New roles, new challenges for school management this year

Originally published on October 23, 2015

If you have peeked into the main office recently, you may have been slightly confused by the lack of familiar faces that once graced those desks. Assistant principals have left and been reassigned, the dean has retired, and a new science department chair has stepped up. Secretaries have also taken on new roles in the office, book room and college and career center.

Last fall, the administration started the school year with only four changes, and this year there are 11. How are they handling all of these changes and new responsibilities? Principal Andrew Ishibashi says his theme this year is for everyone to help each other out.

Former science department chair steps up to position of assistant principal

When assistant principal Michael Yi retired in August, Ishibashi had to juggle the assistant principal (AP) positions. AP Holly Giles, formerly the AP of Curriculum, was switched to Yi’s former position of AP of Buildings and Grounds, because she was the AP most qualified to deal with the current construction projects. Former science department chair Dacotah Swett has become AP of Curriculum to replace Giles. Swett had been a substitute AP of Curriculum last year while Giles was on leave.

As AP of Curriculum, among other responsibilities, Swett is in charge of organizing standardized testing at school, and she is aware of how tough it can be to organize and run electronic tests, such as the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test for juniors in the fall.

“There is a bigger movement towards having students involved in creating a positive school environment and culture. We’re all in this together.”

After last year’s testing, which suffered from technical issues and lack of computers, Swett has a few ideas of how it can run more smoothly this year. “I want to have an SBAC committee meet and discuss ways of implementation,” Swett said. “The test is still relatively new to us, and last year there was no real committee, just a few people putting in ideas.” Swett may also turn to testing in registry again, as was done with the California Standards Testing (CST), as opposed to testing during students’ math and English classes.

Swett is also working to bring more positive energy to the student body. She plans to use surveys, such as the homework survey sent out to registries two years ago, in order to incorporate student input into how the staff can adjust and accommodate accordingly. “We always aim to do better, to give better service to our students in every area,” Swett said. “I am always thinking, ‘How can we service our students better?’ There is a bigger movement towards having students involved in creating a positive school environment and culture. We’re all in this together.”

Giles takes on Buildings and Grounds position during construction

Holly Giles, once AP of Curriculum, has now become AP of Buildings and Grounds for the first time. “I’m having to learn another aspect of Lowell, which is making me more well-rounded,” she said.

Since the school year began, Giles has worked to maintain the facilities, security and cafeteria, and has worked with the construction crew. As for the new building, certain things are taken care of by the District and some by Giles herself, such as submitting work orders for tradesmen in plumbing, electricity, cleanup and locksmithing.

“I’m having to learn another aspect of Lowell, which is making me more well-rounded.”

Chem teacher undergoes phase-change into Science Department Chair

While science teacher Jonathan Fong continues to teach both regular and Advanced Placement chemistry classes, he has also replaced Swett as the science department chair.

Fong served as interim science department chair last year for 12 weeks when Swett was substituting for Giles. Fong said that there were no difficulties with the switch.

Former head counselor juggles roles of both Dean and AP Coordinator

Dean Ray Cordoba retired last semester, and former head counselor Ivan Yee has taken his place as the new dean. Ishibashi made the decision to make Yee dean since he was assistant principal and dean at both George Washington and John O’connell High Schools. He has also worked as a director at the district’s Pupil Services Department, which directs and trains school deans on student discipline and counseling, according to Ishibashi.

The switch from counselor to dean has been difficult, but Yee is working to maintain his new responsibilities. The locker situation has been difficult as they’re not expecting to complete all of the new lockers until the beginning of November, and that has been challenging since several of the maps given to him were inaccurate, according to Yee. Along with the lockers, Yee is also working to revamp the parking permit systems.

He will also continue as the Advanced Placement (AP) Coordinator, managing the receipt, distribution, administration and return of AP Exam materials.

The new jobs are different from being a counselor. “I am not a counselor where I have kids assigned to me anymore,” Yee said. “I do miss it though.”

Secretaries, Book Room and Attendance Office switch up staff members

Several changes in the VICCI Center, book room, and attendance office were requested by the staff members themselves. According to Ishibashi, Tiffany Adams, who once worked in the main office, had asked to move to the book room three years ago. However, the change could not be accommodated at the time, as she was needed in the main office. This year, the position finally opened up, allowing Adams to work and manage the book room. “We always ask how our staff are doing, if they’d like to move and where they’d prefer to move,” Ishibashi said. “However, if there is something I truly believe doesn’t fit or cannot fit, then I will tell them I am sorry that I cannot grant to them the position they want.”

“With retraining, there are always issues, but they are more ‘I’m not sure how to do this, can you help me?’ which is good because my theme this year is to have everyone helping each other out.”

Ishibashi also believes in a certain management style of cross-training staff members. Wanda Lee in the attendance office now knows how to manage registration in the VICCI Center, Adams has experience in the main office, copy room and book room, Pat Gamino has experience as secretary of counseling, the main office and attendance, and Jennie Chu has been secretary of both the counseling and main offices, according to Ishibashi.

There have not been any big issues with these admin changes, according to Ishibashi. “With retraining, there are always issues, but they are more ‘I’m not sure how to do this, can you help me?’” Ishibashi said.