Herbin shares priorities, successes as new principal


Jacob Ritcher

Michael Herbin speaks to parents and community members at a Coffee with the Principial event in September.

Michael Herbin became the new principal of Akins Early College High School this summer.
Previously, he served as the principal of Bedichek Middle School, whose students feed into Akins. Herbin took over after Tina Salazar left the principal positionat the end of last year. The Eagle’s Eye sent him a few questions that students have about the new top administrator on campus.

The Eagle’s Eye: The beginning of a school year can be a challenging time for students, teachers, and administrators. What have been some of the most difficult challenges at the beginning of this school year?

Michael Herbin: “In many ways we had a really positive start to the school year and also a tough start to the school year. I’ve been excited to experience the great culture of this campus. It’s an amazing campus focused on college and career readiness and a campus where the faculty and staff truly believe in the greatness of their students. We have had some great back to school events to start the year and have really had a focus on building a fun, collaborative rigorous academic culture for our kiddos. I’m excited to see what the future holds for us and how we can learn and grow as a campus community.

Obviously, this school year has not been without its challenges. When Willie passed away that was extremely difficult for our Akins family. It was a heartbreaking loss that many of us are still struggling with. The threat situation from last week was also really tough. The faculty, staff, students, and parents handled it extremely well and we always learn from situations like that, but they’re still tough. I’m confident that if we continue to focus in the right areas, we can continue to ensure a very positive experience for all of our students.”

EE: Now that you have been here for a month, what have you learned about the school, its strengths, and its challenges?

MH: “I think one of the big strengths of the campus is diversity. This is a very diverse campus. Akins brings a lot of different people together and really supports them in a really caring and nurturing environment.
I think another big strength of the campus goes back to the strength of the staff. We have an incredible staff here. I love the academy structure that we have on campus as well. It’s so important for students to be able to come into a new school right away and buy into a program and to an academy and envision themselves and their future. If I stopped any kid in the hallway and I asked him or her what Academy he or she is in, every student knows what Academy they’re in. It’s that sense of belonging that I think is a huge strength for the campus.

I think one of the challenges is just the sheer size. There’s a lot of strength in having a big campus because we’re able to have a lot of resources and have a lot of diverse programming, but it can also be tough to navigate. It’s a lot to keep track of for all of us. We have a huge footprint – at least 30 acres. With that, it always comes with some unique challenges.”

EE: As the new Akins ECHS principal is there anything you would like to change?

MH: “I don’t really operate like that. So, for me, when I come into a new school I really want to take it all in first. So, I’m not coming in with a plan to change a bunch of things or anything like that. My initial intention is watching and seeing what systems we have in place and what structures we have in place, and then circling up with the campus leadership team, along with the administrators, the student leaders, all the teacher leaders, and determining what direction we want to go in together.

It doesn’t always work like that, but this is not a system that is broken. There are definitely things we can improve upon. But we have a lot of strengths and it’s really important that as a new leader to the campus, I pay attention to our strengths as I watch for areas to improve.”

EE: What advice would you give us students as these are our final years of grade school?

MH: “Enjoy it. In many ways these can be the best years of your lives. You will always remember your High School friends and some of these relationships will last for the rest of your life. Work hard. Do your best. But make it fun and enjoy every second of it. Try to become involved and do as much as you can and gain the experiences that are provided to you. Be a leader whenever possible. Any opportunity you get will pay off.”

EE: As we all know we are short on staff. Many students don’t have permanent teachers and are struggling to have adequate lessons. As the principal, how long do you think students will be experiencing these difficulties this school year? And in the meantime, what should we all do to get through this problem?

MH: “Staffing at schools has been difficult across the country. We do still have a few vacancies currently and are actively interviewing candidates all the time. It’s important though that we find the right fit. Akins is a great campus and we have to make sure that the values of our candidates align to the values and vision of our school. Our kids deserve the very best teachers. I feel confident that we will be in a good place with regard to staffing soon.”

EE: Are there any success stories that you have noticed this year?

MH: “Absolutely. I don’t know even where to begin. Let’s see . . . Mr. Garcia and Ms. Kozel both wrote and received huge grants from the Austin Ed Fund for school improvement projects centered around student safety and campus climate. We have had students receive multiple awards already on campus including two National Merit scholars. Kelsey Woods was unanimously selected as the top mock trial judge at the 2022 YMCA National Judicial Competition. We had 9 students receive national recognition through College Board due to their academic achievements in school and outstanding performance on the PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and/or AP Exams. We had over 75 students join student council. Akins Percussion submitted recordings of our percussion ensembles last Spring, and were selected to perform at the Music For All National Percussion Festival in Indianapolis in March, 2023.
We have brought back pep rallys and parent coffees. That’s just a few of the successes we’ve had this year.