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Michael HarkinColumbia High School’s new principal Michael Harkin officially started today. He succeeds John Sawchuk who retired last week.

Mr. Harkin had been the principal of Knickerbacker Middle School in the Lansingburgh Central School District. He has 12 years of administrative experience as a principal and athletic director.

We caught up with Mr. Harkin this morning to learn more about him and his new job.

Q: How is your first day going?
A: It’s been great. Everyone I’ve met so far has been very welcoming.

Q: I understand you visited Columbia a number of times since your appointment?
A: That’s right. I visited Columbia seven times in December to meet with Mr. Sawchuk, each of the department heads and to meet with students and teachers throughout the school.

Q: What are some of your goals for the rest of this school year and beyond?
A: For this school year, it’s just keeping the momentum going. This is an excellent school with a positive culture. Going forward, we’ll be looking to expand our Career and Technical Education program, add college credits to the curriculum we already have, and make sure that every student who graduates from Columbia is ready for the next stage in life.

Q: What’s the value of having kids get college credits while in high school?
A: Well it saves them thousands of dollars in tuition and fees. Most of these college credits will transfer to state schools as well as some private colleges. My son attends Siena College and he was able to transfer 27 credits from Troy. It prepares students for college, and even if they don’t choose to go to college, it can help them with their chosen career.

Q: How has your background in education prepared you for this position?
A: I’ve worked in several different school districts – Albany, Brunswick and Lansingburgh – at all different grade levels. So I feel like I have a better idea of what it takes to go from kindergarten to 12th grade. In the last few years, from working at a middle school, I’ve seen what it takes to prepare kids for high school. My job now is to help those kids toward graduation.

Q: What makes education so important?
A: Public schools are the great equalizer in this world. You can come from any walk of life and be successful, especially at a school like Columbia where we prepare all of our kids to graduate. The last time I checked, 92 percent of our kids were going to college or going into the military or the workforce. What we’re going to focus on, and I think Mr. Simons agrees, let’s look at that 8 percent and see what we can do for them.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: I’m just really excited for this opportunity. I look forward to working with the staff and the students and meeting more parents and community members. I said this in my interview but I think we can be the best high school in the area. I don’t think there’s anything stopping us other than a laser focus on what we can improve on and keeping our positive culture.