New principal hired at Dowagiac Union High School

Published 8:00 am Friday, April 25, 2014

When Kelly Millin made the transition from teacher to administrator more than seven years ago, she did so not because her love for in-classroom instruction had diminished, but because she was eager to take on a new challenge.

Kelly Millin

Kelly Millin

The Dowagiac Union High School assistant principal now has a new challenge ahead of her, as she was named the new high school principal this week. Millin will replace current principal Pieter Hoekstra, who will become the new director of the district’s alternative/adult education program.

Millin was been with the high school for nearly 20 years, joining the district as a Spanish instructor in 1994. The graduate of Western Michigan University had worked at the high school previously, completing her student teaching at the school in 1991.

While she never planned for the specific twists and turns her career has taken over the last two decades, she discovered her passion for education at an early age, Millin said. She would later develop a similar love for Spanish, which decided to study in college.

“It’s an interesting language,” Millin said. “I love the sound of it, the tone of it, the nuances of it. You can communicate with a lot of people by learning it.”

After years of lesson plans and lectures, though, a new opportunity presented itself to the educator: the chance to leave the classroom and join the administrative offices. In 2006, Millin became the assistant principal of the high school, replacing Edgar Wilson, who resigned from his position to take a job with Forest Hills Eastern in Grand Rapids.

“I was looking for a different challenge at the time, so when I saw the job posting I decided to apply, and now, here we are,” she said.

As assistant principal, Millin was the primary administrator responsible for student discipline, she said. This year, she and Dowagiac Middle School Assistant Principal Nicky Hulett worked together implement an intervention-based alterative to in school suspension, known as SIT, at their respective buildings.

I’m really excited about the intervention approach,” she said. “The students are figuring out how to take responsibility for their actions, and I like that.”

So far, the program has been quite successful, and has been embraced by students and faculty both, she said.

“I’m not saying that kids still don’t get into trouble, but I think that, long term, it’s making an impact,” Millin said.

In March, the district announced the opening of the principal position internally, which Millin decided to apply for. Since the school board approved her hire earlier this week, the staff has shown support for her promotion, she said.

“We have a really strong staff here, who care a lot about our students,” Millin said. “We’ve been able to accomplish almost everything we’ve been presented with over the years.”

Another group that Millin has received overwhelming support from has been from her family. Her daughter, Ryan, is a junior at Union High School, and her son, James, will enter the school next year as a freshman.

“We had a family conversation before I decided to apply for the job, and they were both very supportive of it,” she said. “They told me to go for it.”

While she is a little nervous about starting her position, she is excited about being given the opportunity carry forward the initiatives that the administrative have put in place in recent years, such as the freshmen mentoring program and the technology-focused smart rooms, she said. She is also looking forward to working with staff to develop new strategies to encourage academic success from students.

“I’m real positive about the direction of our district and our staff,” Millin said. “We’re going to keep working together to accomplish what we need to accomplish.”