A good school administrator inspires people. They see greatness in others, opening a person’s eyes to what they can become, what they can offer the world. A great administrator builds upon students’ and teachers’ strengths, and helps them reach their fullest potential. A good administrator, as the St. Louis Association of Secondary School Principals (SASSP), recently verified, is Dr. Kirsteen James, assistant principal at Francis Howell Middle (FHMS) School. Dr. James was just named the SASSP Assistant Middle School Principal of the Year for 2017.
Dr. James is a great example of the well-rounded students produced by the Francis Howell School District (FHSD), attending our schools from elementary through high school. “I was given the opportunity to begin my career here,” Dr. James said, “and have been privileged to serve this community ever since.”
Dr. James taught fourth and fifth grade at Independence Elementary from 2002-2006, and then moved to the secondary level for the 2006-07 school year at Hollenbeck Middle School. Even while teaching, she had the initiative to take on whatever leadership opportunities were available, from presenting to her peers at professional development days to serving on multiple committees and councils that sought to improve student learning and teacher skills. Then a chance to move into administration arose, where Dr. James could help not just her students, but also her peers and the community as a whole. “As an instructional leader at FHMS,” Dr. James said, “my primary role is to provide our teachers with the resources and support necessary to empower them to make the best instructional decisions for our students.” However, her influence does not end there; she has positively affected so much more.
Becky Strickland, English Language Arts Department Chair at FHMS, said, “Dr. James is a leader with both vision and drive who understands how to inspire others to strive for excellence. She is a champion for both teachers and students, and her tireless support inspires those around her.” The work of these two, as well as the teachers in the department, have improved the English Language Arts scores at FHMS to become the highest in St. Charles County.
An advocate and mentor for teachers, Dr. James also involved the whole school community in setting school improvement goals, led the Parent Involvement Team, and facilitated student recognition and assemblies, always putting students first. Dr. James works relentlessly on behalf of students – academically, socially, and emotionally. She effortlessly connects with students and their families, with a clear and consistent vision that promotes success in every aspect of education at Francis Howell Middle.
Service learning is a point of emphasis for Dr. James. She works closely with the school’s National Junior Honor Society; and has also helped turn FHMS’s Veterans Day Assembly into one of the biggest celebrations in the area, engaging not only the whole school, but also more than 100 veterans and their families. Last November, FHMS raised more than $7,200 for Greater St. Louis Honor Flight, sending 11 veterans on their Honor Flights. “Service learning has truly become a part of our core values at FHMS, and service has become one of our pillars of strength as a school community.” And that has a lot to do with the leadership of Dr. Kirsteen James.
Dr. James earned her doctorate in 2016 in Educational Administration, the cherry on top of her other academic accomplishments. She earned her Educational Specialist Degree in 2011 and her master’s degree in 2005. Her certifications include a Career Professional Certificate for K-8 Principal, and an Advanced Certification in Character Education from CHARACTERplus (University of Missouri Center for Character and Citizenship).