The Manhattan-Ogden school district has hired a principal for its newest elementary school.

Erin Lopez, who works at Woodrow Wilson and Bluemont elementary schools, will lead Oliver Brown Elementary when the school opens its doors in August. During the USD 383 school board meeting Wednesday, superintendent Marvin Wade said the hiring committee was impressed with “her vision and enthusiasm.”

Lopez, 31, attended Bluemont as a child, and she works as the multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) coordinator for the district.

MTSS a is a system the district uses for providing instruction and support to students based on their academic and behavioral needs. Students who need more help go into different tiers so they don’t fall further behind.

In that position, Lopez said she works to make sure children have what they need to enhance their education. She said she is sad to be leaving her current job, but excited to start fresh in a new school.

“I absolutely love my coworkers, and I love being able to support them,” Lopez said. “I also give myself groups to teach right now, so I will thoroughly miss teaching my small groups; it’s one of my favorite parts of the day.”

Prior to being MTSS coordinator, she worked as an instructional coach at Seitz Elementary School at Fort Riley, and has been in education since 2008. Lopez said she simply wants to make change.

“I have so much passion for creating a better world, and I think you do that through kids,” Lopez said. “They can grow up and make change, and I want them to have the environment they need to grow to their full potential and become productive citizens themselves.”

Lopez is a Manhattan native and Kansas State University graduate, with a master’s degree in educational leadership and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She is also a graduate of the Professional Educational Leadership Academy and has an endorsement from Fort Hays State University in building leadership and administration.

Lopez has officially begun her duties as principal, with an annual salary of $72,500. Lopez said that amount is a “nice increase” from her current pay as MTSS coordinator. She said her first goal, now that a change in district attendance boundaries have been approved, is to see how many students Oliver Brown will have in its first year and how many teachers will be needed.

“The first goal will be hiring staff that is welcoming,” Lopez said. “Teachers will need to be culturally competent and understanding of our students; we want teachers that will build relationships with kids.”

Oliver Brown Elementary is named after the plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. Oliver Brown challenged the struggles of his daughter, who was subject to substandard conditions and education in a segregated school. In May 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled racial segregation in public schools as unconstitutional. Lopez said that history is important to the culture she wants to build at the school.

“We want to have building culture that truly honors what the Brown family and all plaintiffs in that case stood for and what they fought for,” Lopez said.

The addition of Oliver Brown Elementary was part of the focus of the district’s efforts to redraw attendance boundaries, which led to months of public comments — both supportive and not — of the boundary changes. A new boundary map has been approved and will take effect in August, and Lopez said there is always a balancing act in education.

“We want to make sure that our schools are equitable as far as the funding that they have, and it also goes into diversity,” Lopez said. “We want our kids to experience a diverse population around them in school.”

Lopez said one small change can have a domino effect regarding redistricting, and a lot of emotions surface when it comes to doing what’s best for kids.

“I think everybody’s hearts were in the right places, there’s just a lot of different moving parts with it,” Lopez said.

Lopez said she is “very tapped in” to the Manhattan community and its education needs, and she is extremely excited to begin her work as principal.

“To be able to create a culture of a school from scratch is just a phenomenal opportunity,” Lopez said. “I enjoy a challenge, and this will definitely be a challenge.”