Most LCUSD schools get new principals

The 2010-11 school year begins in a unique way for the La Cañada Unified School District in a year when district officials hired more new administrators than teachers.

"We only have two new teachers this year, usually we would have 20 to 25 teachers. A lot of that is due to the cutbacks from Sacramento," said Supt. James Stratton, speaking Wednesday at the Kiwanis Club's annual Apple for the Teacher event.

Each year Apple for the Teacher signals the beginning of each school year as new teachers and administrators are welcomed and honored.

Every public school in the district except La Cañada Elementary will have a new principal leading the way when campuses open their doors Tuesday for the school year.

At the end of the 2009-10 academic year, four administrators retired or left to work at other districts. This forced LCUSD to shuffle its deck; shifting administrators from one school to another and bringing three outside hires into the fold.

"It's a very exciting year with all the new principals in place," said Jeanne Broberg, president of the school board. "Most of them are seasoned people who have moved up."

At La Cañada High School, assistant principal Joanne Davidson is the only one of four administrators at the school with the same job title she held last year.

Jacqueline Luzak, last year's 7/8 principal, was promoted to principal of 9/12 after Audra Pittman, who previously held that job, accepted a job as a secondary instructional coordinator with the San Mateo County Office of Education. Anais Wenn stepped into Luzak's vacated position after serving as principal of Palm Crest Elementary last year.

Aaron Dover, assistant principal at Duarte High in 2009-10, was brought in to fill LCHS assistant principal Kevin Buchanan's shoes. Buchanan is now principal of Oak Park High School in Ventura County.

"The administrative team this year is fantastic," Luzak said. "We all get along really well and are very supportive of each other."

The district's first goal is to bring all the new principals "up to understanding [LCUSD's] expectations and routines," Broberg said.

Throughout the year, the district will attempt to fulfill other goals, including maintaining small class sizes.

"Obviously that's a goal of the board's that has been compromised recently with budget cuts," said Scott Tracy, vice president of LCUSD's governing board. "Still, in terms of comparability, we have been able to maintain lower class sizes than neighboring districts."

The district is happy to start the year with one less distraction. When LCHS opens its doors, people will be able to walk the campus without having to maneuver between last year's construction tape, fences or trailers.

"It's like a breath of fresh air," Davidson said. "Last year at this time we were dealing with construction and the fires. This year the campus looks beautiful. It will set a real nice positive tone."

Broberg sees it as a sign of good things to come.

"It just gives you a fresh look and feeling of a new year," Broberg said. "I'm inclined to tell people, 'Happy new year,' when I walk around [LCHS]. It will be a happy new year."

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