As fall classes resume at Menlo-Atherton High School, a new principal is at the helm: Simone Rick-Kennel. Since November 2014, she was co-principal with Matthew Zito as he made a transition to chief facilities officer for the Sequoia Union High School District.
Also new this year at M-A is a large hole in the ground where the G wing used to be. A two-story Building G is going in there, set to open in the spring of 2017, with 21 classrooms, including some interconnected with spaces for shared projects, and a courtyard. A temporary G wing of portable buildings is located on the athletics field behind the I wing.
Multi-story classroom buildings are unprecedented at M-A, but the campus is built out and the district is increasing capacity at all four major high schools. Projections show a surge in enrollment, coming mainly from schools in Menlo Park, Belmont and San Carlos, and enrollment growth of 22 percent -- to about 2,600 students -- at M-A by the 2020-21 school year.
Although she's the new principal, Ms. Rick-Kennel, 46, has been at M-A for 13 years. Coming from South San Francisco, she taught special education at M-A for five years, including several as department head. She was dean of students, and administrative vice principal for eight years. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California at Berkeley and a master's degree in special education from San Francisco State University.
Replacing Ms. Rick-Kennel as administrative vice principal is J.C Farr, most recently an assistant principal at Castro Valley High School. His specialties include coordinating professional development, interventions, after-school programs, and overseeing parent-education and advisory groups. Mr. Farr has a bachelor's degree in political science, a master's in educational leadership, both from UC Berkeley, and teaching credentials in social science and physical education.
With the retirement of Alice Kleeman after 20 years as college adviser at M-A, Mai Lien Nguyen, who most recently held that position at Mountain View High School, is taking over. Ms. Nguyen has a bachelor's degree in history and East Asian studies from Brown University, a master's in education from Stanford University, and a certificate in college admissions and career planning from the UC Berkeley Extension.
M-A has hired two guidance counselors, bringing the counselor-to-student ratio to about 1:280, according to Ms. Rick-Kennel's data.
There are 13 new teachers this year, one each in drama, English, Spanish, math, special education, and yearbook preparation; three in social studies; and four in science. Some are replacing retired teachers and others reflect enrollment growth, Ms. Rick-Kennel said.
Students interested in sports will have an opportunity to deepen that interest by studying the running of an athletic program.
The course in sports leadership will include material on game setup and cleanup, statistics, running the clocks, first aid, working with trainers and coaches, handling social media, video production, broadcasting and preparing game summaries for media outlets, said co-athletic director and course designer Paul Snow.
This is also M-A's first year as the home high school for the Ravenswood City Elementary School District, which serves Belle Haven and East Palo Alto. This change is not expected to increase enrollment, officials say, because M-A households north of 8th Avenue in North Fair Oaks have been reassigned to Sequoia High.
"If anything, there's been a very positive impact," Ms. Rick-Kennel said of the inclusion of Ravenswood students. "I see it as a very positive relationship moving forward."
About 80 Ravenswood eighth-graders attended a retreat in November to improve study skills, and this summer's M-A's Honors Institute included 60 students, most from Ravenswood, to prepare for geometry, biology and honors English classes in the fall, she said.