Foothill parents discuss what they hope for in new principal | May 3, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - May 3, 2013

Foothill parents discuss what they hope for in new principal

'Morale and spirit are kind of low at the school at this point'

by Glenn Wohltmann

Parents of Foothill High School students are looking for a "strong leader" in a new principal, someone with "demonstrable experience in improving test scores."

At a meeting on April 24, 16 parents talked about what they want in a new leader at the school. Students and staff provided their input at separate sessions.

Parents said they want someone who will "look at the whole school," and someone who's willing to "take responsibility for the school's success" in a new leader to replace Principal John Dwyer.

Dwyer is leaving the district in June to take a job as principal in the Fremont Union High School District.

They don't want someone who sees the school as a stepping stone toward a new position. Parents also said they don't see the job as one for someone who's a new principal, but don't want "someone who's going to retire in a couple of years" either.

Ideally, they said the new principal should be a parent of a child who's been through high school, but "not 20 years ago."

They also want the school's new principal to be able to strike a balance, "someone who's willing to have the tough conversations," but also "someone with a heart for the children, someone who's the mom and dad when we're not there."

Parents also want someone who'll be visible, attending football games and school activities, for example. And they want the new principal to reach out to booster groups, to support athletics and the band program, and to have high school spirit.

"Morale and spirit are kind of low at the school at this point," one parent said.

Parents are also hopeful that whoever is hired will understand changes in education, using Common Core State Standards and new technologies as examples. Common Core, which is being implemented throughout the district, moves students to do more critical thinking, focusing on depth of knowledge rather than memorizing facts.

One parent wanted to be sure that whoever is hired understands "the uniqueness of our community," adding "we're an educated community."

They also want to keep some programs, such as restorative justice, which uses dialog instead of punishments, and best buddies, which pairs disabled students with general education students.

But they also want some policies re-examined, such as what one parent called "the tardy police." The school recently instituted a crackdown on students who arrive late to school.

"That causes a lot of stress on kids," a parent said.

One parent with two students in special education said she wants a principal "who understands the parents' needs as well as the students' needs."

One said she sees the school doing a great job for both high-achieving students and special needs students.

"I'd like to see a little focus on the average kids," she said.

For the most part, parent and student requests echoed one another.

Students are looking for a principal who cares about kids, both as individuals and as a school group, and someone who will build school spirit and the Foothill community.

They also want someone who will interact with students, someone who is visible, and a great communicator, a principal who motivates kids to learn and is willing to try new things.

Staff comments were held in a closed-door session and were not available.

The district has received applications from as far away as Texas, Illinois and Minnesota. The applicant pool will be winnowed to about 10 finalists who will meet with two groups.

One of the groups is a community group, with parents, staff, possibly a principal and members of the California School Employees Association and Association of Pleasanton Teachers. The second group will be made up of district staff, other administrators and sitting principals.

Each group will make its recommendations, leaving two to four candidates for a final decision.

The school board is expected to make a final decision later this month, although Human Resources Director Mark McCoy said if no one is clearly right for the job, the district is prepared to begin the application process over again.


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