Kenneth G. Llinas, the Principal of P.S. 185 (the Walter Kassenbrock elementary school) for the past ten years, announced his retirement at the final PTA meeting of the school year on June 17th.
His retirement came as a surprise to teachers, staff and parents, all of whom had expected him to continue for another year or two. According to Llinas, under the new contract for principals that was negotiated last year between the Department of Education and the Mayor’s office, it made more sense financially to retire immediately, even though he had the option of staying on a few more years. Still, he made it clear that it was not an easy choice, and he put off making the decision until late in the year.
Llinas spent his entire post-college working life as a professional educator. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he obtained his Master’s in Education while working full time in his family’s auto repair garage. “I learned a lot about how to be a good principal from the lessons my father taught me in dealing with customers at the garage,” he noted. “My father always said that when a customer brought their car for repair it was important to listen to how they described what was wrong with the car, if it made a certain kind of noise or what have you. Nine times out of ten they would give you all the information you needed to fix the problem. I always tried to take the same approach to parents who come to talk to me when their child is having a problem in school: listen carefully to what they’re telling you and address the issue.”
The popular principal will be replaced by current Assistant Principal Rena Goudelias, who will take over immediately as Acting Principal until a selection committee can be empaneled under Chancellor’s Regulation C-30. The panel is composed of parents, a teacher’s union representative, and school staff. Given the location of the school in a highly-desirable neighborhood surrounded by leafy, idyllic residential streets, a recently-renovated building, an active parent community, and a PTA that raises around twenty thousand dollars annually, the competition for this seat is expected to be fierce.
The school had stumbled in recent years, with test scores lower than expected for a school with such a wide array of resources, but Llinas helped turn things around under the supervision of District Superintendent Karina Constantino. The school gained a district-wide reputation under Llinas’s leadership of being fairly conservative in its teaching methods, often referred to as “old-school,” solid and effective, but a little behind-the-times. According to one parent whose children attended P.S.1 85, what the school needs is a “rock star” principal who can apply the latest teaching methods. Although Goudelias, as the incumbent Assistant Principal, has the inside track, there is no telling who will come out to apply for the job.