Principal of Mill Creek Middle School prepares for its first year
When Principal Tim Drake misses the company of students, he visits one of the De Soto district's middle schools.
"I've been visiting Lexington Trails and Monticello Trails," said the man who will be the first principal of Mill Creek Middle School when it opens in nine months. "It helps remind me what it's like to have kids and teachers around. Whenever I need a fix, I go to one of those schools."
For the past year, Drake, a longtime Blue Valley educator, has been assisting with the preparations for the district's third middle school, which is located about a block north of 83rd Street and Mize Boulevard in Lenexa.
"The planning process is coming along very well," Drake said. "I would expect that probably by the middle part of January, the building should be almost completely finished."
Boundaries for the new middle school have not been set by the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education. However, a plan from the boundary committee recommends that students from Mize Elementary School, Riverview Elementary School and the new elementary school at 71st and Chouteau in Shawnee attend the new school. The middle school boundary to the west would be Cedar Niles Road, with those living east of the road attending Mill Creek and those to the west attending Lexington Trails Middle School.
According to the boundary committee's proposal, the high school boundaries would remain the same, so the Riverview and Mize students currently set to attend Mill Valley would continue in feeder schools to Mill Valley. Students on the De Soto side would continue to attend De Soto High School.
"One of the things that will be difficult about Mill Creek is that some of our students will go to Mill Valley and some of our students will go to De Soto High School," he said.
However, Drake said several activities were already being planned to help integrate the students from the district's different areas into the Mill Creek community.
He's already hired one of the first employees, Larry Coffman, as the building's lead custodian.
"Starting sometime later this month, we'll begin looking at teachers and professional staff who have expressed interest in transferring, and new staff," he said. "I'll be visiting with them for the next several weeks."
Drake will also have an associate principal, whose duties will include planning activities for the Mill Creek Mustangs. Drake said the hiring process for a new associate principal would take place over the next month as well.
"I know Dr. (Sharon) Zoellner would like to have a recommendation to take to the board of education by the Jan. 22 meeting," he said.
Drake said the school would also name a new learning coach, counselors and media specialists in the spring semester.
The number of teachers won't be set until the board determines boundaries for the new school. Its capacity is for 750 students, but won't likely be full in the first year.
Mill Creek's curriculum will be similar to that of Lexington Trails and Monticello Trails middle schools in that it will also have school teams. The academic teams will assign teachers to a small number of students from each grade level to help them get more one-on-one attention.
"You'll have smaller groups of students you can work with, so it's easier for the teachers to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of the students a lot sooner," Drake said. "It allows them to build a repertoire a lot sooner."
The new building will have a full-size gymnasium, small stage and open glassed-in commons area. There will be two football fields -- one for practice and one with a track for games. The entrance will be on the south side of the school and bring students, parents and visitors directly into the office, similar to the entry at Monticello Trails. The security feature allows staff to know when anyone enters the building.
Each classroom will be equipped with a projector screen with access to the Internet, cable and computers so teachers may use them for presentations.
Drake will be continuing to visit with current students set to attend Mill Creek next year. In addition, he said there were several activities coming up in the spring semester to help introduce families to the new building. Once the boundaries are set, times and dates will be announced for the activities, he said. Students will also have the opportunity to tour the building themselves next year.
"I'm kind of ready for them, and parents as well," Drake said.