In the new principal’s office | SierraSun.com

In the new principal’s office

Jason Shueh
Sierra Sun

Truckee High School’s new principal David Putney is already learning the ropes of his new job.

Putney, formerly from Petaluma, Calif., was a principal for Petaluma’s San Antonio High School and Valley Oaks Independent Study School. He holds a bachelor’s in environmental studies and planning and a master’s in educational administration from Sonoma State University. These degrees are coupled with a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Dominican University and a doctorate of education at University of California, Davis.

Amid his moving duties and organizing his new office, Putney sat down recently to talk with the Sierra Sun about how his job is going so far and what he hopes to accomplish in his new position.

Sierra Sun: What made you apply to be the principal at Truckee High School?

David Putney: I love the mountains. I love the Tahoe Truckee area. As a kid I used to come up a lot and come skiing in the winter and come up exploring in the winter, and when the opportunity became available I saw it as good for my career, good for my living and just felt like it was a good time to change my scenery and come up to Truckee.

Sun: What is unique about the environment at Truckee High School opposed to your past experiences?

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DP: I’m still learning about the school and community so these are really early observations at this point, but it seems what is unique is that the majority of the community seems to be really outdoors-focused and health-minded, and I think that is a really nice thing about the school, where you have people who want to be outside who want to exercise and they want to be involved with the environment and hopefully share that with the children.

Sun: Coming into Truckee High School do you have a focus where you plan to direct your efforts?

DP: I really want to become part of the community and I want to learn what people are really happy about. I want to learn the history of the school and#8212; what their successes have been, what areas really need some attention and some growth, and just grow into that. Coming into the first year it’s really just about observing what’s healthy and what’s working well and over time to inspire people in the areas where we need to grow.

Sun: How much do you know and how involved to do you plan to be with English learner students?

DP: I know a little bit, but again, I have a lot to learn. However, I plan to be involved in the school community.

Sun: What are your strong points?

DP: I really love people. I love being involved. I love to listen. I make sure I understand and acknowledge people and make sure they feel heard and#8212; I don’t always agree with people, but that’s OK and#8212; but I want to make sure that people feel respected and feel heard because its important for me to receive their information and what they’re sharing so that way it will really impact my thinking and my work.

Sun: What’s your main priority as you learn the job?

DP: My agenda is really to come in and participate with the community to gain my own perspective that’s valid, that’s based on a whole picture as opposed to coming in from one point of view. I’m not wanting to come in and be divisive and separate. I’m one who wants to come in and learn what’s going on.

Sun: What’s an educational challenge you’ve had to overcome in your career?

DP: We all have had our own personal experience when we went to school and we build our own perception of school based on our past perceptions. And sometimes that creates certain levels of resistance to change things because if things are different than your own memory of schooling or what you think schooling is. So in the past I saw some of that at my previous school where I had to shift and support the culture of the school to support the students’ interests first.

Sun: What do you want students, teachers and parents to know about you?

DP: I’m just really excited to come to Truckee and eager to meet the staff and meet the students; and when I came through and had a chance to walk the halls that day during my interview process, it was great to see some of the students and they seemed like some really healthy young people.

School is changing and I think we need to support learners to find relevancy in school and help them to find a way to be empowered for our future. The landscape of economy is changing and learning really needs to be progressive not regressive.

Michael McDowell, of Scottsdale, Ariz., comes to North Tahoe High School after serving as a consultant for the New Tech Network, a company providing consulting for high schools wishing to integrate technology into the classroom.

McDowell has a bachelor’s in environmental science, a teaching credential in biological sciences and a master’s in curriculum and instruction from the University of Redlands. Other education includes a doctorate of education in organizational leadership from the University of La Verne. Prior to becoming a consultant, he taught life science in Napa, Calif., and science and algebra in Pacifica, Calif.

McDowell sat down recently to talk with the Sierra Sun about what he hopes to accomplish at North Tahoe High.

Sierra Sun: Coming into North Tahoe High School, do you have a focus where you plan to direct your efforts?

Michael McDowell: I think the first thing I’m going to do is read through all the literature that’s been developed within the last year or so, looking at our student plan for student achievement, looking at the Tahoe Task force’s goals and looking at our WASC accreditation. I need to read our history and see what specifically has been going on. I think you need to have priorities I think if everything is important then nothing is and so what I need to do is say how do we align these goals and then, No. 2, is say let’s prioritize them.

Sun: How much do you know about the English learner program and how involved to do you plan to be with English learner students?

MM: No. 1, it’s a critical piece for this program so my first contacts are those are those who work with the Latino-American, Mexican-American populations down here. I know that Dave Ferrari has a strong connection down there in Kings Beach and I don’t know the area that well but from what I hear is that Kings Beach has a high Latino Mexican-American population so I’d like to talk with Dave and I’d like to talk with Emilio Vaca at North Tahoe Family Resource Center, and I’d like to talk with Isabel Hernandez at the Boys and Girls Club of North Tahoe executive director and figure out what have we done in the community to support this particular population.

Sun: What are your strong points?

MM: One of my big strengths is in partnership development. So I think a big part of my job would be to bring community in, to bring businesses in, to maintain strong relationships and to get as much involvement in the school as possible. Another strength of mine is curriculum instruction. I have a master’s degree in curriculum instruction and working with the schools I’ve been working with for past three years, my basic job was working with teachers in how to develop and effective curriculum in the 21st century to support all learners. My third strength would be associated with facilitation, to go into a room with a bunch of people and be able to facilitate that group, to have them come together and create some norms and establish process roles and be able to have effective dialogue. This means all of us coming together to attack very difficult problems and leaving nothing to hide.

Sun: What’s your main priority as you learn the job?

MM: A key part for me is understanding where we are allocating money. So one of the things I need to understand is what discretionary funding do we have, what categorical funding to do we have, etc. So a big key part of my learning this year is going to be is understanding our budget.

Sun: What’s an educational challenge you’ve had to overcome in your career?

MM: I would say the biggest challenge for anyone to overcome in any business is change. Yet to me I don’t think people hate change, to me I think people like change. I think the two challenges with change is that one, people fear loss, and the other challenge is how do you sustain change? And if we develop a strong culture among each other, we can overcome that, and that’s the challenge I’ve had in the past and I’ve been able to overcome that.

Sun: What do you want students, teachers and parents to know about you?

MM: I think a big piece for me is that I’m passionate about children and their success so when they come in here I’m here to do whatever I can. I have an open door and I probably won’t be in this room that much and#8212; I will be out in the classrooms as much as possible . A key part for me is to work with these students and ask what we can do to accomplish the dreams that you have and I will do whatever I can to make that work.