Beginning July 1, Andy Kohl will take over as the new head principal at Rock Bridge High School. Although Kohl enjoys hunting, sports and cars, his real passion is working with students.
Kohl said he realized his fervor for teaching at Central Missouri State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in math and education after attending Truman State. He earned his master’s degree and an educational specialist degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in educational administration. Kohl, his wife, Susan, and their three kids are looking forward to the move to Columbia. Kohl agreed to answer a few questions about his future as Rock Bridge’s new principal.
Q: What led you to be a teacher?
A: “As a young person, I was put into leadership situations by teachers, coaches and pastors, and as I got older, I learned that was a strength of mine, connecting with young people and building relationships.” Kohl took a couple education classes at CMSU and realized education was a place “I could utilize my strengths of leadership and connecting with young people.” Kohl got involved with coaching in track, football and wrestling as a way to see and help each student “develop as an individual” outside of the classroom.
Q: What do you like about working in a school environment?
A: “Probably what I enjoy seeing the most is seeing students being successful, seeing them achieve.” Kohl said he realizes success “could mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people.”
Q: What previous educational experience do you bring to Rock Bridge?
A: Kohl has been at Truman High School in Independence for the past four years. For 13 years, he was a teacher. Two of those years he was also a part-time administrator, and he spent four years in an administrative position. During his 17 years in the education field, he has moved around to different districts in the Kansas City area to take advantage of different coaching and administrative opportunities. “I’ve learned a lot from every district I have worked in,” Kohl said. He sees this as a benefit because he can bring new ideas with him to each district he is a part of.
Q: What would you consider your greatest achievement at Truman?
A: “I’ve done a pretty good job of developing a tracking system for at-risk seniors and a way to monitor senior progress,” Kohl said. As a way of prepping seniors for the American College Test, Kohl said he “developed an ACT prep workshop and expanded it down to the junior and sophomore levels in hopes that it would guide their course selections.” Kohl also said he has “been in charge of technology at Truman, so I’ve been a part of developing the district’s technology plans and getting new hardware and software into Truman High School.”
Q: What is something you feel you have yet to achieve at Truman?
A: “If I had more time here at Truman, I would tweak the program with tracking at-risk seniors, lower senior drop-out rates and do a better job of keeping those kids in school or channel them to another educational opportunity.”
Q: What brought you to the Columbia Public School District?
A: Kohl has family living in Columbia and the surrounding areas. He said he has heard about how great the school district is from them at family gatherings. He is also “intrigued by the responsibility and freedom given to the students,” which attracted him to the district.
Q: What challenges do you think you will face in Columbia?
A: Kohl expressed his concern for the amount of freedom that is given to Rock Bridge students on campus. While he thinks it is an intriguing idea, he said, “I have to know in my mind that that’s the best thing for all Rock Bridge students. I know that there are some students who we will have to work with on that responsibility.” Kohl said another challenge he will face over the next couple of years is“getting to know people, everyone’s name, find out about them and what their passion and drive is. That is something that just takes time; you have to know the staff and culture of the school.”
Q: What are your priorities and goals as the head principal?
A: Kohl stated “student achievement” as the most important priority. “I think that’s where you need to start,” he said. At Truman, Kohl worked a lot with the senior classes, helping them plan and prepare for the future. He plans on making sure the senior class at Rock Bridge is prepared as well by “helping students be successful and helping them make the transition to the next level.”
Kohl said he thinks Rock Bridge is doing a fine job of this now, but at the same time he thinks there is always room for improvement. He said possible changes to graduation requirements as something that may require new goals to be developed.
Q: How do you plan on improving student achievement?
A: “I plan to maintain the student achievement that is there,” Kohl said. However, he is concerned about the achievement gap. He plans to “look at the achievement gap and see how improvement programs are working.” Before he improves anything, Kohl said he will monitor first. “You have to make informed decisions, gather data, and look at the initiatives that are in place. For example,MAP (Missouri Assessment Program) scores from this spring will be data for the fall.”
Q: How would you characterize your style of leadership?
A: “Collaborative,” Kohl said. “On the administrative teams I have been on, decisions have always been made as a team.” Kohl said it is important to bring in the stakeholders in a decision as well as meet with students, parents and faculty who may be affected.
Q: What three characteristics do you possess that make you a good principal?
A: Kohl said his ability to form good, meaningful relationships as a characteristic he posses that makes a good principal. “I may not be the easiest person to get to know, but I am genuine and really care about having positive relationships with students.”
“I am (a) visionary; I’m always looking for new or a better way to do things.”
Kohl also said he thinks his interest in analyzing data is a beneficial trait. “I just don’t jump on the band wagon; I want to see what is statistically proven.”
Q: How do you plan to get to know the faculty and students while allowing them the chance to get to know you?
A: “I’ve been down at Rock Bridge and made myself available to meet staff and talk to peer groups,” Kohl said. He also said he has been looking at last year’s yearbook to match names with faces.
According to Kohl, teachers have his email address so they can contact him with questions or concerns he should be aware of when coming to Rock Bridge.
Q: How would you describe your working relationship with Mr. Jeffers, currently the head principal at Truman High School , who was chosen to be the principal at Hickman?
A: “We are very good friends, we have worked together now for four years, the last three years I have been his right-hand man.” Kohl said the two have a “tremendous amount of trust and respect for each other,” which Kohl sees as beneficial for the Columbia school district. “You’re not going to have to worry about the principal at Rock Bridge saying anything bad about the principal at Hickman!” Kohl joked. Of Jeffers, Kohl said, “He is one of the best leaders of leaders.”
Q: Being somewhat familiar with the area, what is your favorite thing about Columbia so far?
A: “It’s a large district but with a small town feel, almost a country feel,” Kohl said. The ease of getting out of the “congested areas” is appealing to Kohl.
He is also impressed with the support that the local college and universities provide the district. “To have a major university in the town provides a lot of support and resources for the high school.”
Q: What are you excited to be able to do in Columbia?
A: “Share time with family.” Kohl said he thinks Columbia is a great place for a family to be and is excited to spend time on Columbia’s many trails.
Q: What will you miss most about Independence?
A: “I will really miss my senior class,” Kohl said, who he has been working closely with throughout the year. He said he will also miss the faculty, administration and support staff at Truman High School. He said he has developed “relationships that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”