Josh Butterfield found the challenge he was looking for when he threw his hat in for the position of principal at Amador Valley High School earlier this year.
The school had cycled through multiple leaders over the past four years but the Pleasanton native wasn't rattled by recent events, including a hectic season of construction on the now-reopened student parking lot facing Santa Rita Road, which left more than 400 parking spaces unavailable until this week for solar panel installation and lot reconfiguration.
"There's a lot of responsibility with the job and I definitely wanted to apply and go into this with my eyes wide open about things," Butterfield told the Weekly recently about his decision to pursue the job.
"I understand the dynamics that are going on and that's something even before applying to think about. For me, the consideration was do I still feel, given the circumstances of the school, that I have something to offer and bring to the table," he added.
In June, the Pleasanton Unified School District Board of Trustees named Butterfield, 40, as the newest principal of his hometown's largest high school, where he now works alongside some of his former teachers.
"I had a couple pretty amazing teachers, one of them actually worked here when I was growing up, Marc Aubel," Butterfield said. "He really inspired me to become a music teacher so I knew from an early age that I wanted to teach music."
Butterfield, who attended Pleasanton public schools from elementary school until he graduated from Foothill High School, also learned about the importance of education from his mother. "Part of my model for education was watching her, as I was growing up, go through her AA and bachelor's degree, it really instilled this culture of education and learning," he said.
The college path took him to California State University, Stanislaus for a while, but the cost forced him to drop out.
After spending a number of years working in retail and retail management, Butterfield and his wife both got the boost they needed to give school another shot when their first child was born. "We really wanted to make sure that we were models about going to college," Butterfield said, and he returned to wrap up his bachelor's degree in music education.
From there Butterfield started teaching in Lodi, then a private school in Salinas, until his dream job as a music teacher opened up at Foothill when the previous band director retired about 10 years ago. He took over the music program and loved his role but eventually started to think bigger.
"As I became more involved with the school as a whole, I started thinking more outside of my classroom," he said. "I started thinking about the school in general and ... my interests started growing just beyond my subject field and my classroom, and that's what inspired me to start my master's degree in school administration."
When a part-time position for vice principal opened up at Pleasanton Middle School several years ago, Butterfield jumped at the chance to experience "the best of both worlds" and continued teaching music part time while learning the ropes of administrative responsibility. That experience prepared him when he was asked to join the team at Foothill and become the new vice principal there.
"It wasn't this planned, directed path," Butterfield said. "It was just some really good opportunities that came up that felt like good fits at the time."
Now Amador's new figurehead, and its fifth principal since the 2015-16 school year, Butterfield said he's been "totally blown away" by the school community's receptiveness and opening their arms to him.
There aren't any big plans to "reinvent the wheel or derail a process of goals that are already set in place" for the school, but Butterfield is ready to "create the systems and structures" to achieve them.
"I feel like people want me to succeed," he said. "Those concerns that you have when you enter a new job of whether you're going to be successful or not supported, those got put to rest pretty quickly."