School doors open this Thursday, Aug. 23 in Alberton, and students will be met by a new principal, Mica Clarkson. However, she is not a new face at the school because Clarkson taught special education there last year. She is replacing Kyle Fisher, who stepped down as the school’s principal and athletic director at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
“It’s not often that a principal gets to know their colleagues as well as I’ve gotten to know mine. It’s a rare opportunity and one that will be very helpful for this community,” Clarkson said. “I was able to sit with them in the teacher’s lounge last year, and so I know what areas they are unhappy with and I know what they want to see. I hope they continue to come to me since we have already built a relationship.
“I am grateful to have the support from them and I feel they are on board with me,” she said of her new position.
This is Clarkson’s second time filling the role as a principal. Her first was a year in Circle, located in eastern Montana. But she wanted to be in the western part of the state and likes the feel of a small community like Alberton.
“I like the relationships you have with others in the community and that you know what each student is doing. I like that they can sit down to a homemade lunch in the cafeteria like families and talk,” said Clarkson.
Prior to Alberton, she worked as a special education teacher in Anaconda, but felt a smaller school was better fit for her son, who is in the third grade. Clarkson comes from a school-oriented family where her father was a school administrator and psychologist. They moved around a lot when she was growing up, and she lived in places like East Glacier, Browning and Valier, and she graduated high school from Polson.
Dance is also a big part of her life, and she has been involved with the Missoula Children’s Theatre for the past 10 years. She worked as a tour director for two summers and was a dance teacher during this summer’s day camps. She teaches jazz and hip hop dance at the Missoula Downtown Collective and at On Center Dance Studio.
Clarkson also participates in plays and was a choreographer for The Little Mermaid, and most recently was in Dancing With the Stars, a Missoula cancer fundraiser. Dance was her minor at the University of Montana, along with a minor in chemistry and a BA in elementary education and special education.
ARMED WITH several education certifications, Clarkson has a holistic viewpoint when it comes to students. “You have to consider that there are social and emotional issues involved with learning. It’s more than just coming to school and doing school work,” she said. “You have to reach the whole child and provide a safe place for them. A place where they can trust adults and feel comfortable. It’s important for us to make sure our children’s social and emotional well-being is being met.”
Servitude is an educational leadership philosophy that is well-known, and that’s what Clarkson strives for where the student’s needs are first and foremost, and decisions are based on the betterment of student learning. One area teachers will focus on this year is reading because 60 percent of the Alberton students in grades K-6 are not proficient in the subject.
As a result, she has worked with teachers and the school Superintendent Steve Picard to create a new reading curriculum called “Journeys” and “Win Time, What I Need.” Students will be broken down into small group settings and focus on specific needs depending on their skill levels.
“Alberton teachers are willing to do everything possible to be better at what they do. I like their drive and that they want to continue to learn,” she said.
WITH AN open-door policy, Clarkson wants teachers, parents and community members to feel free to come in and visit with her. There is a comment box located outside her office, or people can email or call her with comments and concerns. She feels communication has to be clear and consistent.
“We will do everything we can to keep everybody together. We share a common goal of student learning and if we can all come together and work toward that, it will benefit everybody. We need to all focus on having a trusting relationship,” she said. “This is a team effort, not a hierarchy.”
She will also work closely with the Alberton School Board regarding issues, and Picard will continue the process he set up last year to deal with issues and complaints. People can fill out a form which will be shared with the school board, if necessary.
Both Clarkson and Picard feel open communication and transparency are important when dealing with student and school issues, “but I encourage parents to start at the source and go to the teacher as a first step. Then if they don’t see results, come and see me,” she said.
There will be an ice cream social on Wednesday, Aug. 22 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the school where parents can meet her, see the classrooms and meet with the teachers.