Columbia Public Schools names Battle High principal, new assistant superintendent

Monday, November 7, 2011 | 5:37 p.m. CST; updated 7:23 p.m. CST, Monday, November 7, 2011

COLUMBIA — Kim Presko and Jolene Yoakum will have new roles in the Columbia Public School District starting July 2012.

Presko has been selected as the first principal of Battle High School, and Yoakum has been selected as the district's assistant superintendent for secondary education.

Presko is principal at Oakland Junior High School. Although her new role won't begin until July, she will participate in planning and transition discussions for Battle effective immediately.

"We wanted someone who would provide strong leadership and aid in community development for the school as the culture, building environment and student population are being developed," Superintendent Chris Belcher said in a district news release.

Muriel Battle, for whom the high school is named, hired Presko in 1990 as a math teacher at West Junior High School. Presko said it is special for her to work at a school named for the woman who took a risk on her 20 years ago.

"As someone who aspires to be a principal, you kind of always look at the people that you work for and pick the things they do really well, and Dr. Battle was always impressive to me," Presko said of the woman credited with helping integrate Columbia's schools. "She would always treat her teachers with the utmost respect and made you feel like you could take on the world. Hopefully we can take some of those things that she had and build them into the culture of the new school."

Yoakum taught family and consumer science at Excelsior Springs School District in Excelsior Springs from 1981 to 2001. Currently she is assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Seguin Independent School District in Seguin, Texas.

"Dr. Yoakum will be a wonderful addition to our district leadership team," Belcher said in the release. "She brings a wealth of experience in education from both in-state and out-state and from the perspective of what it takes to operate a large, diverse school district."

Yoakum will succeed Wanda Brown, who will retire from Columbia Public Schools after more than 30 years with the district at the end of this school year.

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