Hills returns to her alma mater as the new principal

Published 9:22 am Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Katrina Hills has come home.

Twenty-two years after walking the halls of Vicksburg Junior High School as a student, Hills will take the reigns as the school’s new principal this year.

“A lot has changed, but a lot is still the same,” Hills said. “It makes it even that much more important to me that I do a good job because I want the school to shine.

“I have a personal vested interest in seeing this school being the type of school it was when I was here.”

Hills spent the last three years as an assistant principal at Vicksburg Intermediate following 12 years as a math teacher at Warren Central High School. Now she will have the chance to use her experience in multiple grade levels in her first stint as a principal.

“It lets you know where they need to be,” Hills said. “You have been at the high school so you see what happens when a student doesn’t get the academic support or emotional support that they need. If you are in the elementary or middle level, you know I need to put these things in so when they get to the high school, they can be more productive.”

Junior high is a transitional age for many students as they work to find themselves and prepare for high school. Hills said her goal is to make sure students are given the support they need to succeed throughout junior high.

“Junior high is a very tough age group for some kids,” Hills said. “They are trying to grow into themselves. You’re not the baby anymore, but you’re not quite in high school. You are trying to transition and find yourself.”

Seventh grade is also the first time many of the students will attend school together as three schools feed into Vicksburg Junior High.

“They have been in elementary with these kids for six years and now you have this mixture of kids coming together,” Hills said. “It can provide a very interesting social dynamic.”

One of the things she has learned is that students need more than just academics to be successful. They also need extracurricular activities to keep them engaged. To accomplish this, she plans on working to add more clubs and activates for students to be involved in at the school.

“My goal for this school is to make sure the test scores are going up to where they need to be,” Hills said. “Then I want to make sure we are educating the whole child. Test scores are important, I get that, but we also need to attend to the social and emotional needs of kids.”

Hills’ transition to Vicksburg Junior High will be eased this year due to her established relationship with about half of the student body from when they attended Vicksburg Intermediate, a feeder school for the junior high.

“I think it gives me great insight into what their strengths and weaknesses are,” Hills said. “You do have a relationship with the parents. They know you. They know what to expect from you.”

That doesn’t mean there won’t be a learning curve though. Hills said that she has seen almost any situation that could come her way from her time as an assistant principal, but she will still have adjust to being in charge and running a school on her own.

“Learning to delegate a little more,” Hills said of the biggest challenge going forward. “As the assistant principal, a lot of things were delegated to me by the principal. Now it is my job to push some of those things out. That requires trust and just learning how to delegate and not doing everything myself because I can’t do everything myself.”

Vicksburg Junior High will also be undergoing changes this year as Leader in Me is instituted at the school for the first time as part of district-wide integration of the program.

“I think it is an awesome program,” Hills said. “I think it is going to be beneficial to the adults as well as the students because we as adults have a different mindset, a different approach and that does trickle down to the students.”