New principal chosen for Nipomo High

John Denno
John Denno Courtesy photo

The Lucia Mar Unified School District board has chosen a Merced school district administrator as the next principal of Nipomo High School.

John Denno, associate principal of Golden Valley High School in Merced, will succeed Nipomo High Principal Michelle Johnson.

Johnson has said she’s leaving after seven years as principal for personal and professional reasons to become the district’s adaptive physical education specialist, working with students with special needs of all ages.

But her announcement in April came as a shock to students, many of whom implored district administrators to keep her there and worried that she wasn’t leaving by choice.

The Lucia Mar school district board unanimously approved Superintendent Jim Hogeboom’s recommendation to hire Denno during the closed-session portion of Tuesday’s meeting.

His exact salary was not available, but the range for a high school principal is $100,250 to $111,774.

Johnson had a strong rapport with many Nipomo High students, and with that in mind, two administrators and three teachers traveled to Denno’s school to meet with administrators, teachers, parents and students there.

“Really, it was the students who sold us,” Hogeboom said. “All the students were effusive in their praise. He was comfortable with kids, made time for them, joked around with them. They felt he would stop what he was doing and help them out.”

Denno, 41, said he’s been impressed with Lucia Mar’s direction and vision, especially the focus to prepare students with 21st century skills (examples on the district’s website include critical thinking, collaboration and creativity).

He said the Merced Union High School District has been successful in efforts to integrate technology. In the fall, all students at Golden Valley High will be issued Chromebooks, for example.

When asked about plans to meet the community, Denno said that first, “the most important thing is allow these seniors graduating from Nipomo to really bring some closure to their high school experience and their relationships with the staff at Nipomo. Really, I don’t want to be a distraction from their moment of celebration.”

The school board also unanimously approved hiring a new principal for Paulding Middle School: Edward Arrigoni, who comes to Lucia Mar from Paso Robles High School, where he’s worked this past year as assistant principal.

Previously, he served as a summer school principal at San Luis Obispo High and a resource specialist at Paso Robles High and Phillips-Freedom Community School.

“He’s very focused, very professional,” Hogeboom said. “He relates really well with kids … which is a key requirement for us. He’ll have great support there.”

Arrigoni will replace former Paulding Principal Chuck Fiorentino, now the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources. The salary range for a middle school principal is $84,797 to $98,982.

Hogeboom said the district is also currently interviewing for principal positions at Fairgrove and Harloe elementary schools.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune