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Sonoma Valley High names new principal

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Sonoma Valley Unified School District has hired Justin Mori as the new principal of Sonoma Valley High School beginning with the 2018-19 school year. Mori replaces previous principal Kathleen Hawing who in March announced that she would be leaving her post at the end of the 2017-18 school year.

His salary will be $134,097.36 plus an additional $1,000 for his master’s degree. In additional district benefits, he will receive a $100 a month car allowance, the same as all other principals.

Mori, 42, is currently principal at San Jose Intermediate School in the Novato Unified School District. He has been in this role since 2012. Prior to that position, he was the assistant principal at Terra Linda High School with San Rafael City Schools from 2006 to 2012.

Associate Superintendent Bruce Abbott said that he arranged for Mori to meet with the staff at the high school prior to the district’s final decision on hiring.

“It was great to see how well Justin connected with the staff responding to some tough questions and the positive reaction I received form the staff following the meeting,” he said. “In the interview process Justin’s strong focus on equity and proved ability to build a school community match exactly what we were looking for in our new principal at the high school.”

SVHS teacher and librarian Janet Hansen was on both the initial SVHS principal interview panel in May (which focused on five finalists, none of whom were selected) and another panel that looked at more candidates earlier this month. She spoke enthusiastically about her interaction with Mori last week.

“I really liked Justin and I can say that he seems like a great guy, sharp and with a great sense of humor,” she said. “It makes me really excited and hopeful for next year.”

SVHS parent Anne Cassidy sat on the interview panel and is enthusiastic about Mori.

“Mr. Mori looks to have a track record of success in regard to addressing the needs of English learners as well as approaching leadership in a collaborative manner, both of which will serve SVHS well,” she said.

Altimira Principal Will Deeths is friends with Mori and suggested that he apply for the job.

“As someone who has known Justin both personally and professionally for years, I am really excited because he has the skills, the personality and the drive to lead Sonoma Valley High to the next level,” said Deeths.

Mori has 13 years of site administrative leadership experience and five years as a secondary science teacher. In 1999, he earned a bachelor of arts degree in history from UC Santa Barbara, and went on to obtain his single-subject teaching credential from UC Irvine in 2000. He completed his master’s degree in education and received his administrative services credential from Chapman University in 2005.

Jim Hogeboom, Superintendent of the Novato Unified School District, said that while he is sorry to lose Mori, he felt that the SVHS job would be a great new challenge and a good fit.

“Justin has done an awesome job for us,” he said. “He has a great rapport with teachers and he is very student-focused.”

Mori's first day on the job will be July 1.

Mori graduated from Petaluma High School in 1994 and currently lives with his family in Petaluma. You can follow him on Twitter at @JustinMori35.

Mori told the Index-Tribune that he is “very excited” to have been selected.

“After speaking to friends in the district, meeting parents, teachers, staff and administrators, I saw the passion the community stakeholders have for student learning and success and knew this was the right opportunity and fit,” he said. “I look forward to getting to know the students and community of SVHS and to work together to expand the good work being done.”

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.