Joe Dominguez is our new principal

Marlena Rohde

Assistant Principal Joe Dominguez will be Lowell High School’s principal starting Aug. 16. Dominguez was born in Mesa, Arizona. Since his mother had a hard time providing him with the resources to succeed academically once he reached high school (Westwood High School), Dominguez relied on his teachers for support. They became his role models and, after his graduation from Arizona State University, inspired him to start teaching at Westwood with the hope to give back to his community. After working there for 6 years, Dominguez felt that he wasn’t doing enough to drive change in Westwood, so in 2015, he elected to become an assistant principal at Mountain Pointe High School in Tempe, Arizona. There, Dominguez began overseeing clubs and organizations, and was promoted to oversee the counselling department and the master schedule. After four years in Tempe, he came to Lowell, and continued working as an assistant principal here. Now, he will be Lowell’s principal.

What do you love about Lowell?

I love that the students are invested in the experience that they are going to have. Never have I been in a campus where the students want direct access and direct communication to make sure that the experience that they are having is one that they have a say in, and I think that’s great. So when I first came in, and was starting to operate in the way that I’m used to, I wasn’t used to having to meet with so many student groups that really had a vested interest in what I was doing. The student advocacy is on point, and perfect for us. Additionally, I think our staff is incredibly hard working, and I just think that the excitement and the history of Lowell is important too.

What are some challenges you believe Lowell is facing right now?

I think that we are at a reckoning between honoring the history that is Lowell and the high bar that we set, and also recognizing that we have systems that need to be challenged, and need to be reworked so that they are meeting the needs of all of our students. I think that if we do a better job at communicating what our stance is when it comes to racial equity, gender equity, and making sure that people know exactly what we stand for, then there is going to be a lot less guessing, and hoping, and distrust in the administration. What I think that we are missing to solve some of this is a very clear expectation of standards.

Are there any programs you would like to implement?

One big thing is the Lowell handbook for families and students. The 2004 edition is the last one I could ever find. When I first got here, as an assistant principal, I asked ‘do we have a handbook?’ How do students know what the rules are or the expectations? How do they know what the process is for getting into a class or for changing their schedule other than just guessing, or hearing it from a friend, or from a teacher telling them? There is no consistent way for people to know what’s expected or how Lowell operates. In the absence of that, it feels like people are making things up as they go, or that there is really no rationale or reason for some of our policies. So a big focus for this year is to complete a handbook so that everybody knows what it means to be a student or a parent or faculty member at Lowell. What is our baseline, what are our expectations, so then that way everyone is treated fairly, because we will be able to follow the handbook. Also, students will know ‘what are my rights as a student if I disagree with something that is going on? How do I operate within this function?’ I think if we all have that baseline, we’ll be a lot more streamlined in getting things done.

How are you going to go about opening the school to in-person learning?

The biggest lift for the next couple of months will first be finishing your student schedules. I’ve been in a conversation with the district about getting our bell schedule approved, since we have to start at 8:40 am, I’m trying to get us to end as close to 3:30 pm as possible so we don’t have to spill over to 4:00 pm. What that means is that we are going to have to change up the whole way the school day looks, it’s gonna be different than what we are used to. I just interviewed the final two positions for assistant principal, that was done yesterday, and they’re gonna be approved or finalized by the end of this week and I’ll be able to send out an announcement. Once I have my whole team together, we are gonna divide and conquer, so we will each hold a piece of reopening the campus, because what I want is, in the first week of school, for us to slowly get acclimated to what it means to be in a school this big again. Most, if not all of us have been in a group this large for over a year and a half, so we’re gonna be nervous, and I don’t want us to just jump right into the curriculum when we are just learning how to be around each other again in that first week. So I’m hoping that we take our time. We’re not in a rush to get things going – we’re gonna take our time with book distribution, I want students to get to know each other, I want teachers to get to know their students slowly during that first week. Just remembering what it’s like to be at a school of about 3,000 people everyday, that’s focus #1. The students need to have their relationships built, and as soon as people feel safe again, then we can really start focusing on the learning, because people will feel protected, and they will be able to focus on the rigors of the classroom.

Are there any small things you want the Lowell community to know about?

I want to have a really clear communication structure between the principal and the adult groups, so that we can build a community of understanding and transparency. I want to establish more leadership capability; I want students doing a lot of the heavy lift of some of the work that we need to do, I want some of the teachers to step up into more leadership roles so that all of the things that need to happen on campus is divided among more people so that it can get done.