Every quarter, the NASSP Policy & Advocacy Center recognizes outstanding volunteer advocates who dedicate their time to advancing the policy and civic priorities of school leaders, public education, and students across America. The Principal Advocate Champion is someone who has made a powerful impact on the direction of public education policy through their personal engagement with state and federal policymakers and their ability to organize grassroots support behind NASSP advocacy initiatives.
The NASSP Policy & Advocacy Center is excited to announce that Carole Kihm has been named the 2019 third quarter Principal Advocate Champion!
Longfellow Middle School Principal Carole Kihm is a recognized face when she’s roaming the halls of the U.S. Congress. Since becoming the NASSP State Coordinator for Virginia, Kihm has taken it upon herself to be a leading voice for school leaders, educators, and students. And her voice is heard—loud, clear, and often—by federal and state lawmakers as she advocates for the support and resources public schools need.
When she became an NASSP State Coordinator in 2014, Kihm immediately recognized the importance of developing relationships with lawmakers if she was going to have a meaningful impact on their decisions. She quickly got to work by requesting meetings with lawmakers and their staff, attending any public events hosted by her representatives, and really getting to know these changemakers on a personal level.
“As I was getting started, it was really key to get to know the legislative aides that work for our elected officials. They are the ones who make the schedules and have the access. In effect, they really hold the keys,” Kihm said in an interview, “By now, I have developed real personal relationships and trust with the staff in my senators’ and representative’s offices. I know when one of them is about to get married or have a baby, and they know me when I show up in the office to make my pitch for public education.”
Those personal relationships have paid huge dividends for Kihm and NASSP’s shared advocacy priorities. She explained that she is now viewed as a trusted resource and go-to person whenever congressional offices have questions about what’s happening on the ground in schools, how education policy that is under consideration would impact principals, and more. When Sens. Kaine or Warner or their staff want to talk to a principal, they call Carole Kihm.
“Showing up is really the most important thing. I attend every ‘Coffee With the Senators’ event that I can, request meetings to discuss education, or just stop by their offices to talk. I always have my ‘elevator pitch’ ready to go when I meet with them and am prepared to rattle off talking points about the importance of Title II funding or any other issue. When they follow through and support policy that will impact schools in a positive way, I’m also always sure to follow up and thank them, and I think that makes a big difference.”
Building on her work at the federal level, Principal Kihm has also taken an active role in state education policy with the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals (VASSP), where she serves on the board of directors. She reviews every education bill presented to the legislature and helps the state association make determinations about what they will or will not support. In the 2019 session, VASSP organized opposition around a set of bills that would have removed decision-making authority from principals for school discipline.
“We were able to stop those bills this session because of a real grassroots movement. Before we got involved, our state legislators had just been hearing from special interest groups about the bills. Once we organized substantial numbers of VASSP members to call and write their representatives, they began to see that the real educators who would be impacted by the policy were actually opposed to it. Lawmakers really do want to know where their constituents stand on legislation that’s being proposed, and those calls, letters, and emails make a big difference.”
NASSP is proud to recognize Carole Kihm for her outstanding commitment to advocating with federal and state lawmakers by naming her a Principal Advocate Champion. For more on the great work that she is doing in Virginia to advocate for excellent public education, be sure to follow her on Twitter at @cakihm1.