Peninsula High School got a new principal August 3 when the district chose Mike Benoit to succeed outgoing principal Dr. Joe Potts, who left in July for a job in the Bellevue School District.
Benoit has been in education for over 30 years. He is also a PSD veteran after leading Harbor Ridge Middle School as principal starting in 2010 and principal of Vaughn Elementary on the Key Peninsula in 2004. He’s a graduate of Washington State University and earned a master’s degree from Gonzaga University. He and his family are 20-year residents of Gig Harbor.
PSD Assistant Superintendent Dan Gregory said, “I know with his compassionate leadership and experience in education, Mr. Benoit will be an amazing principal for the PHS community and that we will have a great school year.”
PHS has a student body of approximately 1,400 students.
Before joining PSD, Benoit was a teacher for 16 years in the Federal Way School District, teaching third through sixth grade, before becoming a principal at Sherwood Forest Elementary.
Benoit had no particular goal to become a principal early in his career but said his love for teaching and opportunities led him there. “It seemed like a natural progression for me,” Benoit told KP News in an interview.
“I want students to believe that there are a lot of doors open for them,” he said. Over the years Benoit has seen many students overcome tough scenarios. He emphasized the need to advocate for students and the importance of a safe and consistent school environment where students feel heard and supported.
“I want to make sure students leave Peninsula High School with a lot of opportunities in front of them because they’ve made good choices while they’re here,” he said.
When asked what that would look like, Benoit said, “(They) stayed on top of their schoolwork and stretched themselves and they put themselves in a position where they really challenged themselves.”
When asked how that would be done, he said “I know that we have a very diverse demographic and our diversity comes most in economics, so there’s a range of different experiences where people come from and bring to the school. Our job and our challenge is to support all kids from where they’re at and to make sure they feel welcome and safe here at school. We meet them where they’re at and help them move forward.”
How will the school and his leadership bring that about?
“I think part of it comes from getting to know them, and getting to know their story and where they come from and what their barriers are to learning, and as we learn about them as individuals, we’d learn about how to support them in the classroom.”
Benoit also responded to questions about handling ongoing problems with the pandemic and potential problems about community pushback regarding curriculum.
“Covid has changed the way we do our work for sure. It has challenged us to change and adapt and adjust through the process of dealing with all the restrictions and building a remote platform. (We have) a lot of new tools moving forward,” he said.
“If there are parents or students (who have) questions about a book and whether it was appropriate on campus, there is a process to go through at the district level that would walk families through the challenges of a book.”
Brian Wickens, who has served as assistant principal at Harbor Ridge since 2004, was hired to succeed Benoit as principal there August 9.
Wickens is in his 37th year in education, having spent 36 of those years working in middle schools. He graduated from Central Washington University and received his master’s degree from City University of Seattle. There are approximately 570 students at Harbor Ridge. ν
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