CHS hires first female principal
March 20, 2014
After serving nine years as Carroll High School assistant principal, Tammie McKenzie was recently hired as the school’s new principal.
Sitting in her new office, Carroll High School's former assistant principal holds up a bright yellow box of peanut M&Ms - a gift from Kuemper Catholic High School principal Penny Miller - the capital letters perfect vehicles for the personalized message: "McKenize & Miller rule the schools!"
Carroll Community School Board members officially approved the hiring of Tammie McKenzie to fill the high school principal position at Monday night's meeting. Her salary will be $98,000 for the 2014-15 school year. She's been paid $78,600 as assistant principal.
For McKenzie, a Carroll High graduate herself, reality hasn't quite sunk in.
But her experience sharing the principal's duties this year with Trent Grundmeyer has left her feeling prepared, she said.
"I'm so appreciative of this opportunity," she said. "I want to make the most of it."
"If I didn't have to sleep, I wouldn't," she added with a laugh.
McKenzie said she is excited to work with the leadership team to take a fresh look at the data as the district wraps up its first year of a one-to-one technology initiative. She also hopes to promote more teacher collaboration between subjects, such as science and math, as well as within the subject areas themselves.
Hand-in-hand with this atmosphere, one of McKenzie's goals in the next few years is to look at ways to "digitize" the library, transforming it into a "virtual commons."
"Our library has fabulous resources," she said. "It's utilized a lot. We just have to figure out that next hook."
She is excited about two new classes that will be offered next year: A media literacy class will aim to teach students how to analyze various news sources, from Internet platforms to broadcast and print media. Meanwhile, "U in Real Life," cleverly nicknamed URL, will hit the Iowa Core's 21st-century skill requirement while teaching students how and why to be safe and communicate effectively online. A more rigorous online learning platform will expand credit recovery options as well as gifted-and-talented applications.
McKenzie also hopes to continue this year's new approach to parent-teacher conferences at the high school level, consolidating teachers into one common area and providing a series of informational sessions for parents to explain post-high school options and educators' expectations for their children.
Often in by 7 or 7:30 a.m. and back for games and activities after leaving at 5 p.m., McKenzie said there is no typical day for an administrator. In her free time, she enjoys exercising and staying fit, singing in the choir at the Carroll First United Methodist Church and painting - something she hopes to do more of as this year's hectic schedule winds down.
"It's a nice release," the former art teacher said.
McKenzie's family originally moved to Carroll when her father, Gerry Eissens, was hired at General Electric. After graduating from Carroll High, McKenzie attended Cornell College in Mount Vernon, where she met her husband, Dan, who works at Pella Corp.
The couple have three children - Barbara, who graduated from Buena Vista University two years ago with a degree in English; Nora, a sophomore at Cornell in the pre-law program; and Rob, a freshman at Carroll High.
After living in eastern Iowa for several years, she and her family returned to Carroll in 1996 so her father could receive medical care at St. Anthony Regional Hospital in the final years of his life.
McKenzie worked at American Home Shield before taking a position as a fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade art teacher in the Kuemper School system. Her son was born two years later, at which point she took two years off before being asked to apply for an art position in the Carroll schools.
After 4½ years, she was approached again - this time to complete a degree in administration. In a moment of "divine alignment," Drake University was offering the program she needed at a location in Denison.
In January 2005, McKenzie began her nine-year stint as assistant principal.
Fun reading picks include "Divine Alignment" and "Divine Guidance," both of which stress, in their own way, that every person and event in one's life exists for a reason.
"It really makes you stop and think," she said. "Be aware - make the most of those moments."
Motivated by helping others and learning new things, McKenzie said she can't imagine working any other place than Carroll High.
"It's a true team in every sense of the word," she said. "The students, staff, parents are second to none."
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