Guiding the preteen

Mary A. Castillo

Empathy and a proactive approach to steering students away from

trouble is Jami Parsons’ philosophy as she assumes her duties as the

new vice principal at Thurston Middle School.


Originally from West Virginia, Parsons moved to California 11

years ago to pursue more career opportunities in education. She

attended West Virginia University and later received her

administrative credential from Chapman University and masters in


counseling at National University.

She began working in the Tustin Unified School District as a high

school counselor in 1994 and moved up into the position of assistant

principal. She said her position at Thurston is particularly exciting

for her because it will give her an opportunity to work with


“I understand the middle school child,” she said. “They can be

really funny and I like to be with this age group.”


Parsons pursued the position primarily due to the districts’

approach and strategy to educate the whole child.

“It makes sure a child goes through 13 years of education and

becomes an adult who is a socially involved and aware citizen,”

Parsons said.

Moreover she looks forward to working in a small district where

she believes administrators and teachers can see things happen



“People are open minded and willing to listen and find creative

solutions to problems,” she said.

Her tasks this year will be monitoring the progress of

construction as well as working on the effective behavior support


“The program teaches students how to behave appropriately,” she

explained. “We want students to stay out of trouble and feel safe

from harassment so ultimately they learn more.”

The program dictates that students conduct themselves based on the

three Rs: respect yourself, respect adults and respect the

environment. It’s a proactive approach to helping children who are at

an age where they’re trying to figure themselves out and need

positive adults in their lives, she said.

“They need to learn that it’s OK to make mistakes and that it’s

not the end of the world as long as they change their behavior,” she


* MARY A. CASTILLO is a news assistant for the Coastline Pilot.

She covers education, public safety and City Hall.