New principal leads school to academic success

New principal leads school to academic success

Chandni Mistry and Kaila Young

Cal High principal Sarah Wondolowski was spotted speed walking toward the main building just minutes before her interview with The Californian, but when she returned she proudly pointed out that she wasn’t late for once.

“I want to set the record straight that I’m four minutes early,” she said. “I don’t want you to start your story off that I was late.”

It’s been a busy first year for Cal High’s new principal, between handling the implementation of common core and maintaining new school policies.

But she said it wasn’t a very big step up from her last position as assistant principal at Cal High.

“It’s just different,” she said. “As an assistant principal, I dealt with a lot more day-to-day issues that came up. As a principal, you deal a lot more with the big picture vision for the school.”

Wondolowski likes to take an active role by visiting classrooms to see how teachers are handling the new curriculum. Overall, she has seen positive outcomes.

“[I’ve seen] a lot less of a teacher standing up front and lecturing for 100 minutes and more movement between activities,” she said. “And I’m seeing a lot more student collaboration and that’s really exciting. I think our students are noticing that, too.”

Common core entails a broad emphasis on reading, writing, listening, and collaboration among students.

“I think that the common core is exactly the move we need to make to help our kids be college- and career-ready for the world they’re entering, even though we don’t know what that’s going to look like,” said Wondolowski.

Students may have noticed this change through the increased amount of group work, presentations, and the combination of subjects, such as additional written responses in math classes.

“I think that our teachers have done a fabulous job of embracing the new standards, changing instruction, and providing a rigorous and engaging environment in their classrooms,” Wondolowski said.

Going from the role of a teacher to an administrator, she said working as the latter has helped her develop skills for the former.

“When you’re a teacher, you’re mostly working with kids every minute of the day,” Wondolowski said. “But as a principal, I get to go and see what teachers are doing and teachers are not often afforded that luxury.”

Visiting teachers’ classrooms has allowed her to see a broader range of teaching styles.

“With the really outstanding teachers that we have here, there are so many things that I would take from those teachers and use in my own teaching,” she said.

Students have reaped the benefits of these new teaching styles, and their successes have been rewarded on behalf of the school.

“I think that the school winning the California Gold Ribbon Award was huge,” said Wondolowski.

The award is presented to schools for their overall excellence in academics and extracurricular programs, as well as for having talented teachers and staff.

Next year, Wondolowski will continue the implementation of common core and “continue to lead the school toward excellence.”

Wondolowski also aims to gear the academic experience toward the “unique needs of where a student is educationally.”

She congratulates the graduating Class of 2015, which she feels has an impressive range of abilities.

“From people who achieve in academics, to the kids who are really talented in athletics, to amazing performing artists, and to the kids with really amazing interests outside of school, it really is an eclectic class, but very, very talented,” Wondolowski said.