Bobbie Kavanaug

McKinley Elementary principal Principal Bobbie Kavanaugh will retire after 38 years as an educator at the end of the school year. She is pictured with McKinley Elementary students from left, Jared Pasion, Ashley Samuel, Leander Benedicto and Justice Howe. (Photo by David Laurell / April 25, 2014)

After 38 years as an educator, McKinley Elementary Principal Bobbie Kavanaugh will step away from the school office and into retirement at the end of the school year.

“Education has changed a lot,” said Kavanaugh, who’s been head of McKinley the past seven years. “We’re expecting more and more of the children.”

Kavanaugh, who has worked for Burbank Unified for 17 years, took the helm at McKinley after serving as principal at Disney and Washington elementary schools.

She said she will miss the students the most, but she is planning to spend time with her grandchildren and traveling in the fall.

“The best part about being a principal of course — it’s the kids,” she said, adding that a playground full of children has often been the remedy for dealing with hectic days.

“You just walk out onto that playground and I feel like a magnet,” she said. “They’re not afraid to give you hugs. They’re stepping all over your toes.”

Liz Costella, assistant principal at Luther Burbank Middle School, will take the helm of McKinley. She is a 1995 graduate of John Burroughs High who has also taught at Jordan Middle School and Jefferson Elementary.

Kavanaugh said Costella’s placement at McKinley is “a perfect fit” with strengths she thinks teachers, staff and parents are looking for in the school’s principal.

“I think she has really strong qualities,” Kavanaugh said. “She’s just going to make things soar here.”

When Costella heard the position was open, she thought to herself, “‘I would love being there,’” she recalled this week.

Growing up in Burbank, Costella said she was an average student who couldn’t sit still in the classroom and was fond of talking. But early on, Costella said her teachers embraced her.

“That’s why I wanted to go into education — to help those kids that didn’t learn in a traditional way,” she said.

The native Spanish speaker will also lead the campus in its first year of offering a dual-language Spanish immersion program in the fall, the second such program Burbank Unified has established.

“The fact that it’s new with me is very exciting. I know Spanish has been an incredible gift in my life. It’s helped me to support families here,” she said.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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