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New El Cerrito High Principal Pledges Academic Push

The new principal for El Cerrito High, David Luongo, described his ambitious academic vision at an El Cerrito Rotary Club meeting Thursday.

Pledging to put academics first, new El Cerrito High School principal is setting an ambitious goal. Addressing the Thursday at , Luongo predicted El Cerrito High School will be a California Distinguished School within five years.

The program, according to the California Department of Education, which administers it, “honors some of California's most exemplary and inspiring public schools.”

In 2011, only two Contra Costa County schools — one in Antioch and one in Brentwood — received the honor. Albany High was one of nine in Alameda County. The program is open to primary and secondary schools in alternate years, so only middle and high schools were honored in 2011.

The academic push, Luongo said, will focus on instruction, data and research, and accountability.

To improve instruction, he said, the school needs to focus on effective classroom strategies. For Luongo and his two assistant principals, who like Luongo are new to the school, this will mean spending time in classrooms.

Luongo, whose appointment was announced earlier this month, comes to El Cerrito High following two years as assistant principal at Kennedy High School in Richmond and three years as assistant principal at Pinole Valley High School. He also taught English at Kennedy High School for five years and was a dean at Oceana High School in Pacifica for a year. He has lived in El Cerrito since 2006.

In June, Nancy Ivey was appointed to one of the assistant principal positions. Luongo said she has worked at Richmond High School for about 15 years, first as a teacher and then the past five years as an administrator, and has a daughter and son-in-law who attended El Cerrito High School.

He said the second assistant principal position was filled by the West Contra Costa Unified school board Wednesday night. Luongo said he “handpicked” Sharon Baltazar, who is new to administration and has taught in San Leandro. Like Luongo and Ivey, she is a graduate of the UC Berkeley . Baltazar grew up in Hayward and Sacramento.

El Cerrito High's previous principal, , took a position in San Ramon in late June. Two other top El Cerrito High administrators, Marcos Garcia and Humphrey Kiuruwi, were moved to other jobs within the West Contra Costa district earlier that month.

Luongo said it is too early to talk about specific strategies for improving academic instruction because the first step is to see what is already working and build on that with new programs. In addition to having leadership spend time in classrooms, he said, effective use of the Wednesday afternoons set aside for professional training for teachers is important, as is having a system in place to hire strong teachers when vacancies arise.

He called El Cerrito’s extracurricular programs “some of the strongest in the district, if not in the Bay Area,” and said he is looking forward to strengthening programs such as music and drama.

Luongo praised many of the school’s existing programs, including the , which pairs adults with students for one-on-one mentoring; the James Morehouse Project, which provides services such as health care and after-school programs; Angaza, which provides support to high-achieving students from historically underserved communities; and, the Ivy League Connection, which gives high school students the opportunity to attend summer programs at top universities.

In describing his leadership style, he said he is patient and often quiet as he observes and works out solutions. He pledged to be open to ideas from community members, to share information and to welcome visitors to the campus.

In closing, he said, “I’m optimistic, I’m excited, and I’m looking forward to a successful year and many successful years to come.”

Among the approximately 40 people at the luncheon were five El Cerrito High students, members of a high school service group mentored by Rotary called Interact.

“I’m very optimistic for the future. I’m really happy with what he said,” Interact president Jennifer Welden told Patch afterward. Welden said she is open to supporting new ideas from Luongo and pleased that he was interested in working with Interact and Rotary.

Irene Rojas-Carroll July 29, 2011 at 03:56 PM
This is looking good.
Todd Groves July 29, 2011 at 05:53 PM
What a fantastic, achievable goal! El Cerrito, get involved and make it happen. Inspiring new leadership at Portola and ECHS gives us the opportunity to redirect. Mr. Luongo offered multiple opportunities for support and involvement. Thriving public schools are the long term path to a thriving community. Every child in our schools deserves the best chance at success. Pitch in a little, get a lot in return.
Betty Buginas July 29, 2011 at 06:07 PM
Todd, David mentioned you by name in talking about good things happening at El Cerrito High; sorry I couldn't figure out a way to work that into the article.
Valerie Snider July 29, 2011 at 06:54 PM
"To improve instruction, he said, the school needs to focus on effective classroom strategies." That sounds good. What does it mean?
Betty Buginas July 29, 2011 at 07:38 PM
He said he isn’t ready to talk about specifics without observing and talking with the staff but he did mention using data and research to select strategies. He did say scores, such as API, need to go up and was also interested in other data like how successful students are once they are in four-year schools, not just getting there. In connection with teacher staff development, he talked about the need for it to be focused on specific goals and avoiding one-shot seminars that don’t have any follow up.
WCCUSD parent July 29, 2011 at 07:49 PM
I look forward to working with Principal Luongo, as a parent and volunteer. Great news that he has two new VP's for support as well. Go Gauchos!
Jack Freethy August 02, 2011 at 08:49 PM
Betty great job reporting about David. As I was in attendance of David's presentation at the El Cerrito Rotary, I couldn't help but notice that David spoke with no notes . His ability to communicate clearly and with passion in front of people certainly will be an asset with his job as principal. He stayed after his presentation to answer all the questions from the audience. Jack freethy
Senior2012 August 25, 2011 at 02:28 AM
The new administration sucks I'm a senior and they messed up everyone's schedule and there doing nothing to fix it I really wish Raymond, Garcia, & kiuirwi where still here :(!
ECHS2012 May 21, 2012 at 10:50 PM
“I’m optimistic, I’m excited, and I’m looking forward to a successful year and many successful years to come." To say that his first year was unsuccessful would be an extreme understatement. Luongo works as a detached authoritarian with an iron first. Instead of attempting to strengthen the ECHS community by getting to know the student body - as Reimann had previously done - Luongo steers clear of association with the students. Possibly even worse Luongo neglects to work out solutions when problems arise; Suspension is his sole policy (i.e. break any rules, you're suspended). Come next year, Luongo really needs to go back to the drawing board because his current approach is hardly working out now, now will it ever.
Todd Groves May 22, 2012 at 12:57 AM
This is entirely inconsistent with my experience with Mr Luongo. He is cool, accessible and completely consistent. Given the extraordinarry circumstances under which he began as principal, I'm extremely pleased that the year has proceeded so smoothly. He brings different strengths than Jason Reimann, granted, yet ECHS will benefit from his deliberate, systemic approach to our challenges. He has been extraordinarily willing to listen to teacher, parent and student concerns, so the views expressed above are puzzling.

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