Students’ Pal: The Accolade shares its views on qualities of new principal

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Samantha Galang

As the Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] board of trustees reviews applicants for the position of SH principal, The Accolade hopes it will choose the candidate who shares the previous leader’s qualities as an authoritative yet welcoming leader and holds visions for the future of our on-campus programs.

Because the seniors on the editorial board will have graduated by the time the new principal at Sunny Hills will most likely start, we have decided to leave the consensus on what qualities the new campus leader should possess with the juniors, who were unanimous in their descriptions

Allen Whitten’s recent departure as Sunny Hills principal and subsequent promotion to the Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] as the newly appointed director of Student Support Services has left the FJUHSD with the challenging task of finding his replacement.

In the seven years that Whitten has served as a leader of this campus, he was known for emphasizing the positive. When he was first hired in 2014, he noticed that students lacked a personal connection with his predecessor.

In fact, he quickly changed the distanced relationship within his first year by proving to Lancers that he was worthy of the last three letters of his title that formed the word “pal.” During break, lunch, after school or various on and off-campus activities, Whitten approached students and engaged in conversations with them without making them feel intimidated for speaking to an authority figure.

Instead of reinforcing the negative stigma of “sitting in the principal’s office,” he successfully created a welcoming atmosphere that invited students to come see him to address questions or concerns about various campus issues or policies, like with his agreement with certain students who felt the school’s dress code was outdated — especially when it came to girls’ attire.

He launched a campaign to improve school spirit, such as with student body attendance at sporting events. One way he did that was to spend money on putting up “Lancer” or “Sunny Hills” signs throughout campus buildings and hallways; Dance Production, Advancement Via Individual Determination, the Regional Occupational Program’s auto shop and The Accolade got their own logos outside their classrooms.

For the first time in years, he encouraged the athletics department to organize pep rallies during break or lunch either in the gym or quad — usually before a big CIF playoff game or match. At football and soccer games before the COVID-19 pandemic, he set up barbecues for SH staff to grill hot dogs for students and teachers who came to watch and cheer the Lancers on for a victory.

Whitten visited the Associated Study Body [ASB] and The Accolade rooms during fifth period to pass out ice cream or pizza to recognize these programs’ efforts in putting on an event or publishing an issue promoting school spirit.

“I think those who have been here throughout his whole tenure really notice the difference in so many ways that he brought to our school,” Conservatory of the Fine Arts [COFA] director Brian Wall said. “Whether it’s the physical campus [or] the whole school spirit to really building up programs, he came here with a vision of what he saw Sunny Hills could be.”   

It’s impossible to list the other proactive measures Whitten spearheaded or encouraged during his nearly decade-long service on this campus. Whitten, of course, will be a hard act to follow.

The search committee, comprised of FJUHSD board members should hire the candidate who embodies qualities similar to those of Whitten yet still has more to offer to the student body. Hiring an applicant with prior experience leading or even working on a high school campus is also an important factor we hope the trustees will consider.   

The new principal may also have some challenging teacher appointments to make, especially since co-ASB adviser Mike Paris has told his ASB students that he plans to retire at the end of this semester. The Engineering Pathways to Innovation and Change [EPIC] has a new engineering teacher to replace EPIC coordinator Dan Zanone, and so will the new school leader have a different and possibly improved vision for what EPIC should look like?

Finally, our new leader should have a vision for the arts and journalism media. 

Upon the full student body’s return to school from distance/hybrid learning, the performing arts department experienced less student enrollment and engagement at festivals, galleries and productions. In fact, the theater department reduced its electives from as many as four periods to just one for the 2021-2022 school year  — a class of combined levels. A principal who can revive the performing arts programs and garner more enthusiasm from the student body will greatly boost the morale of the school for the years to come. 

As for student media, we hope the selected candidate will support The Accolade enough for us to begin new multimedia projects, much like the broadcast media program at Troy High School. Branching out from the monthly print issues and regularly updated online website will require administrative funding, and we trust that our leader will aid us along our journey to expansion.  

This much anticipated hire won’t have to whiz around campus on a monocycle like Whitten did.  

As principal, he led as an authority figure and a friend to students and staff — a balance we hope the chosen applicant will maintain.

The Accolade editorial board is made up of the top editors and section editors on the 2021-2022 staff with the guidance of adviser Tommy Li. If you have a question about the board’s decision or an issue for the board to discuss and write about, please send an email to [email protected]