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Principal's Message

In the Men’s PE Coaches’ Office, over a staff member’s desk, hangs an old movie poster promoting the 80’s blockbuster The Breakfast Club. The poster promo reads: They were five total strangers, with nothing in common, meeting for the first time: a brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel, and a recluse. I remember seeing the movie just out of high school and strongly identifying with the stereotypes depicted by the characters. In my graduating class, we had all the typical characters, and, unfortunately, it really wasn’t’ until my senior year that my class came together. It’s easy, after all, to make the mistake of defining people in the simplest terms, using the most convenient definitions.

From the very beginning, during the early days working in a vacant classroom at Oak Valley, in an era when ideas were flying and imaginations were active, Del Norte was envisioned as an inclusive school. Creating a student-centric environment was a high priority. As we interviewed Leadership candidates and later, as we selected staff, an applicant’s relational capacity was a heavily weighted factor in our hiring decisions. And it’s no surprise to me, today, that students continually compliment the staff here. With few exceptions, students love their teachers here - as they should. They’re great people – knowledgeable and caring.

We were also cautious not to artificially label students or to limit students’ access to challenging coursework. It’s the back story behind why we only offer honors English classes (as opposed to honors math, science, and history courses), and why we ended up on a trimester schedule (a system we believe supports ALL students better). It’s why we allow open access to AP level courses, and why all students are encouraged to attempt at least one AP level course before graduation. It’s also why we continue to tweak Homeroom – work we believe has great potential.

Of course, for Del Norte to be truly inclusive, students have to buy in. They have to learn to respect individual differences, to appreciate our shared humanity, and to value diversity and community. Not surprisingly, this was an early challenge for us.

During the fall of our first year together, it wasn’t unusual to find cliques of students congregating: Titans sat with Titans, Broncos with Broncos, Sun Devils with Sun Devils, and Wolverines with Wolverines. And our non-PUSD kids, well they gravitated toward one another, too. I couldn’t help but smile as I came upon lunch tables with Falcons, Golden Eagles, Bulldogs, and Cougars - all seated together. It was all so predictable – almost as if there was some unwritten code students followed. And while certainly understandable, I worried about this pattern of behavior. We cast a wide net when we opened, and as a result, we drew students from every sector: public, private, charter, and the home school community. Would it be possible to pull this diverse student body together?

And then, as time passed, I was interested to watch as students reshuffled themselves. Where you formerly attended school became less and less of a factor. The shades of green, red, black and gold, and royal blue faded. Students began to congregate according to curricular and extra-curricular interests, race, grade level and gender. And students migrated away from the lunch tables: hanging out instead in the library, on the grassy knolls in the center quad, and along the sheltered hallways between classrooms. And almost overnight, subtly, it happened. Cliques opened up, individuals and pairs assimilated into groups, and the artificial lines of separation – so evident when we first opened - blurred.

As we’ve matured, our students have become more respectful and more inclusive. And I find myself worrying less.

The dream for Del Norte has always been to create a school where everyone belongs, where everyone feels valued, supported, and safe, and where everyone contributes. I like to call it Home Court Advantage. I don’t want students to simply attend this school. On the contrary, I want them to identify with it – to feel a sense of ownership and pride– to guard and defend it. Like family, there should be a place for everyone at the table. It should not matter that you rent an apartment or live in the Crosby Estates. It should not matter if you can throw a baseball 85mph or play a double high C note on the trumpet. Everyone has a gift. And everyone who exercises their gifts adds value to our community.

When I walk the campus, when I visit classrooms, when I meet with small and large groups of students, I don’t see Breakfast Club stereotypes. I don’t. I don’t see athletes, basket cases, princesses, and criminals. No. As I interact with students on this campus I only see one thing: a world of promise and potential.... I see NIGHTHAWKS!

Greg Mizel,
Principal
The Poway Unified School District (PUSD) is an equal opportunity employer/program and is committed to an active Nondiscrimination Program. PUSD prohibits discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying based on actual or perceived ancestry, age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or association with a person or a group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. For more information, please contact the Title IX/Equity Compliance Officer, Associate Superintendent of Personnel Support Services, Poway Unified School District, 15250 Avenue of Science, San Diego, CA 92128-3406, 858-521-2800, extension 2761.