Lea Ann Combs is no stranger to Highlands Elementary even though this is her first year as principal of the school. “I feel incredibly lucky,” Combs says of her assignment to Highlands.
This will be her 30th year in education, but it is her first as an elementary principal. She comes to the school with plenty of administrative experience both in special education and in early childhood. “Those things gave me the skills to do this,” she says. “Always in the back of my mind (I) wanted to be an administrator in an elementary school.”
Combs has worked in the Shawnee Mission district since 1990 after starting her career in Liberty. In addition to coordinator roles in special education and early childhood, she had a leadership role in the district’s positive behavior program for several years.
She also had the opportunity to be in nearly every school in the district, so she knew what to expect when she got the call to come to Highlands. I already knew what kind of community it was (with great families). I love the community feel,” she says of the school, and working with the staff. “I just got the good fortune of being transferred here.”
One of her goals is to be in every classroom every day. She keeps a list of goals on a white board in her office: “so I know where we are going,” she says. Some are district-wide goals – “every kid in every classroom” gets served is among those.
She has made a few changes – the “no cell phone” signs in the pickup lane among them – to bolster safety.
A pleasant surprise, which she says should not have been a surprise, was how polite and well-mannered the students are at the school. “They are so polite and respectful.”