Beloved Principal Retires After Ten Years at Kearns High School


After a career spanning 29 years total in Granite School District as an adaptive PE specialist, an assistant principal, and a principal, Maile Loo has decided to retire. In an exclusive interview with the Cougar Claw, she reflects on her time in education and her time at KHS.
Loo has spent her time at Kearns High School forming relationships with the Kearns community. Loo states, “It was harder here at Kearns, because when I first got here, there was not enough information going out to constituents or to families. I spent crazy hours here to stop this school from being ignored. I always reached out to parents to make sure they are heard and that they are comfortable with their students attending Kearns High. I let people know I care, and I tell them the ‘why’ of every decision I make.” Through sometimes difficult conversations with her superiors, Loo explains she has always strived to give Kearns High School the best tools and access to facilities for the students.
Loo has always stayed on top of communication with parents and students, and made sure everyone was aware of the reasons behind her decisions to minimize confusion and streamline the process of communicating and answering questions.
Loo also explained how her past experience as a teacher and a counselor has benefitted her and prepared her to be an effective principal, stating, “Having an opportunity to take on and learn jobs helped greatly. I had experience in many positions, learned how to run a school, and learned everyone’s job descriptions.”
After working in many different positions and preparing to take on a leadership role in a secondary school, Maile Loo gained an understanding of everyone’s role while simultaneously preparing to run a high school. She was looking for a challenge, and Kearns High School was larger than what she was accustomed to. She saw the opportunity to be an influential leader and an effective guide. She also stated that it had been a goal from day one to set Kearns High apart as an outstanding school, Loo says, “When I came through the building and not much had changed in twelve years, I thought, why? My motivation was to change the climate and culture of the school, and the atmosphere was the next step. I was the person that was going to make it happen.” Loo commented that Kearns High is three years into a five year plan, which will end in Kearns High being a campus unto itself and require minimal use of off-campus facilities. Loo also commented about her ability to run a school successfully and how her hard work has cultivated an academically successful environment, saying, “If you care about anything enough, you will be successful. This world has been good to me, and I can never walk away from a challenge.”

Community Achievements

During her time at Kearns High School, Maile Loo has implemented several changes, among them are new football turf, new tennis courts, new gymnasium bleachers and painted courts, a new weight room, new auditorium seats and features, retiled main halls, new carpet for the entire building, a new FACS room, a new graphics room, two new relocatable classrooms, the creation of a food pantry, repainting the auto shop, new cafeteria furniture, brought in smart boards and chrome books, new computer labs, and the media center. Through negotiation, Loo equipped the media center with incredible learning technology. Loo’s refinement of Kearns High School will not soon be forgotten.

Legacy and Memorable Moments

The ten years Ms. Loo has put into Kearns High school has easily made an impact on the people within the community. When the Cougar Claw interviewed Aimee Duran, who is a technological consultant at Kearns High School, she stated, “Working with Ms. Loo has been a journey. She came into Kearns with good intentions, hard work, and care to turn the school around, connecting the staff, students and community.” Loo taught the people around her to push themselves outside of their comfort zone, try something new and not be afraid of change. Duran describes Ms. Loo as being able to balance the tough and the compassionate and knowing how to handle situations with professionalism. Some of her favorite memories are laughing and joking with her staff. Heather Sonne, a Vice Principal at Cottonwood High School, worked with Loo for several years. Sonne states, “I was lucky enough to get to work with Ms. Loo for for about 13 years in several different roles. Ms. Loo is not a micromanager. She gives you a job and expects you to get it done and get it done right. She is first and foremost a teacher. She looks for the best in people and works to get them to their full potential. During Ms. Loo’s time at Hunter, she encouraged and pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and take on new roles and jobs that she thought I would be good at, but that I probably wouldn’t have applied for without her gentle shove.”
When asked about the impact Loo had on her, Sonne said, “Without her giving up a lot of her personal time to work with myself and others on our interview process, I know I would not have been as ready or done as well when I applied for an assistant principal job in Granite District. I learned how to hold the line on an issue while doing it with as much compassion as possible. I learned that a lot of problems can be avoided by having a conversation about it and being as transparent as possible. I will miss her being such a strong independant female role model in our district.”
Sonne also shared her favorite memories of Loo, stating, “A funny one from Kearns is when she somehow managed to shred the phone cord in the office shredder!
Mostly I remember how she is willing to stand up for the underdog, battle for her school and her kids even when it is against the wishes or directions that others have inmind. She is selfless and doesn’t give a second thought to putting other’s needs ahead of her. She will be missed, but definitely remembered!” said Sonne.
Maile Loo stated, “Always leave the school in a better academic growth and culture than I found it!” And to attain a legacy, “Be a leader and care about your constituents, walk the talk, and lastly, never forget what it was like to be a teacher, as you lead.”
There are many expectations of the new coming principal Daniel Stirland, Duran hopes that the new principal is someone who is going to care and be deeply invested in all of the people in Kearns as much as she has been to all of us. Stirland replied “I would like to say how honored I am and how exited I am to get the chance to give back to the community and school I grew up in as a kid and taught and coached at as a teacher,” Stirland stated. A significant impact Ms. Loo has had on this community is the graduation rate. Ms. Loo affected the way members of the community cared, students started to care, and graduation rates increased from 66% to 82%. Parents cared, became more involved in PTA, community council, and volunteer work
and were willing to help be part of the students’ success.
With more conversations with the district, Ms. Loo improved the school’s structure and other improvements like a new football turf, new tennis courts, a new gymnasium, new weight room, new auditorium seats, and features, and recarpet to the whole building. Along with creating a food pantry, getting two new relos, building a new Facs room and Graphics room. She improved the technology equipment including computers and learning bells. The changes that Kearns needed were fulfilled by Ms. Loo and because of her work to improve Kearns, it has allowed for future principles to come in and have an advantage.

