said Rowling is more than qualified for the job and will help get the school year off to a good start.
Craig Crawford, the former principal at Bryant, is taking over at Access to Success.
The new Bryant principal will be Trish Klock, a teacher and former president of the Helena Education Association.
Klock said she’s been considering administration for several years. She was a social studies teacher at Helena High School for 10 years and then moved to president of HEA where she said she came to understand the entire district.
“When I saw the opening for Bryant I really, really thought that would be a good fit just because of the fact that a lot of those kids who go to Bryant feed up to Helena High,” she said.
Some of Klock’s former Helena High students are now parents to elementary students attending Bryant, she said.
“A lot of former students have reached out and said they’re excited I’m going to be the principal at their kids’ school,” she said.
Tim McMahon took a job as activities director for the district, which left a principal position open at Warren. Tia Wilkins, who taught kindergarten and third grade at Jefferson, will be the new principal.
Wilkins taught at Jefferson for six years and while she always knew she wanted to be a teacher, she put a lot of thought into whether administration would be a good fit.
“I had an amazing principal in high school,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins’ dad was a diplomat, allowing her travel the world and attend high school in the United Arab Emirates. Her principal, who had attended Carroll College, was always an advocate for her students, Wilkins said. She encouraged Wilkins to attend Carroll, and that's partly how she decided to teach in Helena.
“I always had her in the back of my mind,” she said.
Now Wilkins is excited to have more than 300 students, instead of just a classroom. While it will be less one on one time, Wilkins said she plans to make time and reach out to students. She plans to be in classroom and visible to students as much as possible. Wilkins will also carry on a tradition started by McMahon.
“He always served the kids lunch,” he said. “It’s a great way to connect with the kids every day. It’s such a neat thing he started.”