SMS principal named Idaho's best

Sandpoint Middle School principal Kim Keaton, front row center, and his staff pose for a photo after Keaton was named the state's top middle school principal. (Photo by DAVID KEYES)

SANDPOINT — For Sandpoint Middle School principal Kim Keaton, being named the middle school principal of the year is an endorsement of his entire staff.

 After a long process of data collection and interviews, Idaho Association of School Administrators officials announced Monday that Keaton was the top pick for the Middle Level Principal of the Year award. The decision is calculated based on a combination of school performance, data analysis and personal interviews. However, Keaton gives most of the credit to his staff, which he says is essential to making Sandpoint Middle School function.

“From my perspective, this is a feather in the cap for the entire middle school,” he said.

Indeed, if not for the middle school staff, Keaton wouldn’t have even been under consideration for the honor.

The school’s employees got the ball rolling by nominating Keaton for the award about a month ago. Qualifying candidates had to demonstrate effectiveness in several categories, including maintaining a positive school climate, balancing short-term needs with long-term goals, community engagement and several more.

Once the officials behind IASA, one of the largest organizational bodies for education professionals in the state, accepted the nomination, it was time for Keaton to pursue it. He first had to write an essay describing the accomplishments of Sandpoint Middle School.

As the sixth-ranked middle school in the state, Keaton said he had plenty of material from which to draw. Once again, he attributed that to the effectiveness of the staff members, all of whom share responsibilities to maintain a balanced workload for everyone.

“We really just focus on giving kids the best education we can,” Keaton added.

Keaton also used his essay to describe his vision for continuing to improve the school. He continued detailing those plans at his Monday interview in Boise, the final leg of qualification for the award. Over the course of 40 minutes, IASA representatives asked him a series of detailed questions about his methods and his school’s achievements. According to Keaton, it was a tough round of questioning.

“Two hours later, I found out (I was getting the award) just as I was getting on a plane,” he said.

On a personal level, Keaton is deeply honored that the organization selected him as its top middle school principal.

“I’m extremely happy to get an award like this when there are so many great educators in this state,” he said.

However, he’s quick to follow up that none of his individual achievements would be possible without the support and assistance of the school staff. By creating a strong network, each individual helps the other do his or her best to grow their students, Keaton said.

Keaton will be officially accepting the award at a July 31 ceremony in Boise. However, he has to make a few arrangements before he can make the trip south.

“I’ll probably take a couple summer days off and visit the great southern part of the state,” he said. “I just have to get that approved by my wife first.”

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