Fresh faces to lead Glendale schools

When school resumes in Glendale Unified on Monday, five of the district's roughly 30 schools will have new principals.

Rene Valdes is settling in at Daily High School, the district's continuation school that allows students who have fallen behind on their way to graduation to make up credits.

He'll oversee the 200 students who attend Daily High as well as Glendale Unified's independent learning program, Verdugo Academy, which is housed at Dunsmore Elementary.

Valdes, a 1986 graduate of Glendale High, comes to Daily by way of Crescenta Valley High School, where he worked as an assistant principal the past two years. He also taught at Glendale High and coached the Nitros football team.

Now that he's at Daily, he plans to build on what the school's former principal, Chris Coulter, established in the three years he was there — helping the school establish a reputation as a model continuation school that puts students back on track toward graduation.

"It's the best-kept secret," Valdes said of Daily High.

Meanwhile, Coulter is now principal of Wilson Middle School, stepping into a position that was formerly held by Rich Lucas, who retired last year after 25 years with Glendale Unified.

"Following a legend like Rich Lucas was really daunting," Coulter said. "Wilson's been amazing. The parents and the kids and the staff, everybody's been so welcoming. We're excited to have the kids come and fill this place back up again."

Matt Dalton will oversee Toll Middle School, becoming only its 11th principal since it opened in 1926 in the middle of a grape vineyard. He replaces Bill Card, who retired after three years as principal there.

At the elementary level, Josephine Bixler will be at the helm of La Crescenta Elementary, replacing previous principal Kim Bishop, who retired last year after nine years in the top position.

Bixler has said she plans to embed more technology in the classroom and create new lessons to utilize newly purchased HP Chromebooks, in addition to building a family atmosphere among her colleagues.

Perla Chavez-Fritz will oversee Cerritos Elementary, stepping into a role previously held by Cynthia McCarty, who was promoted to serve as assistant director of categorical programs for the school district.

Chavez-Fritz — who moved to the United States from Chihuahua, Mexico, when she was 8 years old — was the first in her immediate family to graduate from college and she started teaching at Cerritos in 1996.

She remained there through 2007, and most recently was an assistant principal at Roosevelt Middle School.

"In essence, it's coming back home," she said of returning to Cerritos. "It is an honor... for me to be a principal here, where I started... I've been given an amazing gift. I've been put into a school that is, by far, a turnaround school."

Under McCarty's leadership, Cerritos, for the first time in its history, became eligible to apply for the California Distinguished Schools Award this year. In April, school officials were notified that Cerritos was one of 424 schools in the state to receive the honor for improving student achievement.

Of the school's 400 students, 85% come from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, meaning neither of their parents earned a high school diploma or they receive free or reduced-priced lunches.

One major milestone in the students' success was tied to the school's score on the Academic Performance Index.

In 2013, Cerritos earned an API score of 875, up 122 points from its 2008 result and significantly above the state's target score of 800.

Chavez-Fritz also hopes to boost enrollment and focus on the new Common Core state standards that educators districtwide have been adjusting to in recent months.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World