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Holland Public Schools

Holland High

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Katie Pennington, Principal

Katie Pennington’s hardest day as Holland High School’s new principal was also the day she was most grateful she got the job.

The day was Monday, Sept. 19 – just three weeks into the school year – when students and staff learned that a sophomore girl had died unexpectedly over the weekend.

“As a principal, you’re always aware that a crisis can strike at any time – yet you never expect it, especially at the beginning of the school year,” Pennington said. “It was a tough day, but I’ve never seen a school crisis team mobilize so quickly and operate so effectively. I am amazed how many student needs we were able to address. I felt humbled to be a part of it.”

Feeling impressed by the people who make up Holland High -- and the wider community that supports it – is almost becoming routine, Pennington said.

Founded in 1848, Holland Public Schools is one of Michigan’s oldest school districts. Pennington – who was previously a high school principal in Kalamazoo, Wyoming and Kenowa Hills -- said she feels fortified by joining a district with a rich heritage. 

She says she’s thrilled to be learning the district’s history and benefits from “the supportive people who have lived it their whole lives.”

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of alumni who return to work at the high school,” Pennington said. “And the number of alumni who continue to attend and support school activities is overwhelming.”

A change that Pennington brought with her from Kenowa Hills High School in Grand Rapids is a new instructional model for delivering special education services.

Instead of providing students with learning challenges with support while they’re in general education classes, Pennington has instituted a pre-teaching and re-teaching practice that occurs in a separate resource class.

“Data shows we were not meeting the academic needs of our special education students as well as we should with the co-teaching model,” Pennington said. “By pre-teaching content, we think they will be better prepared when they’re in those general education classes. And there will be time for special education teachers to re-teach to make sure students understand.”

For the record, Pennington wore red and cheered with the Holland football fans this fall when the Dutch competed against the Zeeland East Chix – a team coached by Pennington’s husband, Derek.

“It’s a novelty here, but it’s nothing new for Derek and I,” Pennington said. “The school where I work has played the school where he works for the last 10 years, going back to our time in Kalamazoo when I was at Loy Norrix and he was at Kalamazoo Central.”

“It would be nice to have bragging rights in the household,” Pennington said. “But, until next year, those rights will rest with my husband.”

Zeeland East won 47-22.