When Superintendant Janice Adams was talking to California High School staff and parents regarding incoming Benicia High School principal Damon Wright she heard two themes over and over: No one can out work the man and he relates well to students, teachers and parents.
Wright, who grew up in a Navy family and graduated from high school in San Diego, may be the youngest principal Benicia High has ever had and according to Assistant Superintendant Michael Gardner, “certainly the youngest in the past 20 years.”
“Age wasn’t a factor in the decision to hire him,” said Adams. “It was his passion for education and I was looking for someone who was willing to commit to being in Benicia for a long time.”
Wright is aware of the morale problems with the staff at the high school related to the high rate of turnover at the principal position.
“Change is difficult and a large amount of turnover in a short time can be challenging for a staff and a community,” said Wright. “I’m hoping to make a long term commitment to Benicia. I live right in American Canyon and I’ve been interested in Benicia Unified for several years now. It is my goal to stay here for some years and really become a staple within the community.”
Wright agrees with Adams that age isn’t an issue. “I am 38 now and I’ll be 39 on July 3,” said Wright. “I don’t think it’s a factor. I have a lot of experience not only in education, but in law enforcement and mental health.”
“I was a probation officer in San Diego for two-and-a-half years while I was getting my masters degree in education,” said Wright.
Wright is looking forward to working with the staff and the community. He believes his experience coupled with the “talents we already have in place in the district and on the campus” will mean a smooth transition.
Wright has spent the majority of his career as a counselor and school psychologist and the past three years as an assistant principal at California High School but he doesn’t see his lack of experience as a classroom teacher as a problem.
“I know what good teaching and learning looks like,” said Wright. “I never taught, however I’ve done a lot of classroom observations, professional development and I’ve been able to work with teachers for the last three years as an assistant principal and also guide them into better instruction to ultimately improve student outcomes.”
The job in Benicia means a better work life balance for Wright who will have a much shorter work commute. “My family will love me for that,” said Wright. “As much as I love San Ramon and California High School – it was very hard for me to apply to an outside district – I think I’m in a good situation here in Benicia. I can involve my family in the community and the events that take place at school just because of the proximity of Benicia and American Canyon.”
“I think we can do some great things in Benicia,” said Wright. “Benicia is already doing some great things and my goal is to continue the tradition of excellence and just keep moving in an upward direction.”
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