Meet Sonoma Valley High Principal Alberto Solorzano
Over the course of his 25-year career in education, Alberto Solorzano has seen it all. He's been a middle school assistant principal, a high school assistant principal and a principal of five different East Bay high schools. We sat down with Solorzano, 49, to discuss his first month on the job as new principal at Sonoma Valley High School and his hopes and dreams for the 2019-2020 school year.
How have you spent your first couple of weeks on the job?
I've been settling in – talking to everyone from the district office staff to the clerical team to the head custodian. All of these people are going to help me be successful. We're working really hard behind the scenes to ensure that we have a smooth transition. The staff and the community have been amazingly welcoming.
What has surprised you so far about Sonoma and its schools?
What's refreshing here is that the community really backs the schools. When people believe in their schools, you can move so much faster to improve or enhance programs and services because people put trust in the people that are doing the work. That's great. As for the town of Sonoma, it's super cute. I love it. I'm very happy to be in a community that has a small town feel yet is progressive enough to embrace 21st century teaching and learning.
What will be the hardest nut to crack?
I really want to build a community with the staff, with my students, with the parents and the outside agencies that are supporting our schools. I want to build a community and culture that is inclusive. I want kids to feel safe and to have fun. I think oftentimes we forget that school should be fun as well as something that they need to do in order to meet requirements or be college ready.
I want our students to walk away with memories of great things that happened outside of the classroom - from sports games, to flash mobs to spirit days. A variety of things where kids can walk away saying: “Huh, that was kind of cool.”
What else are you passionate about?
Another obvious priority is academic success. We have struggling students and we need to enhance their program services so they're college and career ready. Another high priority for me is mental health and student wellness – ensuring that we have services available for students that are in crisis.
What in your background has prepared you to lead SVHS?
I've been blessed with great mentors and great opportunities. I attended the principal's fellowship program at Stanford University and received training on site leadership and I worked with an expert on issues of equity. I've been trained in intervention strategies, building capacity, developing new teachers. I bring a wealth of experiences, but I think my greatest gift to a school is helping transform the school culture so that it's positive, inclusive and we're mindful of each other. We have some great vice principals and counseling team and teacher leaders here, so it's going to be a team effort.
I come from bigger towns but ones similar in demographics (to Sonoma Valley) - 30, 40 percent Latino and rest white, upper middle class families. It's about empowering of families from all demographics. Understanding how we can support our kids together and get involved.
Is there a secret to high school success?
I preach that parents should be nosy because these kids can stray. It's our job to keep them in line, know who their friends are, know what they're posting, know their study habits.
I'm also challenging parents to encourage their kids to participate in two or more activities at school. Whether it's two clubs, two sports, one of each - anything that connects them to the school. There is a ton of research that shows that when students are connected to the school with some other adult who's helping guide them, academic success increases.
So, my job is to fill more, more clubs, more seats and increase enrollment and participation in sports.
Are any big changes planned for this year?
No real drastic changes because the high school had good momentum ending last year and I want to continue that. I'm surveying parents and listening to what they have to say.
We also have facilities improvements coming from the bond measure, and that can create some anxiety within the community, so we're going to work through that carefully. But in the end, it's going to be super exciting. Not just for our school but our entire community.
Communication will also be a big push. We'll be active in our Facebook and Twitter accounts and the leadership students and student government will use Instagram and video to send out reminders and share the positives that are happening at school.
What else can parents and students expect from you?
I like being a very visible person on campus, it's a high priority for me. I want to understand what and how they're learning, and generally what is going on during the school day. I'll do coffees in the community and maybe even home visits. Whatever it takes to engage the community in conversation.
What would surprise people to know about you?
I enjoy cooking and exercising. I used to coach high school soccer and I still play, both indoors and outdoors. But most of all, I like to just hang out with my family. When you're the pilot throughout the day, it's great to come home and just be a passenger.
Email Lorna at email@example.com