Interview With Principal Kibby Kleiman

John Rubino, Staff Writer

Recently on September 17th, Pinole Valley High School principal Kibby Kleiman visited Mr. Bedwell’s 3rd period Journalism 1 class to be interviewed by him as well as his students. Here are some of the questions we asked Kibby along with his answers!

  • What are your thoughts on Journalism?

I really believe in the mission of what Journalism is and it’s no exaggeration to say that it gets important right now! The world that we’re living in, the way the government is working in opposition to a free press or sometimes hostile to it, it’s never been as important as it is now to do Journalism, so I stand in gratitude that there are kids who want to become at least student Journalists and maybe actual Journalists as well!

Journalism is a great and noble profession! Thomas Jefferson said if he had his choice between a free press and a free government, he would choose a free press because it’s what keeps people fresh and honest!

  • How many years have you been the principal of Pinole Valley High?

I have been principal at Pinole Valley for 7 years. This is my 7th year! There is no principal in West Contra Costa at the high schools who’s been doing it as long as I have.  

  • What was your profession(s) prior to becoming the principal of Pinole Valley High?

Before I became the principal of Pinole Valley High, I was a college student who sold shoes at a shoe store and worked commissions. For 5 years, I was the assistant principal of Richmond High before I came to Pinole. I was also a teacher at Kennedy for 20 years. When I started my very first year, we were in the old building.

  • If you never became a principal or a teacher, what would you have done instead?

If I never became a teacher or a principal, I would have become a Journalist. I liked the idea of being able to ask questions and go to certain spaces that non-Journalists could not go to.

  • What is the best part about being a principal?

The best part about being a principal is this is like having a little city to myself! I have a police force, I have a custodial crew, it’s like being the mayor of Pinole Valley High School! I have permission to talk to everybody which is great because I enjoy socializing and hearing what is going on.

  • Were you a part of any clubs throughout high school?

In high school, I was apart of the Forensics club as well as the Speech & Debate club.

  • Do you think that it is important to have a bond with students here and relate to them on levels?

That’s a great question and the answer is yes but, I’m 56 years old and you guys are teenagers so I know that I’m not going to be able to speak or even choose to speak the slang and the language that you know, I’m not going to pretend I listen to the music you know, or the movies or the tv shows but that being said if I can be the truest 56 year old that I am and you guys be the true 15-17 year olds you are, then I think we have a dialogue because we share things in common, we’re in the same place, we’re doing the same thing so it’s easy to relate to. Those bonds are super important!

  • Do you miss certain things from the portables?

I still worry about those things. I miss being outside as much as we were!

  • What do you think people should know about you as a person?

Being a principal has taken up so much of what I do that I’ve really neglected a lot of the other parts of my life that could have developed. Whatever hobbies or things like that, I’ve kind of let those things go. I love family, even though my actual parents died a couple years ago and my brother and sister are down in Los Angeles, and so I build family where I go.

I’ve got what I call my Berkeley family made up of friends from college who themselves have children and that’s where I hang out after school and during the holidays. Even though my traditional family is distant and I don’t see them that often, I love being in that mix of all the generations together because it is a really happy place for me!

  • Is it any harder running things at this school compared to the portables?

The answer is yeah because it is totally new to me, too. Sometimes I literally go in the wrong direction and play it off because I am the principal.

  • How do you deal with kids that get in trouble?

There’s a chain of command, so it’s mostly Nalic and Kolb’s job. When it comes to me, I don’t enjoy it but I have to interact and do something for the safety of the community. I like it as a part of the job but if it was all I did, I would hate it. I like seeing the turnaround! I like seeing a 9th grade knucklehead grow up and mature into a good citizen.

  • What do you do when you are having a bad day?

If I’m having a down day and something negative happens, I visit a happy/positive place.

  • Is there anything interesting you think about in regards to our generation of kids?

Something that you guys are way better than our generation at is music! We used to be really segregated in our musical taste and rarely were multiple music genres mixed. I love how you guys listen to everything and that there is a mix of everything! You guys seem to be able to take in all kinds of different art really easily without making labels or columns.

  • How does seeing the growing presence and visibility of queer students on campus make you feel as someone who strives for diversity and acceptance in an academic environment?

It makes me super happy and delighted! I would love Pinole Valley to be thought of as the most woke and progressive school in terms of welcoming students of all orientations and all genders! I hope that students feel safe here with their own presence, their own being, and that it’s a welcoming place and can build community.

  • Did you have a favorite art piece back in the portables?

There was one that had women picking flowers, I thought that one was beautiful! There was also one with a pigeon wearing a top hat!

  • Did any of the murals get transferred to the new campus?

They are across the street at the storage unit and we still have to figure out what we are going to do with them. A couple of people have adopted some of them and different people took ones they made. I still got about 20 of them over there and the Richmond Art Museum wants one or two of them so that’s cool. I couldn’t bare to get rid of them but I also didn’t know what to do with them.

The real reason why I didn’t bring any of the murals to the new campus is because I want this school to develop its own identity and its own art. The murals belonged to the portables, they were outside pieces. I’m not saying they wouldn’t be great here, but I want art to develop organically. This building is going to be here for 50 years, it would be wrong to put old art that belongs somewhere else and say this is what belongs here! I think we have to develop our own whatever it will be!

  • Do you think the track will be rebuilt?

Yes, that’s on the way! The whole track and the whole football field will get redone at a later time.

  • Do you have any idea what you’re going to be this Halloween?

I’ve been different all 6 years of being a principal. The answer is no I don’t, but I’ll come up with something!

  • If you could add anything to this new building, what would you add?

I would add an improved version of the blue room or gold room that could hold up to 80 or 100 people!