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AUHSD to Start 2017-2018 School Year With New Director, Principals

The Board of Trustees has unanimously approved the selection of six exemplary leaders who will head up English learner and multilingual services, as well as serve as principals at five campuses.

The new director of English learner and multilingual services is Dr. Renae Bryant. Anaheim High School’s new principal is Robert Saldivar, who had served as principal of Orangeview Junior High School. Taking over the helm at Orangeview is Refugio Gracian, who was principal at an elementary school in the Santa Ana school district. Walker Junior High School will be led by Jennifer Gladysz-Brown, formerly interim principal at Kennedy High School. Oxford Academy’s new principal is Dr. Alicia Baillie, a former teacher at Whitney High School and administrator in the Torrance school district. Finally, Dr. Regina Zurbano, who served as a principal at Santa Monica High School, takes the helm at Kennedy High School.

The rigorous process for selecting the new leaders includes advertising internally and externally for candidates, as well as formally interviewing staff and parents to determine what qualities they view as important. The selection process takes into consideration not only the technical skills of the candidates, but also their interpersonal skills and educational philosophy.

Board President Anna L. Piercy said the District is able to attract strong leaders because “AUHSD is a destination district. We are known for our innovative and inclusive culture so it is no surprise that we are able to attract the very best educators, who will advance our educational philosophy and promote academic success for all students.”

Dr. Bryant comes to the AUHSD after serving as the executive director of the office of language acquisition in the Westminster School District. While there, Dr. Bryant established the state of California’s first dual-language immersion program in Vietnamese. She also improved English learner achievement, resulting in the district’s English learners outperforming county and state averages. 

Dr. Bryant has worked in education for more than two decades. She taught bilingual education at the elementary and middle school levels, and was a master teacher and an instructional coach before moving into administration. She earned her bachelor’s degree from UC Riverside, along with her master’s in educational administration. In addition, she also has a doctorate in organizational leadership from the University of La Verne.

Dr. Bryant is a passionate advocate on behalf of students, with key support for linguistically and culturally diverse students, said Jan Gustafson-Corea, CEO of the California Association for Bilingual Education.

“Renae also has a strong connection and commitment to parents and the community … and is known and respected regionally and statewide for her ability to provide leadership and build relationships,” Ms. Gustafson-Corea said. 

Dr. Bryant said she looks forward “to serving the students, families, staff, and community and working to increase English learner achievement and biliteracy for all.” 

Meanwhile, Mr. Saldivar has deep roots at Anaheim High School. He graduated from AHS, and began his career there in 2001, teaching AVID and health science and coaching baseball, football, and basketball. Mr. Saldivar also was an assistant principal there, following his service as AP at Ball Junior High School. He said he is grateful for the opportunity to lead his alma mater. 

“The saying really does ring true in my case: ‘Once a Colonist, always a Colonist,’ ” he said.

Mr. Saldivar received his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology with a minor in health from Cal State Fullerton and his master’s in education from Azusa Pacific University.

Orangeview’s new principal, Refugio Gracian, implemented a dual immersion program and was known as an instructional leader while serving as principal at Lowell Elementary School in Santa Ana. His career in education includes teaching language arts, history, and English language development classes at both the elementary and middle school levels. Mr. Gracian began his administrative career 12 years ago and served as an assistant principal in both Visalia Unified and Irvine Unified school districts before becoming a principal in 2015.

Mr. Gracian has a bachelor’s degree in history from Cal State Long Beach and a master’s degree in education administration from National University. He said he is very excited about his new role.

“With the end in mind, we will make decisions based on maximizing learning outcomes for ALL students,” Mr. Gracian said.

Walker’s new principal, Jennifer Gladysz-Brown, has served her entire career in the AUHSD, beginning in 2002 in alternative education. She spent a decade teaching English and reading and acting as yearbook, ASB and Friday Night Live adviser. Ms. Gladysz-Brown was part of the original eLearning virtual team, where she taught multiple levels of English. She served a split position as an assistant principal at Lexington and Walker junior high schools before moving into administration at Kennedy High School.

Ms. Gladysz-Brown has a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Cal State Dominguez Hills, and three master’s degrees: in education and in teaching from National University, and in educational administration from Concordia University.

“I believe my time at Kennedy will help advance our articulation efforts and build a seamless pathway from Walker to Kennedy,” she said.

Her counterpart at Kennedy, Dr. Zurbano, began her career in 2003 at Hawthorne High School, where she taught various levels of chemistry, including AP. She was recognized as a Teacher of the Year and as one of the top 5 Most Inspirational Teachers on Campus four times. From there, she went on to serve as an assistant principal at Fallbrook Union High School and Beverly Hills High School, before moving into the role of house principal at Santa Monica High School.

Dr. Zurbano has a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from UCLA, a master’s degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s in chemistry education from U Penn, and her doctorate in education from USC.

“I'm so excited to be joining a school like Kennedy with such deeply rooted pride throughout the school and the community!” Dr. Zurbano said. “I am humbled to join the team at AUHSD, a district leading the way as a model for excellence in the elements of fostering and supporting student success. I look forward to the hard work that lies ahead and am ready to hit the ground running.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Baillie started her career in education in 2005 as an honors and AP English teacher at Whitney High School. She served as a master teacher and mentor teacher, then worked as a teacher on special assignment in the role of counselor/administrative designee. From there, Dr. Baillie served as assistant principal at a middle school in the Torrance school district, and then as AP at North Torrance High School.

She received her bachelor’s degree in English education from Humboldt State University, her master’s in secondary education from Cal State Fullerton, and her doctorate in educational leadership from CSUF.

“Oxford Academy is a place that is dedicated to expanding students’ post-secondary opportunities and, in the process, enriching their lives,” Dr. Baillie said. “It is an ideal that I have worked toward my entire career, and I will continue to innovate and create powerful learning experiences for students as Oxford’s principal.”

Superintendent Michael Matsuda said the new leaders know the expectations surrounding their performance are high.

“But I have full faith and confidence that they will live up to the challenge,” the superintendent said. “These amazing people will join an AUHSD team dedicated to college, career, and life success for every one of our 30,000 students. Together, we will continue on our journey from good to great!”