Today might be the last day of classes at , but for Matt Huxley and Anna Lazarini, now is no time to relax.
Huxley, the school’s principal for the past five years, is leaving to serve as executive director of Academy of Alameda, a one-year-old charter school in the East Bay.
Lazzarini, who has served as assistant principal since 2005, is stepping up to principal, hoping to maintain the school’s high academic standards and focus on each individual student despite an and a . She official takes over on July 1.
Lazzarini, 52, has been at the middle school since the fall of 1994, when she joined as a special education aide. Two years later, she began a nearly decade-long stint as a language arts and social studies teacher before becoming assistant principal. All three of her now-grown children spent time in the middle school during Lazzarini’s time there.
Lazzarini doesn’t anticipate any major changes, as she and Huxley are “both aligned philosophically in the strong belief of educating the whole child and making sure we’re addressing the needs of all children.”
She said the school had made great strides in recent years of focusing on social-emotional learning and helping sixth graders transition into the middle school. That happens through orientation programs and by creating a welcoming environment, she said.
The biggest challenge facing Lazzarini and her staff and teachers is an obvious one. The school is expected to grow by approximately 240 students over the next three years, an increase of 30 percent from its current 777 students. The school has already hired two new full-time teachers.
“We want to make sure we keep that small school feeling and maintain that strong connection with each kid even as we grow and grow,” she said. “The biggest priority is to grow gracefully.”
There are a variety of ways of making that happen, Lazzarini said, but one is by creating and encouraging a diverse array of extracurricular activities that allow kids to feel connected to their school beyond the academic.
She cited an example of a group of sixth grade boys advocating for the creation of a cooking club at school that ended up thriving this year. The club members capped the year by making a lunch for all of the school’s teachers late last month.
Huxley said he was a huge advocate for Lazzarini getting the nod as principal, citing her deep ties to the school and her desire to continually get better.
“She’s honest, hardworking and she’s reflective,” he said. “I think she’ll really work to get better.”
He said that despite the challenge of rising enrollment and the district’s budget shortfall, he feels like he’s leaving the school in a good place.
“I’ve had a really great experience here and I feel really good about where the school is right now,” Huxley said. “It’s in a really good place and it’s got a great culture. The measure of you as a leader is what happens when you leave and to me I feel like I’m leaving the school in a good place.”
Huxley, 50, became the middle school principal in 2006 after three years as an assistant principal at Berkeley High School. He was a history teacher at Drake High from 1995 to 2003.
Huxley, a resident of Oakland, is taking over Academy of Alameda, a long underperforming public middle school that was chartered last year.
“It’s exciting to be able to lead a school from the ground up,” he said. “There’s a ton of autonomy, and it’s a great challenge to turn into an underperforming school into a high performing school.”