Hometown principal says it?s time for a change

Outgoing Hillsboro High School Max Heinrichs enjoys one of his last days in the office he?s occupied for the past seven years. ?It?s just time for a change,? he says. ?I love the job but it?s about the time. Behind him are some ?treasures,? including pictures of his family and a mounted 30-pound striped bass he caught in Beaver Lake, Okla. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press

?I don?t know anybody who, while growing up, wants to be a principal,? Max Heinrichs said with a laugh.

Let alone being the principal of the high school from which you graduated.

But that?s where the life path has taken this native son. Hein?richs, part of the Class of 1979, is wrapping up his seventh and final year as Hills?boro High School principal.

?A lot of people would come back here who were in school when I was in school and say: ?You?re the principal here??? Heinrichs said. ?And I go, it?s silly isn?t it??

A new direction

Heinrichs will soon begin a new job with ESSDACK, the education resource agency based in Hutchinson. Hein?richs said the career transition has to do with his current need rather than the nature of the job at HHS.

?I?m not unhappy with Hillsboro or USD 410?I?m just looking for a little more time,? he said, referring to the mountain of hours he has been putting in as principal in recent years.

Heinrichs? decision began to crystalize one Sunday as he listened to his pastor?s sermon.

?He was preaching about what do you want to be remembered for,? he said. ?I just wanted to be remembered as that good person down the street. That didn?t make me make my decision, but it sure made me think about it a lot.

?I didn?t know what I was going to do, but I needed to do something else. I was tired. Instead of griping about the job, there?s somebody out there who wants to do this (job) the right way, and it?s time for me to do something different.?

Career path

Heinrichs? career in education began at Tabor College. Well, sort of.

?I graduated with exactly what they tell you not to do?I got a P.E. degree and a health degree for teaching,? he said. ?And there were no jobs in the state that year.?

Instead, he married Krista, also an HHS grad, and accepted an opening as a para-educator in the local high school.

?When I was done with that, John Black, who was the director of special ed, asked me if I would be interested in becoming a teacher.?

Heinrichs accepted the challenge, improved his certification at Emporia State University, and became a special education teacher at Hillsboro from 1984 to 1988.

From there, he went to Minneapolis to coach football.

?I was up there for nine years,? he said. ?It was kind of a dream job?I could do what I trained myself to do.?

After nine years, the family moved back to Hillsboro.

?Minneapolis is a great place, but we liked what Hillsboro offers a little better than what Minneapolis did,? Heinrichs said.

He taught physical education from 1996 to 2001, when he became athletic director and assistant principal at HHS.

During those years, Hein?richs earned a master?s degree in education leadership and administration, and later earned his specialist certification in education administration.

When his predecessor, Dale Honeck, retired as principal, Heinrichs successfully applied for the position.

?This is a great place, it?s a great job,? he said. ?I wanted to do it. Students are phenomenal, and the faculty?s phenomenal. It?s a great community.?

Time commitments

Aside from the academic responsibilities, being principal means attending a lot of extracurricular activities. His three daughters came through the system during his years at the helm.

?We saw a lot of volleyball,? Heinrichs said, noting the involvement of all three daughters. But as principal, he also was responsible to monitor Trojan games, both home and away.

It was a good era to be in that role, actually.

?I think of all the championships, and I?m going, holy cow, how could you ever complain?? he said. ?And I?m not. It was just the time.?

In recent years, Heinrichs has shepherded the development of the Career Technical Education emphasis at HHS, including the development of Pathways in a multiple career fields.

?I?ve enjoyed watching our kids grow in that,? he said. ?We had 44 graduates this year, and 73 (CTE) concentrator honors earned?that?s almost two per kid. That?s pretty amazing. One person had five of them.

?The whole movement is toward college and career readiness, and this is a piece of it,? Heinrichs said. ?We do the college side of it pretty well. Our ACT scores are phenomenal. They?ve alway been good, and this year they were really good?a 25.8 composite for seniors; 26 is money almost anywhere.

?The shift is going in the right direction.?I think this is a great place to be.?

A new chapter

So why leave?

?It?s just time,? he said again. ?I?ve never been worried about how much time I work. But I didn?t want to be negative about the job. I love the job.?

Heinrichs said he?s looking forward to spending more time with Krista, going on more fishing trips and using more of their season tickets to Oklahoma Univer?sity football games instead of passing them on to other people because of scheduling conflicts with school activities.

?I don?t want to say I?ll be doing less, but maybe doing as much with less time (invested),? he said.

Heinrichs? new job with ESSDACK officially begins July 1, but he has agreed to make a couple of school presentations already this month. One of his specialties will be CTE training.

The nature of the job will enable the Heinrichses to continue living in Hills?boro. He will commute to the ESSDACK office in Hutchinson four or five days each week.

?The nice thing, it?s 8:30 to 4,? he said. ?It won?t always be that way, but there are no weekends and no evening activities to go to.?

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