RSF School board names assistant principals, sets school year priorities

The Rancho Santa Fe School board at its Aug. 8 meeting.
(Karen Billing)

The Rancho Santa Fe School District will start the year with a new leadership model: two assistant principals and an interim principal.

Last year Superintendent Donna Tripi recommended a shift in administration, moving to just one principal and an assistant principal rather than elementary and middle school principals. Garrett Corduan was named the K-8 principal, however, he left the district after the school year, leaving a vacancy.

At a special meeting on Aug. 19, Tripi recommended having two assistant principals that will focus on students and parents, and also bringing in a temporary interim principal position two days a week that will help with professional development, coaching teachers and helping with operations.

“I think that’s a better plan for this year,” Tripi said, noting that they will need the additional coaching with two new curriculum adoptions in math and science.

Megan Loh and John Galipault were selected as the two assistant principals with Loh set to focus on the elementary school and Galipault on middle school.

New assistant principal John Galipault

Loh, a former fifth grade teacher who has been at R. Roger Rowe for eight years, had previously been approved as the K-8 assistant principal in July. Last year she also served as the interim assistant principal during the superintendent search.
Galipault has been at Rowe for seven years as a science teacher and he will keep his role as the school’s athletic director.

“The two of them are familiar with our students and with our teachers and parents so I think they will be able to hit the ground running,” Tripi said.

In a message sent to families, Tripi said the model also gives a member of the teaching staff a way to advance within the system.

All of the board members said they received positive feedback from the public in support of Loh and Galipault.

Assistant Principal Megan Loh

“I’m happy to see that we have internal candidates stepping up. I look forward to seeing them succeed in the principal position,” said board member Kali Kim. “And I think the students will feel very comfortable going to them.”

Tripi said the interim principal could be at the school for six months to a year. The board will continue its principal search and the assistant principals could be trained to take on the position.

2019-20 board priorities

At its Aug. 8 meeting, the board set its priorities for the coming school year, from maintaining a balanced budget to building up its social and emotional curriculum. Tripi will now meet with staff to come up with goals to achieve those board priorities, to be presented at the September board meeting.

The board members talked about their priorities and having a “unity of purpose” while sitting in a new formation that encouraged discussion, facing each other rather than sitting in one long table.

Conducting a superintendent search was at the top of the list in the 2018-19’s board priorities and the board decided the priority categories should remain similar in 2019-20 in regard to the budget, safety, instructional curriculum, facilities, social and emotional learning and communications.

With significant changes in the leadership of the school this year, Board Vice President Tyler Seltzer said a priority should also be the successful rollout of the new administration as well as the new leadership of the education foundation.

Following the resignation of Barbara Edwards, on Aug. 13 the board approved the hiring of Sonya Caruso to serve as the new development director for the RSF Education Foundation. The position is now only a half-time position rather than full time as Caruso will be focusing solely on fundraising and not event planning—events will be handled by foundation volunteers.

As the elementary and middle schools have new math and science adoptions this year, Board President Sarah Neal said a focus should be on implementing the new curriculums “with fidelity” to ensure that interactions and activities in the curriculum result in positive outcomes.

Seltzer and board member Jee Manghani both stated they would like to see the district return to having a goal of all students reaching 90 percent proficiency on Smarter Balanced Assessments tests. Following the switch to the new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CASPP) tests, the district’s goals centered on how far each student is from the proficiency standard and having a year’s worth of growth. The school’s past principals said they didn’t want to focus just on the 90 percent number but on how students are performing on multiple assessments.

As part of the board’s priorities Neal proposed establishing growth and achievement goals and the best ways to measure them.

As the “village feel” of the school is something that parents value, board member Jee Manghani said the board should prioritize the school culture and bringing the community together. Following the changes to district staffing, Kim said it is important to build trust with the community as well as give teachers support and a mechanism where “they feel heard if they are not getting what they need because of something that we’ve cut or changed.”

Neal said she is still committed to the idea of the district going through a strategic planning process and establishing mission, vision, values and five-year goals—she has advocated for a strategic plan since joining the board in 2016.

“It’s something that we’ve needed for a long time,” said Neal, adding that she would like to avoid major expenses that are not already planned until a strategic plan is in place.

While he believes a plan could be valuable, Seltzer has stated that he’s not comfortable with the three-to-six- month time period that staff would have to commit to crafting such a plan.