As memorable 5-years as principal comes to an end, John McKinney reflects on strength of SM East community

John McKinney, an Army veteran, led the Lancers football team onto the field Sept. 11, 2015.

A lot has changed at Shawnee Mission East since John McKinney first walked through the door as an English teacher back in 2000.

McKinney recalls that when you stepped into the building via the main entrance off the circle drive on Mission Road, there were two PTA parents stationed near the doors who greeted you and asked if you needed any help figuring out where to go.

Board of Education president Brad Stratton spoke with outgoing SM East principal John McKinney at a reception in his honor Monday.

“Now we have a secured entrance on the opposite end of the building,” McKinney said. “As the world has changed, schools have changed. But I think one thing that’s stayed the same is great teaching is still great teaching, great kids are still great kids, and a great community is still a great community. And that’s what we have here.”

Friday will mark McKinney’s last day as principal at SM East with students in the building. Over the summer, he’ll transition to his new role as the district’s director of family services.

But with 18 years of roots at the school — eight as a teacher, five as an associate principal under Karl Krawitz, and the last five as principal himself — McKinney certainly won’t be disappearing from the SM East community. His own daughters will enter their senior and sophomore years at SM East next year — and he says getting to see them thrive at the school has been a special joy.

“If you’re having a bad day in some jobs, maybe there’s not a ton you can do,” McKinney said. “But for me, I could go and watch my daughters singing in choir or at work in the journalism room. Those are the kinds of perks that I’ve always appreciated and always enjoyed. So it is a little bittersweet.”

At a reception honoring him and outgoing school assistant Cris Pierson on Monday, McKinney said fond memories of his time leading the school outweigh any of the challenges incumbent with being in charge of a building with 1,800 teenagers in it — particularly the excitement that surrounded the school’s first-ever football title in 2015.

“It was a fun way to bring the community together, something we could all get behind and celebrate,” McKinney said. “And I could really appreciate it because we’re part of the community, too. I live here. I work here. My kids go here. I think all of that helped make the whole experience of being principal special.”

He says he’s excited by the chance to help connect district families with support and resources in his new job. But he’s confident SM East is in good hands.

“Dr. [Scott] Sherman will do a great job,” McKinney said.

Prinicipal John McKinney at the 2015 Lancer Day Parade.