By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — It is a cool afternoon at Newkirk Middle School (NMS) Monday, May 23. The halls are empty, and a noticeable quietness has fallen on the facility. Quite a difference from the last day of school May 18, when a thunderous noise emanated out of the gym as students enjoyed pizza and volleyball before hitting the road to an afternoon movie. Principal Wendy Terrazas sits behind her desk, relieved at the calmness, but still missing the chaos known as the ‘school year.’
“It is quiet, and I feel a little melancholy,” she said. “Even so, it was better than anything I can imagine. The students were a joy to work with, and the teachers are supportive and had great ideas.”
At Newkirk High School (NHS), Principal Cathy Harmon doesn’t see as much quiet, as she is still working in her office with staff members Robin Johnson and Patty Rowe.
“It was a great year, and I’m excited about the students, and dedication of the teachers and staff,” she said.
May 18 wasn’t just the end of the 2021-2022 school year for Newkirk Public Schools (NPS), it was also a milestone for Harmon and Terrazas as it marked the end of their first school year as a principal in a public school.
Harmon and Terrazas came to Newkirk in early summer last year, replacing outgoing principals Kevin Engle, NHS, and Jeff Wilson, NMS. That doesn’t mean they were new to education, however.
Harmon taught public schools in Coweta and Ponca City, including high school anatomy and physiology, AP and Pre-AP biology and forensic science and also coached cheer.
She has had administrative duties in Coweta High School for five years, followed by two school years at West Middle School in Ponca City as an assistant principal for both schools. NHS would become her first role as head principle at a public school
Prior to arriving at NMS, Terrazas had a 10-year career at Pioneer Technology Center (PTC), her own role being a form of administration. Unlike NMS, her role was devoted to adult students in the adult education program.
“These were people who needed to get their high school diploma, receive citizenship or learn English,” she said.
Both already served in their own administrative role in a form of public education, but they also had their own reasons for coming to NPS to serve as principal, due to the diversity in their educational background.
For Harmon, it was a yearning to make a difference in the students’ lives.
“I wanted to boost the opportunities to help both students and teachers,” Harmon said. “I enjoyed my time as an assistant principal, I was just ready for the new challenge, and I enjoy small schools.”
Terrazas’ role took her in a completely new direction, as she was now mentoring children instead of adults.
“I have always said that kids have an energy about them. They keep you on your toes,” she said. “I couldn’t wait to get here every day. I was always looking for ideas for the kids, to keep them engaged.”
As principals, both saw changes from what they had previously been used to, at least on a few levels.
“The biggest change in my role is I don’t have an assistant,” Harmon said.
For Terrazas, the biggest changes is that generational shift.
“It wasn’t really difficult. The biggest change was that I was working with adults, and now I’m working with kids,” she said.
Terrazas still maintains a connection with PTC, as they routinely visit NMS for student achievements.
“It is exciting for me to have a partnership with PTC with the eighth grade students,” she said. “They come out and talk to them about career development and guidance on what they want to do with their lives,”
NPS Superintendent Scott Kempenich knows Harmon and Terrazas stepped in to fill their own respective roles vacated by beloved educators, but due to their own experience as school leaders were able to make a lasting impact in their facilities.
“NHS has seen some changes as Mrs. Harmon has had an opportunity to put her stamp on procedures and practices,” he said. “Mrs. Harmon has had many years of administration experience but this is the first year she was a head principal. She does a great job investing her time to ensure that every student can succeed.”
Kempenich also praised Terrazas for stepping into a whole new atmosphere, and still succeeding.
“Mrs. Terrazas did a great job stepping in this year and serving as the Newkirk Middle School (NMS) principal. She has many years of administrative experience but this was the first year she has led a building as the principal,” he said. “Middle school can be a challenging age level but Mrs. Terrazas was able to build positive relationships and enact positive change for our students and staff.”
As for the principals, they are simply looking forward to a new school year.
”I’m really happy where I am, the challenges, opportunities and great people that I get to work with,” Harmon said.,
Terrazas added, “I’ll miss the eighth graders that are on their way to the high school but I can’t wait for the new sixth graders, to come and build relationships with them. I can’t wait, and am already excited about the new school year.