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Loughridge following her dream

Loughridge following her dream

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


Kim Loughridge had a good idea what she was facing when Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced late last summer that Arkansas would indeed welcome students back in the mix. 


The first-year Alma Intermediate School principal celebrated National Principal Month by embracing what drew her to education in the first place — eager students.


But after being named as Jim Warnock's replacement, Loughridge had to guide the ship without much of a reference plan. 


There were administrative plans to combat COVID — something that obviously didn't exist when she decided to pursue her dream.


"I didn't know about any challenges, because there are always challenges when you go into a building as a new person," Loughridge said. "But COVID definitely made it a shift in focus, because the thing we were working on had to take a back seat.


"We had to figure out how we were going to basic everyday things, within the whole realm of COVID."


Like other teachers across the region and nation as American educators tried to get a handle on COVID-19, Loughridge began formulating her own plans. 


"I wanted to get in there and build relationships with teachers and get the kids in there, and that's happened," she said. "We've got great teachers at the Intermediate school. COVID makes it really hard to do what we want to do, but we are figuring out some ways around it by just working differently than we maybe would have.


"And some really good things are coming out of it, that we maybe would have never tried before."


Alma Intermediate School started the 2020-21 academic year with about 230 kids working remotely from home. A huge chunk of that, Loughridge said, has since returned to school full-time. 


"Out of 730 (total kids), that's a lot," she said. "But this nine weeks (which started last week), we've had lots of those kids return. We still have a significant number, but it's not 20 percent anymore.


"If it's not for health reasons that they're staying home; we want kids to come back - it's just so much better to be in school for most kids at that grade level."


Maribel Childress


A native of Greenland, the former Kim Dennis taught school at Parson Hills Elementary in Springdale when she was approached by her building principal, Maribel Childress. 


"She came to me one day and said, 'You really need to go back and get your admin (certificate).' So I did, and I got a job as an assistant pretty quickly after that," Loughridge said. "Once she (Childress) planted that seed, it was like, 'Yeah, that is what I want to do.' 


"I've always loved professional development; I always loved the curriculum. Those are things that are important to me as a building leader. She (Childress) was a very important mentor in that way."


Replacing a legend


If wading through COVID wasn't tough enough, imagine turning the keys to a building once ruled by Jim Warnock. 


"That building had been well-run forever," Loughridge said. "I've been really lucky in that way in every building I've been in. In Paris, I followed somebody who had been there for 30 years, and the same thing happened at Charleston and Alma. I've been very fortunate in that way."


It's a good feeling to be working close to her husband, Alma AD, and former football coach Doug Loughridge.


"That's important to us," she said. "That hasn't always been the case, like when I was in Springdale and Paris. I knew I wasn't going to try and go somewhere else and get a job as an administrator because it's important that we're all here in Alma. I was super fortunate that this opportunity came up because this is where we want to be; this is where we want to raise our kids."

Kim Loughridge