Principal Brad Baker will be among the new faces at Dana Hills High School when school starts on Tuesday, Aug. 20.
Baker, who for the past three years has been principal at Shorecliffs Middle School in San Clemente, was appointed to the position by Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees on July 1. He replaces Josh Porter, who is now an assistant superintendent in the Temple City Unified School District in Los AngelesCounty.
Baker, 42, has worked in the district in different capacities for 16 years, including as a teacher, activities director and principal. In this role as principal at Shorecliffs, Baker developed a process around learning that has now spread to other CUSD schools.
“Dr. Baker’s efforts to engage students in conversations about ways to improve the school experience has made a tremendous impact on Shorecliffs,” said Trustee Martha McNicholas, a CUSD board trustee. “His collaborative work with both the staff and parent community will continue to move Dana Hills High School in a positive, innovative, and student-focused direction.”
Baker is also an adjunct professor at Concordia University. He received his bachelor of arts degree from Azusa Pacific University, his master’s degree from Chapman University and his doctoral degree from the University of Southern California.
In an interview with the Register, Baker, a graduate of San Clemente High School’ class of 1996, talks about challenges and the upcoming year.
Q. You come to Dana Hills High School from Shorecliffs Middle School. What do you expect will be the biggest change in overseeing high school students?
Baker: Naturally the students’ maturity level is higher in high school, so being able to connect with them on life goals and finding authentic success for them in their space and in their world.
Q. What are you most looking forward to?
Baker: Building strong relationships that promote positive growth for everyone at Dana Hills High School. I’m also looking forward to the extracurricular activities and also partnering with the city to continue to build a stronger school-to-community connection.
Q. What do you expect to be the most challenging?
Baker: To quickly get to know everyone on an authentic level. Understanding the real needs of students, staff, and parents. Although challenging it is what I like to do best.
Q. What advice would you give to parents of freshmen starting at Dana Hills?
Baker: I would say change is hard; however, I would encourage them to reflect on all the milestones in their children’s lives and know that they have accomplished many things through those moments. I also would encourage parents to be involved and asked the students questions. Be authentically curious about them and encourage them, teach them to self-advocate.
Q. Talk a bit about your background — why did you choose a career in education?
Baker: I truly believe that for a student to achieve their potential, they must be treated with respect and be encouraged to be challenged through good instruction. Every student can be motivated to learn once these elements are brought together.
One of my main areas of focus is to promote good instruction so that the learning experience for all students is enhanced. My goal as an educator is to expand students’ educational opportunities and provide an authentic feeling of success each day.
Q. What’s your favorite high school memory? What’s your worst?
Baker: My best memories of high school were my involvement with athletics, and relationships with coaches, and teachers. If I had to choose one moment I would have to say it was during my senior year when we beat the defending high school national championship football team from Mater Dei High School. No one really gave us a chance in that game but we came out together with a strong plan, A belief we could win, and commitment to each other. All of this led to a major upset and a life lesson for me that with a collective plan, trusted teammates, and a commitment to a goal anything is possible! My intention is to use these life lessons to lead others to accomplish their goals and dreams.
There was a moment in high school where I realized that a four-year college was not going to be in the cards for me after my senior year. This was a hard moment where I had a choice to make. I could’ve easily chosen a route of defeat, however, I used the moment as motivation to get better. Turning the setback into a comeback has always been my method of operation.
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