History of a Great Principal 

Throughout the past ten years, Ms. Loo has been working at Kearns High School as a principal. Loo was raised in Hawaii, and her culture is very family oriented which guided her to work with children. She has wanted to work with kids since she was in the ninth grade. “As kids we planted, fertilized and kept the weeds out of the Taro plants every Saturday morning from 6:00am to 6:00pm. The product of this root made a favorite staple of the islands. I worked on the farm as a kid once I turned five years old until age 18,” Loo stated. “I knew after that experience what farming was like and hated it. Prior to graduation, I knew farming Taro on a five acer farm was not the life for me,” Loo later stated.
“My parent were sticklers about teaching all of their children the importance of good, hard work. So we had a farm, we planted taro root into a one foot, water and mud patch mixture,” Loo stated about the hard work done as a child.
After Loo graduated high school, she went to college and received her B.S. from BYU Hawaii in education to teach health, PE, and drivers education. She also has a minor in psychology and her M.A. in sports medicine from BYU Provo.
Her first teaching job was at San Juan School District as a teacher, athletic director. She coached volleyball, basketball, and track at Whitehorse High School. She was not only a teacher there, but she also served as an acting counselor for one year then an acting administrator for one year. “It was after the admin experience my district supervisor asked me to go back to college to receive an admin degree at NAU. I thankfully declined, thinking I do not ever want to be an administrator in the school, it is a difficult task. After six years, living in Montezuma Creek Utah with my sister and her two young boys at the time, I needed a new experience,” Loo stated.
After she moved to Salt Lake and she could not find a job across the Wasatch Front in her field, she took a job as an adaptive PE specialist at Hartvigsen School District. “Back in the day, the position was not a contract position, so I was getting paid hourly, with no benefits for one year. That was a tough and humbling experience,” Loo stated.
Loo went back to college at the U of U to get her master’s degree in administration. After graduating she interned at Jefferson Jr. High for a year, then was an assistant principal at Kennedy Jr. for two years. She then transferred to Cyprus High for four years. She worked as a principal at Kearns Jr. for three years, and then as a principal at Hunter High for eight years. She now retiring from Kearns High after 10 years.
After Ms. Loo was given the opportunity to come to Kearns High School, she felt like she wasn’t ready. After she took an hour to look around, “It was after that hour spent in this building that I knew why I was sent here,” Ms. Loo states.
Mr. Hansen, a current Vice Principal at Kearns High School, has been working with Ms. Loo for the last four years. The biggest impact that Ms. Loo left on Mr. Hansen is that everyone didn’t believe that he could be an admin because he was “Too old,” but she didn’t see it that way. He states that she won’t let anything slide, but doesn’t micromanage, which gives the admin the freedom to work.
Hansen hopes that the new Principal will hold the solid foundation that Loo has. Also, he hopes for the graduation rates to go up and help students plan for the next step after graduation. “She does a lot of things, she does it quietly and it is great when other people recognized the greatness that she brings out, not only in herself but everything that she touches,” Hansen stated.
“A few years ago, she won the Change Maker Award from United Way. For her to be recognized by business and by the large community for the leadership she brought to Kearns, and the empowerment she gave to the people in the building.” Hansen stated.