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Mon, July 22

Teaching runs in the family for new Lincoln Elementary principal

Karen Hughes

Karen Hughes

This is the second in a three-part series about the Prescott Unified School District's new principals.

PRESCOTT - Karen Hughes followed her son to Lincoln Elementary School one day, and she's been going back ever since. Fourteen years later, she's been named be the school's administrator beginning in the fall of 2015.

Hughes grew up in Phoenix, where her father, a 33-year teacher, set an example for her. "I was inspired by him," she said. "He loved his job and he loved teaching kids."

Teaching became her family's vocation of choice, as two of her sisters also are educators.

In her early years, Hughes became familiar with Prescott as her family visited friends and relatives in the area. So she was right at home attending Yavapai College before transferring to Arizona State University, from which she graduated with a teaching degree in elementary education in 1996.

Fifteen years ago, she became a Prescott resident again. Within months, she was involved at Lincoln Elementary School as a volunteer, first on the playground, then in the classroom. Over the years, she was a substitute teacher, a PTA president and, for the last 10 years, a full-time teacher.

She said in the time she's been at Lincoln, she worked with four principals who gave her opportunities for volunteering and professional development.

"I had such as good introduction to leadership," she said. "I've been leading up to this."

That trajectory led her to pursue a master's of education degree from Northern Arizona University. In the fall of 2013, she completed her principal internship under the direction of Teresa Bruso, who she'll be replacing at Lincoln. (Bruso is taking the helm of Granite Mountain Middle School.)

Hughes said her predecessor has built the school with teams that coordinate at grade levels, schoolwide and with parents, an effort she hopes to continue.

With all the shake-ups in schools across Prescott Unified School District, Hughes acknowledged her position won't be the only change for Lincoln Elementary. There will be new teams of teachers, new kids and new families.

"I want to start building community," she said.

After the school year starts and as the new faces at the school come together, Hughes said her focus will shift to academics.

"We are in a strong forward movement," Hughes said of the current faculty. She praised her peers for embracing standards in the classroom, which she said puts the school in an instructionally strong position.

"It's a good thing," she said of the faculty changes in store at Lincoln.

"I am thrilled about new ideas and new blood."

She said that goes for not just Lincoln, but the entire district.

"Our elementaries are so strong," Hughes said. "I want people to feel confident wherever they land."

Many of the Lincoln Elementary School's new students next year will be coming from Washington School, which was recognized for its technology-infused blended learning program. Others will come from Miller Valley, where parents point to programs that support English language learners and students from low-income families.

While she notes Lincoln Elementary won't have everything that other schools in the district currently offer, she's confident all students can be successful at the Lincoln.

"Kids are engaged and thriving and loving it," she said.

Changes among teachers and students necessarily means a change in culture at the school. But Hughes said the traditions at Lincoln will continue - events like the fall carnival, Halloween parade downtown and singing holiday songs on the courthouse steps.

"People love their Lincoln traditions," she said. "I want people to know I'm not going to touch any of that. I did them with my own kid."

Hughes encouraged students and families who will continue at Lincoln, as well as the newcomers next year, to get involved.

"We have fantastic opportunities for parents to be involved in our school," she said.

After all, that's what got her started at Lincoln.

Follow reporter Les Bowen on Twitter @NewsyLesBowen


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