Davis Magnet School's first principal is retiring after three years Wednesday.
Kevin Rafferty oversaw the creation of the district's first magnet school, which focused on math and science; created traditions that bring the school community together; and helped the school's Academic Performance Index (API) scores rise more than 200 points.
"Leaving Davis Magnet School, being here since its opening in September 2009, and helping [Davis] grow and mature into our phenomenal, professional learning community, is a lot like giving up one of my own children," Rafferty said in an Oct. 12 farewell email. "I have poured my heart and soul into working with you to help make Davis Magnet School one of the very best elementary schools in the USA."
Rafferty is taking a position as vice president of education for Teacher Created Materials and Shell Education, where his work will reach kids across the U.S. and around the world.
Cal State Long Beach professor Alex Morales was named interim principal Thursday as the district goes through the formal recruitment process. Morales has served as an elementary school principal and director and serves as director of the School Improvement Initiative, Center for Language Minority Education and Research at the university. He begins Monday.
The district hired Rafferty as Davis Elementary School was changing to Davis Magnet School. He started in April 2009 to hire teachers and prepare as the school was converted from a 4-6 campus to a K-6.
He previously worked at Capistrano Unified School District, where he founded and served as principal of Chaparral Elementary School in Ladera Ranch. He also founded Oak Grove Elementary School.
From day one at Davis, Rafferty made it clear that the school's most important mission was student learning, said fourth- and fifth-grade teacher Christy Flores.
Under his leadership, the school's API scores jumped 136 points the first year and climbed another 25 points in year two and 43 points in year three, according to state data.
Davis is now one of the highest-performing schools based on API scores in the district, right behind Anderson Elementary School.
Rafferty has set an example of being a good person and a professional to the entire school community, Flores said.
"It's been an incredible three-plus years, and he does such an incredible job of setting an example for us as teachers" she said.
Parent Lisa Manfredi called Rafferty a "phenomenal" leader — supportive, always around and the definition of a hands-on principal.
"He made me want to be a better parent," she said. "He gave me the road map to help my kids be successful."
Rafferty brought with him to Davis his relationship with the Anaheim Ducks, which gave students a unique opportunity to learn to play street hockey. He is also known for playing table hockey — which he is the top ranked player in the U.S. — with students during recess.
He also made morning flag decks, where teachers, students and parents gather on campus, a daily tradition, Manfredi said.
"It's so significant to me because it brings the community together," she said. "It brings the whole community together, so we're all on the same page. It's just a great tradition."