Less than a week after bidding farewell to its Class of 2016, Coast Union High School is getting ready to welcome a new principal.
Scott Ferguson, vice principal at Madera South High School in the San Joaquin Valley, will join the staff as principal in mid-July, Coast Unified Superintendent Vicki Schumacher said in response to email questions Wednesday afternoon. No specific starting date has been set, she said.
In a news release issued by the district, Ferguson said he was excited to be joining the Coast Unified School District.
“I had the good fortune of meeting members of the principal interview teams that included representatives of students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members from Cambria and Cayucos,” he said. “Everyone was so warm and engaging. I am honored to have this opportunity and I am looking forward to meeting everyone, collaborating as a team, and doing my very best for Coast Union.”
Schumacher said that, if the school board approves a 2 percent pay raise for all employees in 2016-17, Ferguson’s salary will be approximately $114,000, and the school district’s contribution to his benefits package would be approximately $9,750.
Ferguson was one of two finalists for the position; Schumacher declined to name the other, saying that information was confidential.
Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon in Madera, where he’s teaching summer school, Ferguson said his first step on arriving in Cambria will be to “kind of see where we stand in talking with our staff, and move on from there.” He added that he looks forward to “getting out and about in the classrooms and seeing what are our strengths and strategies.”
According to the news release, Ferguson has spent the past three years as a vice principal at Madera South in the Madera Unified School District. He said Wednesday that he began two decades in Madera schools as a junior high English and history teacher, later spending three years as an literacy coach and a year and a half as English language development (ELD) coach immediately before becoming vice principal.
He also played tight end and defensive line for the Simbach am Inn Wildcats, a pro football team based in Germany.
“Some good friends were actually over there playing, and they had an opening for an American to be on the team,” said Ferguson, who has also played basketball and describes himself as a “big, tall guy” at 6-foot-7 and about 280 pounds. “I was over there for three or four months and had quite an experience.”
Ferguson is one of six vice principals listed on the Madera South website (www.madera.k12.ca.us/domain/2207). The four-year high school lists its enrollment at about 3,000 students, about 12 times the size of Coast Union.
“Scott brings many wonderful talents to Coast Union High School, and I am thrilled that he will bring his extensive experience and enthusiasm to our district,” Schumacher said in the news release. “Our students, teachers and staff at Coast Union are getting a great new leader.”
Ferguson earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Fresno Pacific and a single-subject teaching credential from Chapman University, along with a master’s degree in education administration from National University. He’s married and the father of three children: a daughter who’ll be entering eighth grade at Santa Lucia Middle School, a son who will be a freshman at Coast Union, and a daughter entering her sophomore year.
One of his primary goals, he said, will be to form a strong relationship with the students.
“My big push or my big idea is to really make connections with students, whatever class you’re teaching or whatever job you’re in,” Ferguson said. “Just saying ‘good morning’ to students, maybe shaking hands or talking about sports before class or something in the news. ... It’s just being a people person, I guess, when it comes down to it. That’s kind of why I got into this business 20-plus years ago: to help kids.”
Ferguson succeeds Jonathan Sison, whose two-year tenure at Coast Union is ending. Sison and the district agreed to part ways in April, with Sison serving as “principal on special assignment” beginning July 5 and agreeing to resign by June 30, 2017.
News of Sison’s departure was met by protests from some parents and community members, as well as some students. A standing-room-only crowd turned out at the May 19 school board meeting, with the majority of those who spoke supporting Sison.
Also at that meeting, Schumacher outlined the process by which the district would select a successor, a process that was pursued over the ensuing weeks.
“I met with groups of staff members, students and parents to hear their thoughts regarding selection criteria for the new principal,” Schumacher said in her email response Wednesday. “Additionally, students, staff members and parents had an opportunity to provide written input on selection criteria.
“The interview committees focused on the technical and interpersonal aspects of serving as a principal of Coast Union High School, while considering candidates’ responses through the lens of the selection criteria that were developed by our community. This was a thoughtful and positive process that led to selection of Scott Ferguson.”