Woodside High principal makes career move

He will be the Sequoia district's new assistant superintendent for human resources

The next career phase for David Reilly begins July 1 when, after five years as principal of Woodside High School, he will move to the high school district's office as assistant superintendent for human resources.

The move to the Sequoia Union High School District office in Redwood City will be more than a change of scenery.

"There are few jobs out there that are more demanding of your time than being a high school principal," Mr. Reilly said in an interview. "The job is a long-distance run but you have to sprint to keep up. ... It really is a 24/7 job. There's something going on every night of the week. The last five years have been probably the most challenging of my life."

Mr. Reilly will replace Susan Vickrey, who is retiring.

His new responsibilities include getting to know the cultures of the district's other three traditional high schools, including Menlo-Atherton.

He said he plans to be a cross-pollinator of best teaching practices, but will spend his first year listening "to see how I can make the district an even better place to work."

The Sequoia district has been his place of work since 1995, when he came to Woodside High as a substitute teacher. he joined the faculty in 1997.

After teaching journalism and advanced-placement English at the school, he moved in 2005 to Sequoia High School as administrative vice principal. He returned to Woodside as principal in 2007, when Linda Common moved on.

Mr. Reilly holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of California, Los Angeles; a 1997 teaching credential from San Francisco State University; and administrative credentials.

A big part of his new role will be labor negotiations, but when he was teaching, he worked the other side of the bargaining table. "It's a unique perspective," he said.

Why stay in the Sequoia district when, as he said, he receives three or four offers a year to work elsewhere?

"I have a lot of history with the district," Mr. Reilly replied. "I know a lot of people in the district. I'm very familiar with the district. I feel I can continue to effect change."

His legacy at Woodside High will be significant. Asked to describe it, Mr. Reilly noted the "small learning communities" at the school, including special education and the Green Academy; his focus on putting "the right teachers in the right classrooms"; and moving the first class of the day for most students to 9 a.m. from 8 a.m. in response to research showing that students do better with a good night's sleep.

The changes are "systemic (and) much ingrained," and will persist after he leaves, he said.

He introduced the first steps for "flipping school," in which students view lectures on personal computers and save homework for the classroom, where help is available and distractions are fewer.

Homework battles would no longer involve parents. Students, their option of coasting through lectures gone, demonstrate their understanding or lack of it in real time. An online discussion group could allow students to discuss the lecture before class.

"This would level the playing field a little bit," Mr. Reilly said for an earlier story, referring to advantages enjoyed by kids who have such discussions with knowledgeable parents.

"It's gathering momentum," he added when asked for an update.

In a prepared statement, Mr. Reilly wrote that he was "very confident that Woodside High School will continue to flourish and expand opportunities for all students. I have aspired to be the best leader possible to a school at which I have spent the vast majority of my career."

In explaining his aspiration, he used a parable on the distinction between a great leader and a good leader. "When the good leader left, the people looked around and said, 'What do we do now?'," he wrote. "When the great leader left, the people said, 'We know what we have to do.' I strove to be the latter of the leaders."


Like this comment
Posted by Dana Sanderson
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Apr 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Congratulations to Mr. Reilly on a well-deserved move. It's a relief to know that not only will he be staying, but that he will have an opportunity to impact the entire district. We are so very lucky to have such a passionate student-centered educator.

Like this comment
Posted by Admirer
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Most folks in Menlo Park know and respect the job done by Matt Zito at M-A, but David Reilly has been every bit as impressive at Woodside. He has been a positive, dynamic, innovative force of nature who never loses sight of the fact that educating ALL students is the main priority. I hope Woodside can find someone to fill his shoes and continue the progressive programs and standard of excellence developed under David's leadership. Congratulations -- he will be a fantastic resource at the district level.

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