After a search that began last September, the Lower Kuskokwim School District has a new superintendent: Kimberly Hankins. School Board President Clarence Daniel said that 16 advisory school boards participated in interviewing candidates. He said that the final decision came down to Hankins’ familiarity with the district.
Kimberly Hankins started her work at LKSD as a classroom teacher in Eek, 17 years ago. At that time, current superintendent Dan Walker was the principal there. He says that she stood out even then.
“She was just an incredible teacher,” Walker said. “She had high expectations for her kids, but she did a great job of engaging kids.”
A few years later, Hankins and her husband, also a teacher at Eek, moved to Anchorage, but they realized they couldn’t stay away long.
“Anchorage is a great place to live. There’s a lot of things to do. It’s a fun city,” Hankins said. “But it’s just not the same as living in communities out here and really knowing people. We came back because we missed being part of the community, forming those connections and relationships.”
When Hankins came back, it was to teach in Tuntutuliak, and she realized this was where she wanted to build her life. She became a principal, and then applied to be the Director of Secondary Education. Her application landed on Dan Walker’s desk, who had become assistant superintendent by then.
“I saw right away that her organization skills, it was like, she’s got it going on, she knows what she’s doing, she’s able to build positive relationships, and she’s able to move the school forward in a positive way,” Walker said.
Walker says that as Director of Secondary Education, Hankins' biggest accomplishment was more than doubling the number of counselors within LKSD.
“I have advocated for years in an increase in counseling services at our sites,” Hankins said.
School Board President Clarence Daniel appreciates that Hankins takes the board’s suggestions, and carefully works their input into project proposals.
“A lot of thinking into what she presents,” Daniel said.
But Daniel said that the main reason the board unanimously voted to make Hankins their next superintendent was how well she knows the region and its kids.
“Our district is vast, covers a lot of villages, 28 sites,” Daniel said.
Hankins will take her new post July 1. Until then, she’ll be working closely with current superintendent Walker to make the transition smooth. One of the things Walker is teaching Hankins is to stay focused on the mission.
“You’re going to get pushed, and pulled, and tugged in a lot of different directions,” Walker said. “It’s good to have that mantra up there that you’re always thinking about: Is it in the best interest of our kids?”
Hankins says that she’ll continue to work on increasing the district’s four key measures: attendance, graduation rate, test scores, and most importantly for Hankins, Yugtun and Cugtun fluency.