As of this fall, former assistant principal Kim Diorio replaced Phil Winston as Principal of Palo Alto High School. Verde got a chance to interview her about her life before Paly, during Paly, and even outside of Paly. Here’s what she had to say:
WHAT DO YOU DO AS PRINCIPAL?
“Essentially, instructional leader, coach, teacher, counselor, mentor, budget developer, construction planner, spokesperson, figure head, goal-setter, and “Mom-in-Chief” to the 1940 students, their parents, the 200 staff members and the Paly community at large.”
WHAT ARE SOME SKILLS UNIQUE TO YOU THAT YOU CAN APPLY AS A PRINCIPAL?
“My counseling background from Gunn makes me uniquely qualified as a principal. I can see the values and the good in people. … It [counseling] helps me see everything in a unconditional, positive regard.
Every person is a good person. It’s not always easy to keep this point of view, but for every person that comes through the door, every counselor just needs to think, ‘How can I help them?’”
WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
“I’m empathetic, a good listener, goal-orientated, organized, tech-savvy, self-aware, caring and most importantly, passionate about student learning and the future of education. Weaknesses – I’m working on being more responsive with email.
The volume I receive makes it a challenge to keep up given I’m in classrooms or meetings throughout the day, so this is a growth area for me. This job requires you to be an extrovert, but I definitely have an introverted side. I’m not as out-going as Mr. Winston…but I’m trying to get better at saying hi and being the one who initiates friendly conversation with people I don’t know. Deep down, I’m a little shy.”
WHAT ARE SOME GOALS FOR THIS YEAR?
“Looking at school culture and school climate, I want to create a physical and emotional safe space, [to] focus on preventing bullying and harassment by reaching out to students. I also want to be approachable to students. My goals is to also enforce the 3Cs – Connected, Capable, and Counting, as in every student counts. … I’m more about letting people know that I care and letting them know they have a voice. … I try to make decisions in the best interest of students. I’m here to make the right decision. It might not be the most popular decision, but definitely the right decision.”
DID YOU EVER SET OUT TO BE A PRINCIPAL?
“I didn’t wake up one morning and decide that I wanted to be a high school principal, but it’s something that I found out I loved to do. I knew I wanted to work at a public school. My father was an administrator [at public schools] for 33 years so I grew up in that mindset. I loved kids and I wanted to work with teenagers. A public school has a lot of diversity and I wanted to help people.”
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY SO FAR?
“My favorite memory was when I made the speech to the staff on Aug. 14. I got a standing ovation, which was really nice. It was great knowing that the staff had my back.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF PALY?
“Because I’ve got young kids, most of my free time is spent with family. Going to the park, reading and playing games, puzzles, watching Star Wars, Pixar movies, Yo Gabba Gabba, Bubble Guppies, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, listening to the Beatles, and just spending time at home is what I do when not at Paly. I’m also currently enrolled in a doctoral program with Fielding Graduate University. I’m on track to receive my Ed.D. In Educational Leadership and Change in April 2015. My dissertation is still evolving but I’m currently researching women in leadership roles in education, specifically, how can we encourage and support women to take on more leadership opportunities.”