Profile: Katie Kleier, I Love This Job!

(And p.s. I’m not going anywhere….)

By Patric Hedlund

El Tejon Unified School District Superintendent Katie Kleier is enthusiastic about the job she’s held for just 7 months. On the eve of a week’s vacation trip to “the big island” of Hawaii, she joined us for a lunch interview.

“I love this job,” Katie Kleier says with a laugh as she settles into a booth at Los Piños Restaurant. This is not irony. This is sincere enthusiasm.

Kleier is a Bakersfield girl who has lived there most of her life. She calls returning home each night, “going back to town.” She was one of seven children, “the shy one,” she says. “Dad was a cop,” she announces. Her father was a Kern County Sheriff’s captain when he ran for the top job.

“I admired him so much!” Kleier exclaims when his name is mentioned. Larry Kleier was Kern County’s Sheriff from 1983 to 1986—during controversial investigations into alleged Satanic rituals, murder and molestations—a rough chapter in the history of jurisprudence in Kern County. Most of the convictions fell apart due to prosecutorial misconduct. He died in 2007. The family was close, and she took his loss hard; she still does.

Katie remembers being left in Catholic school when her siblings were transferred to public schools. She also recalls rolling her waistbands and using tape to shorten the pleated parochial school skirts, and yes, even posing as a rebel with an occasional cigarette.

Her mother wanted her to be a dentist, which she agreed to until she learned she would have to dissect cadavers. She turned to teaching. Her first job was in Kern County’s Juvenile Hall, working as a teacher’s aide.

“We could make enormous jumps with them,” she says proudly of her experience working with the incarcerated youth. Kleier has two masters degrees. The first, before gaining credentials as an administrator, is as a reading specialist, teaching remedial reading, a position she says was deeply rewarding.

She was director of instruction for Kern High School District before coming to ETUSD. She has no previous experience as a superintendent, but is proud of her affiliations with Kern County educational administrators and believes that she will be able to bring resources to ETUSD to help close the proficiency score gaps evident in four of ETUSD’s five schools.

The district has suffered from having seven chiefs in the past seven years. The new superintendent says that she plans to stick around.

She wants to see the Boys & Girls Club’s after-school program work with students at school sites, including tutoring programs. She plans to start a “transitional kindergarten” at Frazier Park School which will take students who will turn 5 years old by November into preparatory classes many months before they would have previously been eligible to attend school. “The better prepared our students are early, the better they can progress,” she says. Kleier envisions keeping fourth and fifth graders at Frazier Park School starting next year, rather than sending them over to El Tejon School.

Kleier was surprised in a discussion with high school students, during a protest on January 27, at the concerns the students raised about losing good teachers. “They talked about students leaving the district… I talked about wanting to learn about this.” She proposes online honors classes with access to university professors. She has opened a satellite office at the high school campus. “I said, ‘Let’s get to know each other and let me know what your concerns are,” she reported telling them.

And then she dashed off to catch that flight to Hawaii.

This is part of the February 25, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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