Amador Valley High School will start the new school year with a new principal, the Pleasanton school board announced at Tuesday night's meeting.
Foothill High School vice principal Josh Butterfield was unanimously appointed to the position five months after Amador's previous first-year principal suddenly stepped down, leaving students and parents frustrated and confused.
A self-described "product of Pleasanton Unified School District," Butterfield grew up and attended schools in Pleasanton. For the past 10 years, Butterfield has worked at PUSD in various classroom and administrative roles, including director of band at Foothill prior to becoming vice principal four years ago.
Four principals have come and gone at Amador over the past four years. The most recent vacancy came in the wake of then-principal Alberto Solorzano resigning after taking a leave of absence seven months into his tenure in February -- weeks after a district investigation found that unnamed administrators removed a grade from a high school student's transcript, in violation of state law.
Solorzano was hired at the start of the 2018-19 year, succeeding Mike Williams who was promoted to PUSD human resources director after two-plus years as Amador principal following Tom Drescher's tenure at the school. Nimarta Grewal served out the rest of this year as interim principal and is moving to the district office in the fall as coordinator of technology services.
Butterfield told the Weekly that he doesn't know why past leaders left but thinks that Amador needs "somebody who understands the dynamics of the community," which was partly what drew him to the position.
"For me, it's just an opportunity to serve," Butterfield said. "It's not about us as administrators; it's about us supporting teachers to help students."
The search for Butterfield's replacement at Foothill has already started, according to PUSD officials.
The board filled two other administrative positions Tuesday evening. Stephanie Pavlenko and Arley Hill are joining Pleasanton Middle School in the 2019-20 school year as co-vice principals, taking over the vacancy left by Mike O'Brien, who is transferring in August to become principal at Vintage Hills Elementary School.
Pavlenko and Hill are fresh faces in the PUSD community.
Pavlenko spent the past year at Hearst Elementary School as an intervention specialist and before then was special education director at Livermore Charter School. Pavlenko told the Weekly that she's looking forward to "getting to know staff and students" and helping the school be at its best.
"I'm just very excited. I think the middle school years are a great age to be growing into themselves," she said.
Hill is a newcomer from Iron Horse Middle School in San Ramon, where he's been assistant principal since 2013 and worked alongside Joe Nguyen, incoming principal at Pleasanton Middle.
Another principal position opened up in the past week, with Hart Middle School principal Leslie Heller announcing that she is transferring to Village High School in the new school year, where she was recently named new vice principal of the alternative education campus.
"I have cherished my time serving our students, families and staff as principal over the last three years," Heller said last Friday in an email to the Hart community. "I am grateful for the connections I have made with many of you, and for the progress that we have made together for our students."
Before stepping into her position at Hart in 2016, Heller was vice principal for four years at Foothill, and also taught English for more than a decade at Amador, where she served as the English department chairperson.
PUSD is currently searching for the next Hart principal, beginning with internal recruitment, with the goal of having the new leader in place for the start of the new school year. Heller's resignation also leaves Hart without any upper administration at the moment -- though the district is nearing the end of recruitment to fill two vacant vice principal positions.
Heller transfer to Village marked the fourth time since February that a PUSD principal stepped down, following the resignations of Solorzano and Ann Jayne (Vintage Hills) and the retirement of Jill Butler (Pleasanton Middle).
In other business
* The board shifted gears later in the meeting and approved a contract to add extra bus routes to temporarily help Amador students get to class in the fall while the parking lot facing Santa Rita Road is reoriented and a new solar panel structure is installed.
District officials have been working to find solutions for when students return in August to a campus with just 50 parking spaces for staff and faculty, and none for them.
The prospect of more than 400 parking spaces being unavailable for the first several months of school has prompted families and neighbors to demand PUSD and city leaders to find solutions.
In one such move, beginning Aug. 12, the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority will provide additional, earlier bus service for its 605 and 611 bus routes for the start of the 2019-20 school year.
LAVTA will provide "in addition to its main bell AVHS service, an additional, earlier inbound frequency in the morning for each of its routes 605 and 611, as well as a second outbound afternoon frequency for each of its routes 605 and 611," according to public documents. Two buses will be added to the morning and afternoon service.
The additional morning service would arrive at Amador at approximately 6:40 a.m., except on Wednesday mornings when no "A" period instruction is offered. Additional afternoon departure will happen at around 4:15 p.m. The overall route travel times are scheduled to take approximately 35-45 minutes.
Those bus routes will primarily serve the neighborhoods of Amaral Park, Fairlands, Ruby Hill and Vintage Hills starting Aug. 12 "until anticipated completion of the AVHS construction project on or around October 31, 2019," according to the district.
Student IDs will be honored in lieu of paying fare on all route 605 and 611 trips, including regular bell trips. The estimated $40,000 for the additional bus service will come from the district general fund.
District officials are also working with Bay Area Traffic Solutions (BATS) to add flaggers around Amador during drop-off and pick-up times for mitigation, and they have also been developing an agreement for students to use part of the Valley Community Church parking lot while building is underway.
Construction since school let out two weeks ago has been limited so far to behind-the-scenes work such as receiving approval from the state and ordering supplies, but PUSD facilities and construction director Nick Olson said "we are not behind" and that the public should expect to see heavy construction happening by July.
A list of drop-off and pick-up zones near the campus while construction is underway, plus a campus circulation map, can be viewed at the district's "Amador Solar Parking Structure Project" page under the Facilities and Construction section of the website.