Seven years after arriving on campus, Harding University Partnership School Principal Sally Kingston has accepted a new job, just as the Westside Santa Barbara school is coming into its own.
Kingston announced Feb. 15 that she’d be leaving the Santa Barbara Unified School District to become director of the Carpinteria Unified School District’s College Bound Program. She’ll be developing the remainder of the Carpinteria district’s cradle-to-career pathway for students from fourth grade to the college level.
She said the decision wasn’t an easy one, and it’s one she’s struggled with on many levels.
“This is a unique opportunity in our community to create a new program and make a significant impact at the district level,” she said. “I have loved and continue to love every minute of my time at HUPS.”
Her last day at Harding will be May 4, and retired Peabody Charter School Principal Pat Morales will take over the position for the last month of school as the district begins the search for a new principal.
Under Kingston’s tenure, the school at 1625 Robbins St. has posted some impressive gains, evident in its jump in Academic Performance Index numbers. Last year, the students raised their scores to 744 from 687, with the state rating a school proficient at 800.
Two years ago, only 14 percent of the school’s students were classified as kindergarten ready. That number has jumped to 39 percent, and is growing as coordination with pre-kindergarten collaboratives increases.
The school also partners with UCSB’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education to allow UCSB graduate students and credential teachers to apply theory and research in the classroom. Kingston also spearheaded the effort to put Harding on track to become an International Baccalaureate-authorized school, which uses a rigorous curriculum that focuses on how the world works that transcends traditional disciplines like math and science.
In late May, Harding will go through the process to be approved by the Geneva-based International Baccalaureate Organization as an authorized IB Primary Years Programme school. There are only 26 such schools in California out of approximately 5,500 elementary schools.
Kingston talked with Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, on Friday during the lawmaker’s visit to the Harding campus, and she explained what IB looks like in the school’s classrooms.
One example Kingston gave was an article that the students were reading as part of their coursework, authored by a UC Berkeley professor. The kids emailed the professor, who promptly agreed to come down and speak to the class. The students were so excited to hear the professor speak that they had him sign their T-shirts before he left, Kingston said.
“A college professor is now a hero,” she said.
The students later learned that some of the professor’s work was involved in cancer research that was bundled into a bill going before Congress. The students wrote letters to lawmakers expressing their support. With everything they study, “they have to take social action,” Kingston noted.
“They’re going to change the world,” Capps added.
When Kingston announced at a school assembly that she would be leaving, a fifth-grader raised his hand.
“Will we still be going to UCSB next year?” he asked.
For Kingston, this was a success, a sign that the students were excited about returning to the university.
This may be Kingston’s greatest victory — casting a vision where students strive to reach for higher education.
As Harding and the district begin the search for a new principal, the students already have weighed in on what characteristics they’d like to see. In her office, Kingston has a large chart the students designed, and sixth-grader Ariana Rubio explained it to reporters last week.
The chart lists 16 characteristics and students were allowed to choose which was the most important to them by placing stickers on their favorites. Some of the most important things were a principal who was bilingual and the desire to take Harding School to a higher level of success.
Although just a sixth-grader, Rubio was poised and confident as she delivered the presentation, which she’ll be sharing with SBUSD Superintendent David Cash later this month. When a reporter asked what she wants to do when she grows up, Rubio said she doesn’t know quite yet.
Gesturing to the chart, she said, “With all of this, I know I want to do something pretty big.”