is going to have a test in three months. That’s how much time she’s giving herself to know the name of every student at about 262 names.
“I’m learning them pretty quickly, I have trouble with a few of them, but eventually I will know every one of the students by name,” she said, sitting in her new office after the first week taking over as principal of one of the smallest schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District located in the Cahuenga Pass and serving Studio City and the Hollywood Hills.
Kim took over when the the contract of previous principal. A committee of parents and teachers handpicked Kim, who previously taught third grade at the school. The new principal is aware of the active group of parents at the school, and the questions they have about her taking over.
Her age, according to some PTA members, is one of their biggest questions. She looks so young.
She laughed, “I know, I sometimes still get carded. I’m 36.”
She is stepping into the big shoes of Klein, an 83-year-old principal who has worked in the district longer than she had been alive (54 years). Some of the teachers she has worked with at the school as a peer, but they seem to welcome her with open arms.
“It’s truly the best thing that could happen to the school,” said library aide , who has known Kim as a teacher at the school. “We all hated to see Mr. Klein go, but Susan Kim is going to be a strong dynamic leader, and everyone is pretty excited about her coming in as principal.”
Kim was born in Korea, and became naturalized as a U.S. citizen when her parents moved to the country when she was three months old. She speaks Korean and is unmarried and has no children. She served as an assistant principal at Magnolia Elementary School and Melrose Elementary School.
"It still seems like a dream to me that I'm back at this school and in this capacity," Kim said. "Everyone has made me feel very comfortable my first few days."
She not only has a strong emphasis on special-needs children and their education, but also with children who are designated gifted. For that reason, she is considering looking into the application process that could make Valley View an arts and/or technology magnet school.
“We have an outstanding thanks to the PTA funding new computers, and we have a strong arts community,” said Kim, who is aware that the close proximity to the studios makes Valley View a place where child actors attend while going through the TV audition season. “Unfortunately, we may lose the funding for all of our arts programs in the near future and we will have to find a way to keep it up. Being a magnet school could help us with that.”
Kim’s No. 1 priority for the school is safety, and she is already closing off the playground area which she said she feels is too close to the car drop-off area and isn’t properly supervised. “We need to figure out something better with that set-up, but until then, I don’t want to see children darting in and out of traffic,” she said.
“I am also concerned that all students get the best education,” she said. "I have an open door policy for any teacher, parent and, of course, student, and want to keep it that way."
Meanwhile, she’s brushing up for her big test to learn the names of all the children.