New guy in charge at Rancho Bernardo High
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Rancho Bernardo High’s new principal has some shopping to do in order to add more blue to his wardrobe before classes start on Aug. 22.
For now, Dave LeMaster said some of his wardrobe’s prominent colors are green and gold, since he spent nine years at Poway High and is transferring from Westview High.
“I’m very excited to be part of this community,” LeMaster said. “Rancho Bernardo has a rich culture and been around for 20 years.”
LeMaster joined Poway Unified School District in 2002 as a Poway High teacher. There he taught reading recovery, English language development, U.S. history and world history. He was also the social sciences department chairman and “heavily involved with ASB activities,” he said.
While teaching he attended Cal State San Marcos to earn a Master of Arts in education administration. In 2006 he became an assistant principal at Poway High, remaining in the post for five years until transferring mid-year to Westview to help support its new administration.
LeMaster said he does not plan to make any immediate changes on the RB campus, instead opting to learn from the staff, parents and students what is important to them and identifying the school’s needs.
“I want to learn the culture, established vision and continue to move the school forward in a positive direction,” he said. “It’s important the kids feel safe, respected, valued and have access to the best possible education.”
Because of his background, LeMaster said he can especially empathize with students who are not interested in academics. For that reason, he will look to find what appeals to them.
“I believe no matter who you are you have the potential to learn and for success,” he said. “We need to find that starting point, to get them hooked on whatever their goals are and develop those goals with the students. If they feel good about doing their part … if they understand it is important for them to buy in (to education), they will move forward.”
Even if not immediately attending college after graduation, LeMaster said it is important for students to be college ready because skills they learn via that focus will help them in the military or vocational school. By taking at least one Advanced Placement class, for example, “they will see what college rigor looks like.”
He added, “Every student needs to be … prepared for post secondary success. … In today’s competitive world … they will not be considered (for jobs) without certain skill sets and abilities. So regardless (of their path) we need to prepare them for … that next step.”
LeMaster grew up in Los Angeles and later Big Bear, where his family moved when he was in high school. As a teen, LeMaster said academics were not high among his priorities.
“I remember when I graduated, saying to myself, ‘I’m done with school and never coming back,’” he said.
For several years he worked in the food service industry. Wanting to
become a restaurant manager, he
decided to take some classes at a community college near Redlands. Back in school “on my terms,” LeMaster said he enjoyed taking classes, especially in history, philosophy and literature. “All of a sudden I liked being in school. I liked learning just for fun.”
Following the two-year program, LeMaster and his wife, Angela, moved to San Luis Obispo so he could complete his Bachelor of Arts degree in history at Cal Poly. While there, his father-in-law — who was principal at San Luis Obispo High School — invited him to volunteer in the English language development class.
“What I enjoyed most was working with the students and seeing them get excited and become eager to learn,” he said. “I loved the energy and feel of being in a class, working with kids, and knew I wanted to teach.”
After earning a dual credential in history and English/reading, he taught reading recovery and English at Arroyo Grande High School. When LeMaster and his wife decided to relocate to San Diego, he said, “PUSD stood out to me as a high performing and outstanding district. People who I worked with had heard of Poway Unified and had nothing but positive things to say.”
Now that he has worked on the district’s east and west sides, describing them as “definitely different,” LeMaster said he looks forward to being at RB, not only the geographic center, but with a student body reflecting the middle as well. Having experience at Poway and Westview means RB and LeMaster are “a perfect fit,” he said.
“I’ve been on both sides, seen the needs of the two schools and bring those perspectives here,” he said. “I can understand where everyone is coming from.”
LeMaster said he, his wife of 16 years, and children, 12-year-old daughter Lauren and 9-year-old son Sean, along with golden retriever Sophie, enjoy spending time at the beach when not at their Rancho Penasquitos home. They also enjoy traveling, especially to Big Bear to visit his parents. As for hobbies, he said, “I love to grow plumeria, a tropical flower.”
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