Dakota administrator reflects on first year as principal

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published July 28, 2020

 Despite the school year — Kevin Koskos’ first as Dakota High School principal — ending in a different way, he believes it’s important not to lose sight of what was accomplished in the first three quarters of the year.

Despite the school year — Kevin Koskos’ first as Dakota High School principal — ending in a different way, he believes it’s important not to lose sight of what was accomplished in the first three quarters of the year.

File photo by Alex Szwarc

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Kevin Koskos won’t soon forget how his first year as principal went, largely due to how it ended.

At the same time, he believes it’s important not to lose sight of what was accomplished in the first three quarters of the 2019-20 school year.

Koskos was named principal at Dakota High School in July 2019.

“I feel it was very successful, which may sound strange given the context of everything and the way it ended,” he said. “We had a lot of good things going with different initiatives.”

Chippewa Valley Schools, like other districts in the state, closed for in-person learning in mid-March.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the school did a nice job of fine-tuning the process for student placement, continuing to increase the level of precision to provide appropriate levels of support for struggling students.

“We challenged more kids into advanced courses and made some nice advances into that area,” Koskos said. “It helps with course placement for the coming year.”

Shortly after he was hired as principal, Koskos said the success of a high school can be measured by test scores, but of equal importance is students having a great experience in their four years.

From his perspective, Koskos said from September to March, the student experience was good.

“Looking back at the course of the year, I think our kids were having a good year,” he said. “Homecoming was successful and our theater program, with the musical ‘Les Miserables’ and producing that in February, I went and saw twice because it was that good,” he said. “I’m proud of the way the year was going and also how it finished. Our staff and students stepped up despite incredible adversity.”   

In regard to school culture and climate, Koskos said he invested a lot of time and energy.

“We addressed the atmosphere in the building and physically spruced the place up with school beautification,” he said.

Prior to the shutdown, plans were underway for Dakota to celebrate its 25th anniversary commemoration. That will now happen in some way, shape or form this school year.

Last year, Chippewa Valley Schools Superintendent Ron Roberts said since Koskos was going from supervising 750-800 students and a small staff to 2,200 students, he would have to learn what he can accomplish individually and what he’ll need support with.

“We have a great administrative team and my style is to empower other administrators to take leadership roles,” Koskos said. “We met regularly throughout the year, maybe more than in the past to be on the same page and keep priorities in focus.”

As a leader, Koskos said he looks to set a vision, articulate it, and find people who are skilled and excited to carry out parts of the vision.

Last year, when previewing the school year, Koskos said a priority would be studying the school’s approach to cellphones.

“We got some feedback from the kids and did things with the staff as well,” he said. “We were just moving into doing some additional work with that topic as part of our school improvement process at the end of the year.”

The goal was to address the issue and share best practices of what teachers are doing in their classrooms to manage cellphones and distractions.  

“It comes back to the classroom environment, expectation and culture,” he said. “It’s all within the context of the relationships between teachers and students and among students.”

Koskos has spent most of his career working at Dakota, previously serving as principal of the ninth-grade center for five years. For eight years, he worked as an assistant principal at the main high school, responsible for the school’s emergency preparedness planning, Advanced Placement program, teacher evaluation development and data director assessments.

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