|Justin Mori took over as principal of Sonoma Valley High School on July 1, replacing departing principal Kathleen Hawing, who has returned to teaching. Mori had been the principal of San Jose Intermediate School with the Novato Unified School District since 2012. The Sun’s Sarah Ford recently spoke with him to see how things are going and what lies ahead.
So what have you been up to since July 1?
We filled eight teaching positions and made minor adjustments to the master schedule to try to reduce scheduling conflicts. HVAC work was completed in several buildings on campus over the summer. I’ve been familiarizing myself with the campus, learning where things are, such as which departments are in what buildings. I’ve also been meeting with teachers, staff, parents, and community members. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet many students yet but really enjoyed connecting with those I have met. I look forward to getting to know more!
Anything unexpected come up?
Nothing out of the ordinary so far. I did a good amount of research on the school and district before interviewing for the position. I’m definitely in the “I don’t know what I don’t know” phase.
What do you most enjoy about working with this age?
There is so much growth and development that happens for high school students during their four years, not only physically but socially, emotionally, and intellectually. It’s amazing to watch students develop into young adults before they leave us for their next step in life.
What are the challenges of this age, as you see it?
How to balance their time. They are trying to keep up academically, participate in extracurriculars, work at jobs, take care of family responsibilities, pursue other passions, while also dealing with the social pressures that come during this time. Social media adds another level of stress and anxiety on top of what they are already dealing with.
What do you like about working in Sonoma?
There is an incredible amount of community support for the district and high school. It’s impressive to see how many people are deeply invested in our schools.
What stands out to you about SVHS?
The passion the staff and community have for the school’s success. Teachers and staff care so much about SVHS and the students. Many are Sonoma natives and graduates of SVHS and you can feel their pride in the community and school.
What are your hopes for the first few months and for the year?
My hope is to get to know more about the students, community, and school. I’d like to make sure we have open lines of communication, so people know what is going on in the school and how to connect to the right person when they need support and questions answered. I hope to get to know as many students as possible and understand what their needs and desires are and how we can grow and adapt in what we do to support their path to college or career.
Anything else you’d like to add?
One of my favorite moments was walking into Golton Hall (the old gym) for the first time. It’s amazing! I was a basketball player and coach, and Golton Hall is a beautiful piece of history.