New principal of Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary says the name of the school spoke to her

Koren Clinkscale says MLK has inspired her to be a calm leader who makes a positive impact

Koren Clinkscale

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News

The new principal of King Elementary is diplomatic, caring, and respectful; a calm leader who always has the backs of her teachers, say coworkers at the elementary school she led in Redford.

Beech Elementary fourth grade teacher Janelle Schaeffer says that Clinkscale made a point to form individual relationships with every student, and was engaging during classroom visits.

“She would regularly say very nice and personalized things to each kid to boost their mood or greet them,” recalls Schaeffer. “She genuinely cared for all 600-plus kids in the building and the students knew that. Kids can always tell if someone is genuine or not. “

When announcing the appointment of Clinkscale, who takes over the helm at King following the retirement of Mary Cooper, Superintendent Jeanice Swift noted Clinkscale’s dedication to preparing students to compete globally in a diverse world.

“The combination of her practical experience as a veteran classroom teacher, proven record of successful leadership in schools, and extensive academic preparation give Ms. Clinkscale a depth and breadth of knowledge and experience that will serve the King community well,” Swift said.

Clinkscale says that when she read about the opening at King Elementary School on the Washtenaw ISD website, she knew she would apply. 

“Honestly, the name of the school spoke to me,” she says.  “I believe Dr. Martin Luther King was a great leader who led with compassion and believed in providing equitable opportunities for all.  Dr. King had a calm demeanor all while making a positive impact on those he encountered.  I try to lead in a very similar manner.  During the time that I serve as the building leader at King Elementary School, my goal is to make a positive impact on the school community.”

Clinkscale served as principal of Beech Elementary School in the Redford Union School District since 2018. She began her educational career in the Southfield Public School District as a third-grade teacher, followed by 17 years as a middle school science teacher. During the years she taught middle school, she also served as a K-8 science curriculum coordinator. 

Jason and Koren Clinkscale, with their children Kyle and Kara and their pet beagliers

Clinkscale grew up in Detroit and attended school in metro Detroit, a very good student who loved learning. Her mother is a retired educator, and she has one sister.

A 1992 graduate of Cass Technical High School, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University and a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Teaching from Michigan State University. In 2006, she completed her Educational Specialist certification in General and Supervision Administration and Organizational Studies through Wayne State University.

“I believe my joy for teaching and passion for curriculum developed over the years in Southfield,” she says. “I value the relationships that I developed with students, families, and colleagues over my 20 years in Southfield.  I spent a very short time of my career in Redford—three years. However, I value the relationships I developed with my school community.” 

Janelle Schaeffer says that in addition to caring for each student in the building, Clinkscale is supportive of teachers.  Most recently, Schaeffer says Clinkscale was very supportive of her as Schaeffer progressed through pregnancy.

 “I can recall us having numerous professional conversations about difficult students, a building issue—I am the building union rep—or some other challenge,” Schaeffer recalls. “Then as soon as we were done discussing she would always change her tone of voice and excitedly ask me about the pregnancy or the baby. In these interactions, I saw how caring and compassionate she is. She did such a great job of balancing the sides of professional and personal relationships with her staff. In these interactions, I knew that she valued me as a person first and foremost and also as a member of her staff.” 

Clinkscale is married to a fellow educator, Jason Clinkscale, and they have a son, Kyle, and a daughter, Kara, as well as two beagliers, Brownie and Bailey.

Clinkscale wants King Elementary staff and parents to know that she can’t wait to work with them on establishing a shared common vision focused on the academic success and social-emotional development of students.

“Ann Arbor is a wonderful community and I am excited to be a part of the AAPS and King Elementary School community,” she says.  “I look forward to working with everyone in the school community.”

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