A Fresh Perspective: Loy Norrix Welcomes New Principal

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Principal Christopher Aguinaga works at his desk, answering emails while taking a phone call. The former Dean of Students was selected as the new principal during a hiring process last winter. Photo Credit, Brandon Schnurr

From principals being put on administrative leave to the hiring of new assistant principals, Loy Norrix has experienced many changes in administration throughout the last two years alone. Last school year, we welcomed Johnny Edwards, the current Director of Secondary Education to Norrix as our interim principal while candidates for the now open position of principal were interviewed.

Norrix finally confirmed its permanent principal replacement toward the end of the 2017-2018 school year, former Dean of Students Christopher Aguinaga, and this time, he’s here to stay.

Principal Aguinaga, like many other people, enjoys being outdoors, exercising, and even leads indoor cycling classes, called “spinning,” at a variety of gyms around the city. Just like every other person, he also has dislikes. Aguinaga hates cheese and recently, Diet Coke, and is, according to him, a “recovering Diet Coke addict.”

Aguinaga has worked in the Kalamazoo Public Schools district for 13 years now, four of those years have been here at Loy Norrix. Starting as a social studies teacher in the 2005-2006 school year, Aguinaga began working at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts.

After four years teaching, Aguinaga moved into the role of instructional coach, where he worked with teachers to help them improve their teaching skills for his final two years at Maple Street.

Aguinaga took the post of assistant principal during his first year at Norrix, and moved on to act as dean of students for the last three years. Now, he is the principal of Loy Norrix.

“It’s a change in perspective,” confided Aguinaga. “I’m dealing with the change daily. I have to keep reminding myself I’m not the dean and let Ms. Middleton [the new dean of students] do her thing.”

With experience as both an administrator and a teacher, Aguinaga is accustomed to understanding students and teachers alike, he is able to understand situations from many perspectives.

“I think what I bring to the table is my experience within Kalamazoo,” explained Aguinaga. “I very am familiar with both many of the families and students and the way the school district operates.”

Being both a teacher and serving in various administrative roles in the educational system has broadened Aguinaga’s perspective, especially with ways the school could improve.

“I think he was able to see some areas that need to be developed a little further, or some areas that weren’t always adequately addressed,” said Erin Middleton, the new Dean of Students at Loy Norrix.

Aguinaga is proud of his skill set, and is looking to use these skills to improve the school in any way possible.

“Ultimately, I’m a communicator and I’m a planner,” Aguinaga said confidently, “so I really want to have those skill sets trickle down all the way to students.”

The administrative team also recognizes areas in which Aguinaga excels as a leader and sees strong points in his character.

“One thing he definitely has is a great relationship with students, and he’s willing to listen and see how others’ ideas could fit into his vision,” said Middleton.

As the new principal, Aguinaga has several plans to improve the school. He hopes that he and the rest of the administrative staff can be as approachable as possible, more so than any past administrations.

“With teachers, I’ve been focusing a lot on trying to empower teachers through a leadership team that will make decisions on what type of professional development teachers will be getting as opposed to being dictated by the principal,” Aguinaga said proudly, “Also, I’ve involved teachers in reviewing our school-wide rules to get their input in how they have been enforced. At some point, I hope to involve students in that process as well,” added Aguinaga.

Another big plan is to improve the cleanliness of the cafeteria and other parts of the school, both through staff and student cooperation.

“The cafeteria is like the central hub of the school. Most students end up spending at least part of their day in that part of the building,” said Aguinaga. “I want to instill among the student body, a sense of pride in there, and I think a part of that is keeping it as clean as possible.”

One of the main goals Aguinaga wants for himself and the administration is to be more open and helpful to students.

“One of the roles I’ve laid out for myself and the administrative team is visibility, presence, and accessibility. As this year has already started, we hope that our presence has been seen and felt more,” said Aguinaga.

Aguinaga wants to see the students of Loy Norrix do everything possible to challenge themselves, but he can’t rely on only himself and his administration’s goals to get results.

“I want every student in this building to have a goal for themself. They should be striving for something internally,” said Aguinaga. “It could just be passing Algebra II, it could be getting accepted into Michigan State, it could be going into the Marine Corps. It could be simply landing a job as soon as they walk across that stage in June. I just ask that everybody have something inside of them that they strive to do.”

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