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San Juan Unified Principals Doing More with Less

Principals Peggy Haskins of Bella Vista High School and Del Campo's new principal Brett Wolfe explain how they're encouraging their staff to work harder with depleted incentives and resources.

In light of current economic woes, principals across the San Juan Unified School District are being tasked with implementing a strategy that will not only help ensure their teachers are delivering a quality education to students, but maintaining positive morale amongst the staff.

 principal Peggy Haskins believes her biggest challenge this year is the uncertainly of school funding, and the late anticipated determination of this year’s funding (January 2013). The potential of furlough days weighs heavily on staff, and could potentially diminish morale.

"Along with that, we have the same educational expectations for student achievement – doing more with less," Haskins said. "That’s always a challenge."

The focus this year for Haskins and others like her will be to do everything possible to help staff feel appreciated and valued for the hard work they do – even if the financial compensation speaks otherwise.

"At this point, there is so much to do to get school started, I don’t think staff has had time to really grapple with the idea of an uncertain school year," Haskins said. "Everyone is focused on success for all kids, which is a great thing."

It's a sentiment echoed by newly appointed  principal, Brett Wolfe. Having spent a number of years working as principal for Central High School in Fresno's Central Unified School District, Wolfe isn't unaccustomed to budgetary constraints; it's an obstacle schools throughout California are forced to problem-solve and work through.

"When I look at it as a part of history - and I'm also getting those furlough days as well as everyone else - I think we're all just happy we're employed; we see so many people who are unemployed," Wolfe said. "I just don't see any resentment."

Bella Vista teachers and other staff have the same excitement around getting the school year started as every other year, Haskins said, noting that everyone recognizes that the state isn’t in great financial condition.

"Personally, I will feel the same number of days furloughed from my paycheck, and my husband is a teacher in the district – so we will have a double financial impact," Haskins said. "I’m glad to know the potential in advance so we can plan accordingly."

Both Haskins and Wolfe acknowledged the anxiety a certain amount of parents have expressed around not knowing when graduation ceremonies would be held as furlough days have forced the schools to reschedule.

"We responded by setting the graduation date for May 23, regardless of furlough days," Haskins said.

This puts the ceremony before the last day of school, in the event that all 13 furlough days are imposed. And as Haskins explained this would allow high school staffers the ability to set contracts with vendors for the ceremony, set timelines for yearbook delivery and book a grad night event.

"Our biggest challenge is just to keep increasing our student learning, keeping kids connected to the various activities, whether it's arts, trial and academic decathlons and sports," Wolfe said. "I know that sounds cliché, but I don't see any other challenge when I look at our staff."

Looking for more school news? Check our Back-to-School Guide for 2012.

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