McMinnville High School Principal Kris Olsen, CAL ’01, has been named Oregon’s High School Principal of the Year. He is a graduate of PSU’s first Willamette Valley cohort group. Faculty members Dan Johnson and Wink Miller led this cohort as part of PSU’s Continuing Administrator Licensure program, which has many accomplished graduates in administrator positions throughout Oregon.
Olsen began his career in education as a middle school teacher and coach in Amity and Woodburn and then served as an assistant principal at Central High School in Independence. He joined the McMinnville district in 1994 as a middle school principal. He left in 1999 to become principal at South Salem High School and then returned as McMinnville High School principal in 2003.
Under Olsen’s leadership, McMinnville High School has made great strides and is considered one of the best-performing schools in Oregon. Their cohort graduation rate is 83 percent, 12 points higher than Oregon’s average (ODE 2013–14 Report). McMinnville’s ESOL students outperform those at most Oregon schools. Olsen has restructured the school into smaller learning communities expressly focused on ninth graders whose success is an early predictor of high school completion. McMinnville offers college credit courses, and students can choose from more than 20 electives. Students are offered career pathways in 17 fields that include training, internships, and job shadowing. COSA Executive Director Craig Hawkins calls McMinnville High School a “shining beacon on the hill for what an Oregon high school can be.”
Two of this year’s McMinnville graduates are Olsen’s proudest achievements: his daughters Karli and Molly, who are off to college this fall.
McMinnville School District has had its share of administrators who are PSU graduates and who have received statewide recognition by the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA): Pattie Waltz,’95, ’99, ’07, McMinnville’s director of human resources, received the 2014 Bev Gladder Mentorship Award; McMinnville Superintendent Maryalice Russell, ’80, ’82, ’84, was named the 2013 Oregon Superintendent of the Year; and Sean Burke, ’02, received the 2012 Assistant Principal of the Year award.
Olsen will be recognized at the Annual COSA Administrator’s Conference in Seaside, June 18–19, 2015. As a state winner, he is also eligible for the national Principal of the Year award, and is invited to that event in Washington, DC, in the fall.