It wasn’t until she was getting ready to leave that Kim Fry realized how big of a role the old brick building at the corner of Albany Street and U.S. Highway 12 in Rochester has played in her life.
She started school in that building as a kindergartener, back when it was still the Rochester Primary School. After graduating from Rochester High School and then from Central Washington University, she returned to Rochester Primary School as a first grade teacher — her very first teaching position.
“My desire to come back to Rochester School District as an educator really had to do with the fact that I had always been impressed as a student with the dedication of the educators, and just how much they cared for their students and for each other. It was obvious they enjoyed working with each other,” she said.
She departed the district for a year to work on her educational administrative degree, but quickly returned as the principal of Rochester Elementary School: a position she held for 12 years before she became the assistant superintendent.
When asked about the transition from the classroom to administration, Fry said, “Prior, I had direct influence on the students that were assigned to my classroom. When I became a principal, I had that opportunity to influence a whole school’s worth of students, primarily through my interactions with the teaching staff and on the other support staff, so that part was really exciting. I remember distinctly however, that it was difficult stepping away from having that much student contact.”
She did find other ways to get her “kid fix,” making time to visit classrooms and interact directly with the students.
“It helps to ground me. Like, why? Why do I do this other work? It’s in service to the kids learning.”
The brick building on Highway 12 was remodeled into the district office and the Rochester Primary School eventually relocated to a new location on James Road. But Fry found herself back in the Highway 12 structure during her tenure as assistant superintendent and then as superintendent.
The 2021-2022 school year marks Fry’s 12th and final year as the superintendent of the Rochester School District.
When asked what she believed were her biggest accomplishments during her combined 32 years as an educator in the Rochester School District, Fry answered, “in kind of a general sense, I would say they are creating a culture and systems that are really focused on continually improving. I think the district over the years has really been known for having a relentless pursuit of continually doing more to get the outcomes we'd like for kids. So what can we do next? How can we refine what we're doing to reach more kids and make more kids feel loved in our system, and really experience all of academic success as well?”
In addition to supporting students through a full-day kindergarten program and a one-to-one Chromebook initiative, that culture has included providing support for new teachers and creating an environment where everybody on staff feels like they can contribute ideas and collaborate with each other.
Providing that support and professional development to educators is Fry’s favorite part of being superintendent — and it will be her full-time focus at her new position with the Washington Association of School Administrators.
“To take that part of what you really like and make it the whole thing, it's just an amazing gift,” said Fry.
Some of the projects she will undertake after she starts as the Washington Association of School Administrators’ professional development coordinator will be mentoring early-career superintendents and supporting a women in leadership initiative.
The Rochester School District will announce information on its search project for a new superintendent in the coming weeks, with the intention to have a replacement in place by the time Fry starts her new job on July 1.
Fry said she hopes she developed a strong foundation for the new superintendent to build upon, like Fry built upon the strong foundation left to her by her predecessor, Jim Anderson.
“I am confident that our next superintendent will continue to add new layers of excellence,” said Fry, “But when I think about it, in terms of, really, what do I want for students, it is pretty much the same as it has been for the very first day I took on educational leadership in this district. And that is to make sure that … the district continues to do everything it can to make sure that we're working together with our community, so that each and every single one of our students gains the knowledge and the skills they need to be happy and successful.
While Fry herself will be leaving the Rochester School District — and the historic brick building on Highway 12 — she said she will continue to reside in the Rochester community and will continue to advocate for the district.
“This has been a gift,” she said of her years as an educator in the Rochester School District. “The community has given me this opportunity and trusted me all these years and so I’m very, very humbled by that experience.”