Musselman High School principal earns W.Va. honor

June 8, 2019 GMT

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — For Holly Kleppner, duties as Musselman High School’s principal take on different patterns from year to year — but there are a few constants.

“I love being around the kids and being in the classrooms,” she said, and she noted work on school facilities, athletics and curriculum as major areas of attention.

“I like to be visible,” she added. “I like the open-door policy.”

Kleppner has recently been named West Virginia 2019 Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said Bob Farrace, director of communications for the NASSP. He said she will be considered for the 2020 national principal of the year.

Among the accomplishments Kleppner recalls during her tenure as principal of Musselman High School so far, working to begin a Professional Learning Community for freshmen rises to a high position.

The program began Kleppner’s first year as principal, during the 2011-2012 school year, she said, noting that she’d worked on preparing it before that year when she was assistant principal.

“We have common planning for our content areas, and (teachers) meet regularly to discuss students that are having difficulty,” she said, noting that teachers have similar homework policies and focus, in common, on things such as students’ note-taking skills.

“They teach them the culture of the school,” Kleppner said, noting that they work on slogans and other aspects of school life. Kleppner mentioned meetings with the freshmen as a class, as well.

Kleppner said helping students begin well during their freshman year can create a strong ripple effect. She noted rising graduation rates at the high school, which according to the West Virginia Department of Education have grown from 85.4% in the 2011-2012 school year to 97.6 % in 2017-2018. The data can be found at https://zoomwv.k12.wv.us/Dashboard/portalHome.jsp.

Kleppner began her work at Musselman High School in 1998, coming to the school as an English teacher. She also served as an assistant principal before becoming principal eight years ago. She said the school now harbors approximately 1,600 students, or about twice as many as when she began as a teacher.

One of her roles as principal, she said, is grant responsibility to other administrators. She mentioned Jason Kamlowsky, who’s served as an assistant principal at Musselman High School since January 2014, and who’s slated to begin as the principal of Spring Mills High School on July 1 after the retirement of the current principal, Robert “Bo” Myers.

She said she worked to let him “take on a little more of a principal role to prepare him for the next step.”

Kleppner also extolled the work of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

“The goal is to try to find positive change for our students,” she said. “It’s nice to collaborate with principals from other parts of the state who are having the same issues we’re having. And one thing we’re really proud of is that we’ve been pushing for the SAT as our state test for a long time, and it finally came to fruition.”

According to a statement from the West Virginia Department of Education released in 2017, West Virginia high school juniors were slated to being taking the SAT as the “statewide summative assessment in spring 2018” — which they did.

“The shift in the West Virginia’s statewide assessment was a result of the state legislation passed last April (HB 2711) which, among other things, required the WVDE to identify a college entrance exam to be used as the statewide high school assessment,” according to the statement.

The statement also notes that the SAT is a “qualifier for the Promise Scholarship,” which is the state’s merit-based financial aid program. That’s a component Kleppner emphasized as important, as well.

Kleppner noted that with a growing and changing population at Musselman High School, creating a sense of belonging at the school is particularly important.

“We try to add clubs constantly,” she said, “and we try to get kids involved so they have ownership of the school.”