Superintendent Interview Series

Lessons in Leadership: A Conversation with Superintendent Dr. Kim D. Moore, Richland School District 2

The Transition From Military Leadership to Education Leadership


Daybreak Health CEO Alex Alvarado talks to Superintendents from across the country to discuss topics and trends affecting their school communities like chronic absenteeism, student mental health, academic outcomes, and more. These Superintendents represent districts from urban to rural, large to small, and range in their minority enrollment and number of students who are economically disadvantaged. Our goal is to capture different voices and perspectives on the challenges facing our schools today.

As the first Black female Superintendent of Richland School District 2, Dr. Kim D. Moore believes that the key to student success is creating environments that foster excellence. She shared her leadership philosophy, as well as insights on the district’s approach to the pressing issues of mental and academic well being, and how teachers and administrators can provide a world-class education for all students. 


Dr. Moore's leadership philosophy is grounded in her military background, which included numerous leadership positions, including working at the Pentagon as the Assistant for Negotiations in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. During her established military career, she learned the value of leading by example and investing in leadership development. Her belief is that effective leadership is central to shaping the culture of an organization, so she prioritizes equipping her team with the necessary skills and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. In Dr. Moore’s opinion, that starts with building a culture of excellence: “In order for students to be successful, we have to have a culture in which everyone in our school district feels like they are valued, that we see them, and that we hear them. So our core beliefs are belonging, learning, continuous improvement, and joy.” 

She goes on to explain, “One of our mottos for this year is that we are purpose-driven so our students will be future ready.” This purpose-driven culture motivates staff and students to excel, creating an environment where students and teachers are excited to be in the classroom. Dr. Moore says that she accomplishes this by investing in training and continuing education for all of her district's staff––not just teachers. It’s important to her that the district takes a proactive approach to staff retention, as “research says people do not leave their jobs. They leave their leaders, their managers. So it's important that we set managers up for success so that they can create the cultures in which people want to stay.”


Another critical aspect of Dr. Moore’s approach is recognizing the interconnectedness of student mental health and academic success: “If a student is struggling with their mental health, that impacts their learning.” Students are so often unable to focus or be productive if they’re struggling with trauma or mental health issues. So, she says, she encourages her district to emphasize core values like belonging. As a result, students feel that school is a safe and caring place to exist, and that there is someone in the school––be they a teacher or an admin––who can help. Dr. Moore is quick to highlight Richland District 2’s tremendous school mental health team, which includes Lead School Counselor Dr. O’Tasha Morgan and Lead Social Worker Abby Cobb, and is working hard to set that foundation of care and safety for students. 

She emphasizes the importance of meeting students where they are and building comprehensive support systems in an innovative way. For example, says Dr. Moore, “we recognize a student's day begins when they get on the bus.” Thus, the district bus drivers say good morning to all students and welcome them onto the bus, which sets the tone for the students’ days. 

The district also uses CareSolace, a mental health care coordination service, that helps connect students to care with local community providers that can meet their needs. Dr. Moore appreciates the focus on a warm handoff for families, so that parents have help navigating the intricacies of finding care, and students are not left without mental health support. When students have access to a holistic support system, they are more likely to feel comfortable opening up to staff when they have a problem. From mental health resources to resilience-building curricula, Dr. Moore ensures that students have the tools they need to navigate challenges effectively.


Dr. Moore also recognizes the vital role of parents and the broader community in supporting student well-being. By fostering a culture of openness and acceptance, she aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues, particularly in underserved communities. 

Through initiatives that promote dialogue and collaboration––including open houses, calls and emails to parents in good times and bad, and serving as a community gathering place in times of crisis––Dr. Moore seeks to create a supportive ecosystem where families feel empowered to seek help when needed. “We want the same thing as you do,” Dr. Moore says of her approach to making parents feel welcome. “We want your children to be successful. We want your children to grow up and be contributing members of society fulfilling their goals and achieving the things that they want to achieve.” By building trust between district staff and parents, all parties can come together and help students reach their highest potential. 


The conversation also touched upon the importance of celebrating successes within the district. Dr. Moore recounted some of the district’s more notable achievements, including three principals earning statewide recognition, multiple awards for magnet schools, and the varsity boys’ basketball team clinching their fifth state championship in seven years. Dr. Moore's pride in these achievements underscored her commitment to excellence––operationally, academically, and extracurricularly. 

In her transition from military leader to education leader, Dr. Moore has brought with her a strong commitment to organizational culture, along with an emphasis on fostering and celebrating wins big and small. Her approach to leading her district exemplifies the transformative power of purpose-driven leadership. By prioritizing student success, mental health, and community engagement, she has laid the groundwork for a district where every individual can thrive. As Dr. Moore continues to lead with passion and purpose, the future of Richland School District 2 promises to be one where every student can thrive.

Downloadable Content

The State of Youth Mental Health & Our Schools

How schools are responding to the rising demand for student mental health services.