After 15 years as lead administrator for Berkeley Arts Magnet Elementary School (BAM), longtime educator Lorna Skantze-Niell has retired.
Skantze-Niell, 64, a Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) employee for 40 years, took leave of her position June 30. The district has selected King Middle School teacher Kristin Collins to serve as her replacement.
Skantze-Niell counts developing the school’s arts curriculum, improving student literacy and honing in on professional development among her successes at BAM.
She got her start in the Berkeley Unified School District as a student teacher trainer in 1966, before landing her first administration position as a summer school principal for Columbus Elementary School (now Rosa Parks) in 1984. After a short stint as vice principal at Columbus, she moved up to head administrator, a position she held for six years.
In 1991, she moved on to Berkeley Arts Magnet, a 363-student K-6 elementary school focusing on arts education, where students receive training in each of the major art forms.
Skantze-Niell earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, in addition to educator credentials, from San Francisco State University.
She retires from school administration to care for her husband, who fell ill with multiple myeloma last year. She plans to pursue hobbies like knitting, calligraphy and training her new puppy—all those activities for which she had little time when she was working 12- to 15-hour days, she said.
Collins, who has taught English and history at King for 15 years, takes the reins as chief BAM administrator this fall.
“I love teaching, but throughout my teaching career, I’ve been involved in teacher leadership roles and I have a business background and this seems like a point in my career to combine those experiences in my life,” she said.
Collins, 52, a graduate of Georgetown University, worked in the shipping industry for 14 years before securing a teaching position at King.
She has served as a representative to the Berkeley Schools Excellence Project’s Planning and Oversight Committee, which oversees school parcel tax funds, and recently co-chaired Friends of BUSD Libraries.
She considers school libraries a central professional interest:
“I’ve been a really strong school library advocate,” she said. “That’s one of my passions because it’s directly related to student achievement.”
Collins has also worked as a teacher researcher for the UC Berkeley History-Social Science Project. She received teaching and administrator credentials from CSU East Bay. Her two children attend Berkeley schools.
“I’m very excited,” she said of her new position at Berkeley Arts Magnet. “I’m very much looking forward to it.”