For the second time in as many years, Coast Unified School District is looking for a new principal to take the reins at one of its campuses.
Cambria Grammar School Principal Bob Watt has announced he’s retiring as of July, triggering a search for a successor, Superintendent Vicki Schumacher said at a school board meeting Thursday night, Feb. 16.
“I love working with him,” Schumacher said of Watt after the meeting. “He has certainly dedicated many years to our district and made many contributions, so it’s going to be a big loss.”
Watt has served in several capacities during a long career at Coast Unified, having started as a third- and fourth-grade teacher at the Grammar School in 1986.
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Among other things, he’s been an English teacher, president of the Coast Cambria Teachers Association and coordinator for English Language Development. He also has served as principal of Leffingwell High School.
“My decision to retire was spurred by the chance to spend more time with family, especially my mom, who has some health concerns,” Watt said. “My daughters have graduated from college, and I look forward to the opportunity to travel.”
Watt said he plans to stay active in early childhood education and child-abuse prevention. He’ll remain as president of the board for The Center for Family Strengthening, a San Luis Obispo-based group that focuses on preventing child abuse and neglect. He also plans to continue serving as a commissioner for the First Five Commission of SLO County, which focuses on the first five years of life as critical to learning and development.
Of course I’ll miss the students the most, especially the daily hugs and high-fives.
Bob Watt, retiring Cambria Grammar School principal
Watt said he has “great memories of teaching in alternative education at Leffingwell and becoming the first teacher at Cambria Community Day School. Guiding students to overcome the barriers to a high school education and watching them become confident young adults while principal at Leffingwell is very gratifying.”
Other highlights he mentioned included helping to write the Coast Healthy Start Grant and opening the new grammar school campus.
What will he miss the most?
“Of course I’ll miss the students the most,” he said, “especially the daily hugs and high-fives.”
Search for a new principal
Schumacher said the district will follow a similar process in choosing a new principal that it used in selecting Scott Ferguson to lead Coast Union High School. Ferguson succeeded Jonathan Sison in that position this year.
Schumacher said the district will form two committees to consider a replacement — an interpersonal committee and a technical committee. The two be composed of parents, classified employees, teachers and principals, she said.
She said she plans to seek input from the PTA and via feedback forms available at the district office and Grammar School, and hopes to have a replacement named around April 5.
In other news at Thursday’s meeting:
▪ Schumacher announced that the district has been named to the 7th Annual AP District Honor Roll, a national honor based on advanced placement testing in the spring of 2016. The honor rolls recognizes schools that have increased access to AP courses and maintained or improved the percentage of students passing AP tests.
▪ The board voted 4-0 to establish a School District Safe Zone, declaring that “every school district site is a safe place for its students and families to seek help, assistance, information, and safety if faced with fear and anxiety about related immigration enforcement efforts.”
▪ Coast Union student Tori Ehlers reported on her trip to Washington, D.C. for the presidential inauguration and an associated leadership summit.
Ehlers said the five-day program featured speakers such as Spike Lee, Carly Fiorina, Colin Powell, Abby Wambach, Malala Yousafzai, Martin O’Malley, Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala.
She said students also participated in six “Delegations for Change” teams covering topics including health care, technology, peace, ecology, education and women in global leadership. Each team’s top recommendation was forwarded to Congress and the president, she said.
“It was really worth it” to be part of the program, Ehlers said. “It was an amazing experience, and I learned so much about what goes on there.”