Back to School: La Jolla principals highlight changes, goals


Change is a-comin’ at La Jolla’s public schools. When the bell rings to welcome students on Monday, Aug. 27, there will be three new principals, new security systems on some campuses, and fresh new playspaces on others. Here’s the rundown from the principals, as they answer questions from the Light.

La Jolla High School

Principal: Charles Podhorsky

Contact: 750 Nautilus St. (858) 454-3081.

Enrollment: 1,581 students

Mascot: The Viking

What’s new for parents to know?

We will be using the same new visitor sign-in system as Muirlands Middle School. All visitors must provide the front office with a valid driver’s license or ID to be scanned, then they will be provided a sticker badge with their name and picture on it. If you do not provide your ID, you will not be permitted to visit or volunteer on our campus. After the first initial sign in with ID, you will be able to manually check-in to the computer in the front office.

What are you most looking forward to?

I know this is going to be an incredible school year. We need to remain focused on student data as a way of helping us better understand how we can build systems and structures of support at our school. I look forward to La Jolla High continuing its proud tradition of excellence.

Do you have a goal for the year?

Our work ahead is to continue exceptional focus on student achievement and reflect on ways we can improve our work for student success each and every day.

What’s in your lunchbox?

A bit of hummus, crackers, hard-boiled egg. On a good day, a small salad between meetings.

Note: Late-start Tuesdays: This year, the school will introduce a “late start day” on Tuesdays. Rather than the usual Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday start time of 7:25 a.m., Tuesdays (with some exceptions) will start at 8:50 a.m. All days will end at 2:19 p.m.

Muirlands Middle School

Principal: Geof Martin

Contact: 1056 Nautilus St. (858) 459-4211.

Enrollment: 1,075 students

Mascot: The Dolphin

What’s new for parents to know?

I want to start by thanking the Muirlands community for a warm welcome. Safety is an important concern for all of us who work with children. The only people allowed contact with students during the day must be listed on an enrollment form as a parent, guardian or an emergency contact. Any item that is delivered to a student during day must come from a parent, guardian or emergency contact. Food deliveries from restaurants or delivery drivers will not be accepted.

What are you most looking forward to?

At Muirlands, we believe in a learning process, applying a growth mindset, for both adults and students. We are continuing our implementation of Google Classroom as a technology tool for our learning. We are continuing to use collaborative conversations, an instructional strategy to increase a student’s opportunity to engage and develop deeper understandings. We will focus on evidence of student learning: How do we know what students have learned? How do we respond when students have not learned?

Do you have a goal for the year?

My goals include improving outcomes for all students, to make sure they are prepared for high school and a meaningful graduation. I want our students to be able to continue to develop and solidify critical thinking skills, mathematical conceptual understanding and the ability to read and understand different genres of written texts.

What’s in your lunchbox?

My new breakfast is overnight oats with yogurt and blueberries. My ideal lunch is a salad.

La Jolla Elementary

Principal: Donna Tripi

Contact: 1111 Marine St. (858) 454-7196.

Enrollment: 559

Mascot: Spout the Whale

What’s new for parents to know?

We installed new turf on Girard Avenue over the summer, new projection and sound systems in the auditorium. Instructionally, flexible seating for all classrooms through foundation funding. This allows more movement for students, gives them choice for work areas, helps them learn what they need as learners. Classroom teachers purchased bean bags, yoga balls, standing desks, wobble seats, etc.

What are you most looking forward to?

We’re all implementing the district’s Wellness Initiative and we’ve increased the amount of physical education (PE) we offer. Teachers are working with the PE coaches on the Impact program, in addition to looking at nutrition guidelines for parties, etc. We added Spanish a couple of years ago and are increasing to two sessions per week in grades K-2, and in grades 3-5, we have one session per week.We also have full, grade-level music through the district, and music, art, technology, dance and theater through our Foundation. We added an engineering/robotics unit last year in grades K-5. All students, K-5, will also have a laptop.

Do you have a goal for the year?

We’re always refining our work with the new Common Core standards in literacy and math. We are implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in Earth, physical and life science, as well.

What’s in your lunchbox?

I don’t eat meat, so salads, tuna fish or almond butter sandwiches, and I love our Pizza Wednesdays!

Bird Rock Elementary

Principal: Andi Frost

Contact: 5371 La Jolla Hermosa Ave. (858) 488-0537.

Enrollment: 516 students

Mascot: Rocky the Pelican

What’s new for parents to know?

Our playground blacktop and the blacktop on the joint-use field have been resurfaced, with freshly painted play areas. We just need our students to return and enjoy it! We are also continuing our work in Critical Literacy and mathematics, and becoming stronger and more strategic as we move forward. We are also in Year 3 of implemented NGSS and use district resources as well as enriching it with Project Lead the Way curriculum that Parent Foundation has helped provide.

What are you looking forward to?

I’m very excited to start the year with BRE from Day 1 of school and to build on the great work we’ve begun.

Do you have a goal for the year?

To work with all to make BRE a safe, happy, productive environment where everybody thrives.

What’s in your lunchbox?

A lot of water, dinner leftovers when I’m lucky, often an organic Fuji apple, a fun carbohydrate (bread, chips, a cookie) and a lot of snacks.

Torrey Pines Elementary

Principal: TBD

Contact: 8350 Cliffridge Ave. (858) 453-2323.

Enrollment: 503 students

Mascot: The Hawk

Following the departure of former Principal Sarah Ott over the summer, a new permanent principal could not be found by the start of the school year.

Chris Hargrave, who was previously principal at Muirlands Middle School and served as interim principal at Bird Rock Elementary last year, will serve as interim principal at TPES when school opens. Hargrave is a mentor principal for the district, and will likely work with the new principal when one is selected.

Per district policy, the job listing was posted on a teaching job website in late July, which drew a selection of candidates that met with a community panel compiled of parents, teachers, administrative staff and others elected from within the school for an interview on Aug. 7. However, one candidate could not be chosen from the pool of candidates. As such the job was reposted Aug. 16 and the process starts again.