Oak Valley meets its new principal
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Oak Valley Middle School’s new principal, Casey Currigan, says working with pre-teen and early teen students is appropriate since he relates to their personalities.
“I absolutely love hanging out with middle school kids,” Currigan said. “They have enthusiasm and energy, love to learn and are inspiring in what they can do, which are absolutely amazing things.
“They act exactly like I do,” he jokingly added. “I’ve been working for 16 years in middle schools and I get them. …. I understand how they think. They are goofy, fun to be around, like to laugh and learn. That is how I am.”
The Colorado native did not plan for a career in education. After serving four years in the Marine Corps, which included tours in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, Currigan earned his bachelor’s degree in biology at San Diego State University.
His post-military career started in the private sector, working in the pharmaceutical industry — one Currigan called “pretty uninspiring.” While working on his master’s degree he had an opportunity to teach a graduate lab, which led to a new career.
“I found I had a knack (for teaching) and loved it,” he said. “So I switched my master’s (program) and picked up a teaching credential.”
Currigan earned his master’s degree in educational technology at National University and later an administrative credential at SDSU.
For seven years he taught eighth-grade science at Marston Middle School in the San Diego Unified School District. He left the classroom, in part, because of his desire to help more students.
“If I could help 180 in my classes, I could inspire and encourage larger groups by working in administration,” he said.
He became dean of students at Marston and in 2006 was hired by Poway Unified to be assistant principal at Black Mountain Middle School. In the past six years Currigan said he oversaw the school’s remodel, the school was recognized as an Advancement Via Individual Determination National Demonstration Site and its Academic Performance Index scores increased by more than 40 points.
Currigan said his primary goal at Oak Valley is to build a relationship between its students, parents and staff. He also wants to do preliminary transition work toward Common Core State Standards, a teaching style that will be implemented nationally in two years. He said it sets a standard for K-12 schools in the U.S. that moves away from students being taught to memorize facts to students being taught how to be critical thinkers, work in collaboration and be better communicators.
“Kids need these skills in the U.S. to be competitive,” Currigan said.
He called this revolution in teaching “very exciting” and said students will gain “21st century skills.”
Helping him with this endeavor will be Oak Valley’s new administrative team — Assistant Principal Beth Perisic, who transferred from Poway High; Counselor Jocbethem Tahapary, who comes from Del Norte High; and returning Oak Valley Counselor David Harris.
Currigan said he enjoys working in PUSD because all involved are dedicated to providing students with “the very best education possible. … That singular focus is amazing to me. It’s a positive place to work.”
As for what he wants others to know, Currigan said, “Every decision we make needs to be founded on what is best for the kids.”
When not in school, Currigan said he enjoys spending time with his wife, Deanne; their daughters, Zoe and Phoebe; and participating in hobbies including bicycling, surfing and photography. His office decorations include his landscape photos and SDSU Aztec items.
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