Friday, September 02, 2011


Both Principals Vow to Raise Test Scores and Build From Where Their Predecessors Left Off

Jesus Nunez takes the helm at Dana
By Diana L. Chapman 

Two new principals for local middle schools – whose hires were approved by Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy this week  – started their posts Thursday day filled with enthusiasm and hard-core intentions to bring up their campuses test scores.

Jesus Nunez, 39, of Whittier took over his role as the head of Dana Middle School. He’s worked for Los Angeles schools for 16 years, lastly as an assistant principal at White Middle School. He replaces Terry Ball, who was promoted.

John Vladovic – son of Los Angeles School Board Member Richard Vladovic – stepped in to oversee Dodson, a school he attended as a youth. He last served as an assistant principal at Wilmington Middle School. He steps into the shoes of Travis Collier, who also was promoted.

John Vladovic will now run Dodson Middle School

Both men applied to head Dodson and Dana, said Michael Romero, superintendent of LAUSD’s District 8 who manages the schools in the entire Harbor Area as well as Carson, Gardena, Lomita and parts of southern Los Angeles.

They were among 25 candidates who contended for the positions, Romero said.

“They both had their hat in the ring,” he explained, adding he could have placed each at either school but picked Vladovic for Dodson because he had “a personal connection to the school” having attended there.

“They are both outstanding, strong instructional leaders,” said Romero who received final approval from Deasy Tuesday. “They are bold, innovative, bright. They both want to make a name for their schools and have a lot of energy. We had some strong candidates, but they were my final choices.”

Asked if John Vladovic received the job because his father’s on the school board, Romero said: “Absolutely not. Dr. (Richard) Vladovic never talked to be about that and he never would.  John Vladovic has completely earned this.”

At Dana, Nunez, in a phone interview, couldn’t express his delight more after arriving at Dana he said to find a warm, caring and talented staff. While he attended Dodson too as a child too, something about Dana appealed to him immediately.

“I’m excited,” said Nunez, who has two boys, Noah, 6, and Benjamin, 8. “I just found out yesterday (Wednesday).  “The staff was really receptive. We have a lot of work to do. I really like Dana. I interviewed for Dodson, but I’m happy to be at Dana.”

The Dana principal says he hopes to expand on his predecessors footsteps. Prior to Nunez’s arrival – the school which has been haunted for years with a bad reputation and low test scores  – began its turn around after Ball arrived six years ago.

Ball included parents – once unwanted at the campus --in the equation to better the school, allowing them to volunteer and work directly with students. After that, test scores began to rise, as more and more families began to return to their home school.

Planning to build from that, Nunez said, he too will encourage parent volunteerism to blossom and plans to work on making sure his teachers “don’t teach in isolation.”

Teachers, he said, will collaborate, share their best practices and will have to “look in a mirror” and come to reflect whether their earlier strategies remain workable. If not, he hopes to bring together fresh and invigorating ways to strengthen their teaching talents.

Asked what his philosophy is on how students should be treated, Nunez said: “I always say to teachers: ‘Treat them as you would want your own kids treated.  Be firm, assertive and loving. ‘ (Middle school) students have so much developmental changes going on with their bodies and their thoughts. You need to have sympathy for the them and on get to know your students needs.”

Dodson’s newest principal, John Vladovic, 34, said he was surprised when he learned this week he landed the campus – a school he attended and still lives near.

“I was in the original drama class that Dodson first had and I feel personally connected to the school. My sister and I went there together.” he said. “I got the call this week.  At first I was taken aback and shocked. Now I am really excited. I am completely honored and humbled.

“Dodson has done some great things and I plan to continue in the direction it’s moving.”

Vladovic, who held a series of teaching posts that took him across more than a half dozen communities in Los Angeles Unified, said the experience of being shunted around the district due to his low seniority only added to his knowledge about ways to handle education.

With the district now  ten years, Vladovic has held slots as a teacher at middle and high schools, a test coordinator and a data coach before he became an assistant principal , a job he held at two middle schools..

Because of his deep educational roots with his family – and his interest in making Dodson a better school – Vladovic said not only will he focus on test scores, but also on ensuring that the students are taught academic and social skills to prepare for their futures.

He also intends for the school’s parents to feel more welcomed at the middle school. Over the years, many parents have complained that they are not wanted there.  His plans, he said, is to make Dodson a welcoming environment for students, parents and the community.

Asked how his father felt about him receiving the post,  Vladovic said he believes his dad is proud and happy.

“My Dad was really surprised,” Vladovic said. “He even offered me advice. He said to be an active listener and innovative. He also said to make sure my door was open.”