CEDAR RAPIDS — When Mike Hawley interviewed to be the next principal of Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, he asked a group of students to describe their school.
“Well, we’re a family,” he remembers one girl saying, as her classmates subconsciously nodded in agreement.
“I talked to teachers and they had the same feeling,” Hawley said. “ ... If a high school is doing well, it has that feeling. In this day and age, that’s so hard to generate.”
Hawley, 57, was approved Monday by the Cedar Rapids Community School Board as Jefferson’s next principal. He starts July 1 and will be paid an annual salary of $151,848.
He will join Jefferson as Chuck McDonnell, who has headed the school for nearly 15 years, retires.
Hawley comes from Glenview Middle School in the East Moline School District in Illinois, a majority-minority school of about 1,200 students.
He spent the bulk of his career teaching Spanish at Rock Island High School after growing up in a bilingual home in Cedar Falls. He studied teaching and Spanish as an undergrad at the University of Northern Iowa, received a master’s in Spanish from UNI and a Master of Educational Administration from St. Ambrose University.
Hawley has been principal of Glenview Middle School for three years.
“I spent a good part of my career in high schools and moved to a middle school and had a wonderful time here,” he said. “I’m excited (Jefferson) is a diverse school like what I’m in now.”
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He plans to finish the school year in East Moline before relocating to Cedar Rapids. He has three adult children — a daughter at UNI, a son at the University of Nebraska’s law school and a daughter in Marion who works for the Grant Wood Area Education Agency.
Education, he said, is in his family’s blood. At one point in time, both of his parents and all four of their children were Spanish teachers.
“In our world, that became how we shared our love of Spanish,” said Hawley, whose mother is Puerto Rican.
In the coming months, Hawley hopes to meet with Jefferson staff and students as he prepares for his new position.
“My goal has always been to provide that one opportunity for students that changes their course for the better, whatever that course may be,” Hawley said. “A lot of kids we see don’t see that unless we show it to them in school.”
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