Chiloquin Elementary Principal awarded Oregon Principal of the Year

CHILOQUIN, Ore. – Chiloquin Elementary School’s Principal is taking home the 2024 Oregon Elementary Principal of the Year award.

According to the Klamath County School District, Principal Rita Hepper received the award from the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators (COSA). Hepper was chosen by more than 1,200 elementary school colleagues from around the state.

The news was announced during an all school assembly on Wednesday. Klamath County School District Superintendent Glen Szymoniak surprised Hepper with the award. Her staff, her students, and her own three children were in attendance.

“I feel really humbled,” Hepper said. “There are a lot of people who do hard things, so I don’t feel like I do more than my peers. But I’m excited. I’m hopeful that this will get our community more recognition. There are so many positive things that come out of this community.”


COSA Director Craig Hawkins says what stood out about Hepper is her connection to the community and collaboration with the tribes. “Academic achievement here has made real progress under her leadership,” Hawkins added. “All of those things go into the mix, but I think her story just really touched hearts.”

Congratulations to Principal Hepper.

Hepper’s investment in her school and community is ongoing. Here are some highlights provided by the Klamath County School District.

• When the Two Four Two Fire swept through the community in September 2020, Hepper activated an emergency response plan, cancelling school, and utilizing staff to locate all students and find out what they needed. She turned the school into a supply and distribution location and community members were able to get food, water, pet supplies, clothes, and other needed items. She also coordinated with the local food bank to ensure community members did not go hungry.
• Hepper was the first KCSD principal to implement a new strategy utilizing small group instruction and project-based learning art classes to improve student learning. Literacy scores increased at each grade level and students with disabilities were able to remain in their classrooms due to individualized and small group instruction methods.
• Hepper must constantly recruit new teachers and provides a boot camp training before school starts as well as ongoing instructional coaching during the school year. Overall, under Hepper’s leadership, reading proficiency scores increased by 15 percentage points from fall to winter and math proficiency increased by 11 percentage points.
• Since many of her students are Native American, Hepper collaborates with The Klamath Tribes to ensure cultural learning opportunities are available both in and out the classroom.

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