New La Verne Heights principal Patrick McKee lives in a fishbowl, and that’s exactly the way he likes it.
His office boasts large vertical windows through which students can keep an eye on their new school chief. They often wave or flash him a wide toothy grin, and he cheerfully smiles back.
His career has been just as transparent, an open book, if you will.
McKee grew up in Hartford, Conn., through his elementary and middle school years. “It was a great place to grow up,” he said. “Everybody’s back yard was a forest.”
His family eventually relocated to Southern California, and he attended Cal State San Bernardino, where he majored in English composition with the grand design of becoming a teacher.
But at what level?
At first, he thought he’d be a high school teacher, but after several K-12 substitute teaching assignments he found he liked the elementary division best.
“When you walk on an elementary school campus, the kids embrace you more as a hero,” he said.
For eight years, he taught third, fourth and fifth grade in the Rialto school district. Then he moved over to the Colton school district, serving first as an assistant principal and then the last six years as his school’s principal.
His star still rising, McKee, now 38, with 16 years of educational experience on his resume, landed at La Verne Heights on July 26.
He absolutely loves his new home, advancing La Verne Heights’ tradition of excellence and “interacting with the community.”
One imprint that McKee has already made on his new school is his Triangle of Success. The base of the triangle consists of teachers and parents supporting the success of the pupil at the apex of the triangle.
“If that child is going to be at the top, he or she needs two strong legs to stand on,” he explained. “For example, if I’m not a good teacher, then that child falls.
“At back-to-school night, I used to always draw the triangle on the board because I wanted parents to feel they are equally invested in their child’s educational success.”
That’s why McKee’s office remains an open door for parents, as well as students, to share their hopes, concerns, challenges, smiles, and occasional frowns.
For the littlest frowns, McKee keeps a cuddly menagerie of familiar stuffed animals, including Dumbo, Eeyore, Ernie and lots of Smurfs. “It’s what we call, ‘lowering the effective filters,’” he said.
Although parents, teachers and students haven’t issued McKee his first report card, he’s been grading them and the results have been off the charts.
“La Verne Heights is an absolutely amazing school filled with great teachers who are absolutely committed,” said McKee “They want to give the absolute very best, as do the parents. Our parents here are phenomenal. Our PTA here is unparalleled. Our recent teacher-parent tea attracted 100% attendance.”
McKee, who likes to pedal his bicycle on weekends to relax, also has been meeting one-on-one with each member of his teaching and administrative staff, and again all the feedback has been positive. “Each day I’m learning just how wonderful this school is. Everyone has been so welcoming and supportive.”
Right now, life in the La Verne Heights fishbowl is good.
The way things are going, he may never have to pull down his office window shades.