Starla Pointer / News-Register##Oregon High School Principal of the Year Kris Olsen hugs two recent McMinnville
High School graduates - his daughters, Karli and Molly. He said Mac High staff prepared them well for college and careers.
Starla Pointer / News-Register##Oregon High School Principal of the Year Kris Olsen hugs two recent McMinnville High School graduates - his daughters, Karli and Molly. He said Mac High staff prepared them well for college and careers.
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Kris Olsen named Oregon High School Principal of Year

Note: This article was updated on Friday, April 24

Superintendent Maryalice Russell announced the honor Tuesday morning at a high school staff meeting. Olsen’s wife, Susan, joined co-workers and other supporters at the announcement ceremony. Mac High cheerleaders waved pompoms and trumpets played a fanfare.

Olsen deflected the attention to his staff. “This is a collective honor,” he said.

He thanked the staff for making Mac High “a great and special place for kids.” He also noted how well the school prepared his own daughters, Karli and Molly, for college and beyond.

Olsen said he spent time at a small school in Eastern Oregon last week on an accreditation visit. It was a good school with a strong staff and great students, he said, but it made him appreciate his own school even more.

“How lucky we are to have so many opportunities for kids,” he said. And he’s personally fortunate, he said, to work with so many people “who really care about kids,” from the teachers and support staff at Mac High to the administrative team, district office staff and school board.

“I’ve had the benefit of working with some really great leaders,” he said.

Olsen is a 1983 Linfield College graduate who went on to earn a doctorate from Oregon State University.

His sister, Sue Brosterhous, who teaches at Grandhaven Elementary, said she wasn’t at all surprised to see her brother heading for a career in administration.

“He’s the camp director in the family,” she said. “He’s always known how he thinks things should run.”

Olsen taught middle school and coached in Amity and Woodburn, then served as an assistant principal at Central High School in Independence.

He joined the McMinnville district in 1994 as middle school principal. He left in 1999 to become principal at South Salem High School, then returned as Mac High principal in 2003.

When the school board approved his hiring, board member Stan Primozich noted, “He’s well-grounded in curriculum and he’s a very strong leader. I think Kris will be able to bring the staff together and move forward in positive fashion.”

Over the last dozen years, Mac High has made great strides, the superintendent said at the Tuesday morning ceremony. Its graduation rate is one of the best in the state; its English Language Learners exceed state averages in achievement; its dual credit, STEM and career pathway programs are exemplary; its students can choose from a comprehensive list of electives.

Olsen’s leadership has made those improvements possible, said Tony Vicknair, director of secondary programs, and Sean Burke, assistant principal.

“Kris is cognizant and understands all the pieces that go together — leadership, empowerment and facilitation,” Vicknair said. “And he’s been embracing the instructional part of things. That’s put him over the top.”

Burke noted Olsen makes sure each staff member can have the maximum impact on students. “The way he allows everyone to do their job, identify needs and come up with creative solutions ... and then he supports us.”

Craig Hawkins, executive director of the Confederation of School Administrators, said there was no question but that Olsen would be named the principal of the year.

“Does he deserve it? Just look at this high school,” Hawkins said at the Tuesday morning ceremony. “This is a shining beacon on the hill for what an Oregon high school can be.”

He said Olsen brings Mac High’s staff together and focuses them on doing what’s best for students.

“He’s a role model, a mentor to many,” Hawkins said. “Kris is a special guy, a special leader.”

Olsen isn’t the first McMinnville School District leader to win state honors. Duniway Middle School Principal Cathy Carnahan was named state and national principal of the year, and Burke was named high school assistant principal of the year.

Elementary principals Stephanie Legard and Sarah Johnson, the latter no longer with the district, won the state honor as well.

Nutrition services director Cindi Hiatt Henry was named state and regional food service director. Karin Nichols is the current Oregon Nutrition Manager of the Year. And Russell was named Oregon Superintendent of the Year.

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