By PETER ELLISON
Following the reassignment of Carmel High School principal Rick Lopez, CUSD Superintendent Barbara Dill-Varga announced her vision for the district’s future and a redirection of the district’s teaching goals for the next decade, pivoting the district’s focus from creating a college-going culture toward an environment that helps students discover and refine their goals for their lives beyond college.
In a personal interview with the superintendent, Dill-Varga outlined her thoughts on the direction that CUSD will move toward in the future.
“The focus has been about seeing our job as just getting them into a good college,” Dill-Varga says. “I really think that we have to look beyond that. I think it’s not a question of what you’re going to major in, but what the mission of your life is going to be.”
To aid in defining the specifics of this vision, a Community Advisory Council and Teacher Advisory Council were created to gather input and ideas for what the district will build toward. Dill-Varga says that next year a Student Advisory Council will be created, ultimately leading to a collaborative vision that will grow over time with input from all sides of the district.
One key piece that the superintendent wants to incorporate is increasing Carmel High School’s integration with both Monterey Peninsula College and colleges throughout the state. Work has begun with MPC to design dual-credit courses available at CHS that will give students a head start on their college credits with the goal of eventually creating a whole suite of general education courses that will give students a leg-up on their college general requirements. Dill-Varga believes that this change would allow students to quickly begin working and learning for their true goals in college and beyond.
Additionally, she aims to create ways for students to discover and develop their passions by creating more opportunities for students to intern and shadow with local businesses, fostering an environment where students can explore their interest in a hands-on way without high stakes.
One of the ways Dill-Varga envisions this at CHS is by building up the role and involvement of the counseling program in areas beyond solely college admissions in a department that has recently downsized from four full-time members to three.
The decision to reassign Lopez, who has served as principal since 2009, was based on the desire to bring in someone new who will be able to help support and work toward this vision over the course of the next decade, the superintendent explains. She notes that the new principal needs to be someone that truly understands and is invested in the future of the school and is able to listen and work closely with the faculty to reach those goals.
“They also have to be somebody who has that right balance of not only understanding the ideas, but can coalesce a faculty and excite them and motivate them to do the hard work to make some changes,” Dill-Varga explains. “Change is difficult for people.”
Barb Dill-Varga stresses that progress on these goals won’t be immediate because the new principal needs time to build relationships and connections with both the faculty and the community as a whole, but she plans on moving the district forward in baby steps for now.