On August 21, 2023, the school year began with a new interim principal: Fred Razo. The former principal, Elise Simmons, resigned on August 2. Santa Barbara High School conducted a search for a new principal, but the two candidates that were found were rejected by the school’s interviewing committee. Thankfully, Mr. Razo agreed to remain as principal for the rest of the year. But why, and what is his plan now?
“It was an easy ‘yes,’” Razo commented on becoming interim principal, “I really enjoy the Santa Barbara High School community, its alumni (and) its families that have come to own the term ‘Once a Don, Always a Don.’ There’s something really soulful about that.” He said that he especially likes SBHS for our “personal ownership” of the school, or our school spirit. It “makes it a real special place to work.” Razo feels that it has been good to be back, saying “if you really enjoy what you’re doing, it’s not work.”
Now that Razo is principal for the remainder of the year, he’s had the opportunity to put more long-term plans into action. “We’re going to be looking at our test scores…and their association with either learning the subject matter or attendance.” SBHS has had below average test scores over the past few years, with U.S. News and World Report listing our mathematics proficiency at 37%, our reading proficiency at 62%, and our science proficiency at 39%. Razo wants to improve our test scores while also bringing attendance rates up. “Academics, performance, and attendance go hand in hand,” he said. “If you’re here every day, and you’re attending class on time, your outcomes are better.” Attendance and its relation to test scores is now going to be “a targeted effort…we have a level of truancy that’s unacceptable, and it’s going to be a great effort to address that.”
As Razo still plans on leaving next year when a replacement is found, he has some advice for the future principal. “You want to build a relationship with your teaching staff. If you have 90-95% of your people on board, you’re going to have a good school year.” He emphasized that being able to communicate efficiently was the most effective way to get things moving smoothly. “Then you can count on people to always step up and help out, because that is the key.” The “quiet heroes” who are always available to take a job or manage a classroom are essential, and those relationships are only formed in that kind of environment. “It’s like being on a winning team…it’s difficult to define, but you know when you get there.” In the meantime, Razo is already working to develop these relationships further, and keep the faculty and staff 100% on board. “I feel good about trying to get us there,” he said.