Blue Ridge principal wins state honor

Kim Doepker is among 18 principals statewide recognized and is now eligible for further accolades.

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WALLA WALLA -- Blue Ridge Elementary Principal Kim Doepker has been named one of 18 distinguished principals in the state for the 2011-12 school year.

Doepker, who was selected by regional elementary school principals, now qualifies for the state Distinguished Principal Award. The winner of the state award advances as a nominee for the National Distinguished Principals Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Since taking over leadership of Blue Ridge Elementary in 2009, Doepker has implemented changes to help streamline academics and advance student achievement.

With high poverty and low test scores, Blue Ridge was among the lowest-achieving schools in the state when Doepker was named principal. Since then, students have made steady gains in key core subjects like science, math and reading.

Notable changes implemented by Doepker include switching to a dual-language model of learning, where all children learn English and Spanish as a way to support English language learners. The school is phasing out a transitional model where Spanish-speaking students are instructed in Spanish the first few years of school.

Doepker also began "platooning," a structure to learning in the higher grades where students receive specialized instruction in core subjects like math, science and language arts from specific teachers.

"Mrs. Doepker has acted to provide strong interventions and has revamped the structure of the school day to meet the needs of her students," said Bruce Cannard, principal of Edison Elementary in the Kennewick School District, in a statement. "She is also adept at providing valuable feedback on lesson design and implementation." Cannard is the Lake Wallula regional director of the Elementary School Principals Association of Washington, the state's professional association for elementary school principals.

Before joining Blue Ridge, Doepker was an assistant principal at Pioneer Middle School in Walla Walla. She graduated from the University of Idaho and later earned a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from Eastern Washington University.

"Kim is an innovative thinker with the energy needed to carry out programs leading to student success," said Laure Quaresma, assistant superintendent of Walla Walla Public Schools, in a statement.

The regional, state and national Distinguished Principals programs honor exemplary elementary and middle school principals who set the pace, character, and quality of the education children receive during their early school years, according to a news release. One principal is chosen annually from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Principals representing private K-8 schools, Department of Defense Dependents' Schools, and the U.S. Department of State Overseas Schools are also recognized. Public school principals are nominated by peers in their home states, while honorees from private schools and overseas schools are selected by special committees.

The Elementary School Principals Association of Washington and the Association of Washington School Principals will formally honor Doepker and the other candidates at their fall conference next October.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

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