Friday, June 12, 2009
CONSIDERED A SHAPER AND SHAKER TO REMOLD STRUGGLING PUBLIC SCHOOLS, THE FORMER PRINCIPAL OF NARBONNE HIGH TAKES THE HELM AT SAN PEDRO DETERMINED TO FIX THE PROBLEMATIC CAMPUS;
DESPITE OVERCROWDED CONDITIONS, ENTRENCHED TEACHERS AND BORDERLINE ACCREDITATION, LINDA KAY AGREES TO DROP INTO THE TROUBLE-PLAGUED SLOT
BY Diana L. Chapman
Linda Kay – a hard-nosed principal who once headed Narbonne High before
becoming a district director, has agreed to take over the helm of beleaguered
San Pedro High which continues to bob through troubled waters.
She replaces current principal Bob DiPietro, who resigned due to personal
issues, and who departs at the end of the school year. DiPietro stayed only for
two years and inherited a horde of problems, including what’s much like a D on
the school’s accreditation report.
Kay, who has more than thirty years chalked up with the district, will now
contend with overhauling a school where some employees seem to believe no
problems exist at all. However, the campus suffers a 50 percent dropout rate
and test scores nearly as low -- or lower -- than many inner city schools.
Student engagement remains one the school’s key troubles.
In addition, overcrowded conditions have students attending an aging campus with
3,500 students, when it was built for 2,000.
Kay, who has more than thirty years with the school district in a variety of
capacities and values rigorous discipline, was announced as the new principal
Friday. She currently holds the post of district administrator for middle
schools in District Region 3, which stretches from Westchester north to the
Palisades and sweeps in the areas of Venice, Dorsey and Crenshaw.
She headed Narbonne, starting in 2006, where shortly after a controversy erupted
when the school was accused of allowing an ineligible student to play for the
school’s girl basketball team.
Apparently, Kay accepted the coach’s resignation and the accusations led to
campus losing scores of district titles.
The administrator also was a principal at Bret Harte Middle School and held
administrative posts at both Banning and Belmont High Schools.
Due to the unusual trouble that San Pedro currently tackles, Linda Del Cueto,
who heads the region where both the Narbonne and San Pedro schools reside,
decided to forge ahead and do the hiring without the usual selection committee,
which typically includes staff and parents.
Instead, she sorted through a series of candidates and believed Kay was the best
choice. The district also had to hire directly from its pool of candidates who
could face layoffs due to economic crises forcing potential layoffs in the
David Kooper, the chief of staff for Richard Vladovic, the LAUSD board member
for the area, agreed that at this point in the school’s struggles, Kay was the
best choice to lead the school out of its stinging problems.
“Every place she goes she motivates and she’s probably one of the best at that,”
Kooper explained. Out of all the candidates, she was “the most right person for
Pedro right now. We are pretty lucky.”