Students at St. John Catholic School (SJCS) are getting a brand new principal and vice principal along with the start of a new school year.
Liz Guneratne, previous principal of SJCS, had accepted a position as interim assistant superintendent for the Diocese of Oakland School Department.
Into her place stepped previous Vice Principal Alyssia Schwartz. SJCS teacher Alli Perlin then took on the administrative role as vice principal.
San Lorenzo Patch spoke with the school's new administrators to learn a little about their past and see what they have planned for SJCS's future.
What are your backgrounds in teaching and school administration?
Alli Perlin: This year will be my eighth year in education. I spent the last seven years as a teacher. I taught third grade for five years and second grade for two years.
For the last three years I have been a level leader at St. John Catholic School. As a level leader, I got to see a bit of what it would be like to be an administrator and I loved it. When Mrs. Schwartz asked me to be vice principal, I jumped at the chance. This is my first year as an administrator and I am looking forward to the new challenge.
Alyssia Schwartz: I have been teaching in the Oakland Diocese for over 12 years. My degree is in kinesiology from Cal State East Bay, and I originally taught physical education at St. Barnabas School (now closed) in Alameda. I loved teaching P.E. so much!
An opportunity presented itself when the school (St. Barnabas) needed a fifth grade teacher. I was hired and taught fifth grade for three years, then went on to teach religion and social studies to junior high students.
While at St. Barnabas, I attended USF to earn my teaching credential. After teaching for eight years at St. Barnabas, I was hired at SJCS as the sixth grade homeroom teacher and eventually became the eigth grade homeroom teacher and vice principal.
How long have you both been working at SJCS prior to taking on your current positions?
Alli Perlin: Before becoming the vice principal I taught at SJCS for six years. I taught at another school for one year but had to come back to SJCS because I missed it so much. The following school year I came back.
Alyssia Schwartz: I have worked at SJCS for six years, two of thoseyears as the vice principal, and now I am going into my seventh year as principal.
Alyssia, aside from being the new Principal at SJCS, will you also teaching or doing other administrative duties? If so, how will you find time to balance everything?
Alyssia Schwartz: Because of the increased administrative responsibilities, I am no longer teaching in the classroom. However, as principal, it is still my responsibility to support the teachers with their curriculum and spiritual needs.
I am able to balance everything here at SJCS because of the faculty, staff, pastor, volunteers and administrative team. We are a team in every sense of the word.
We support each other, share ideas and have a great understanding of our mission which is to create an atmosphere where we live out our Catholic values, traditions and ideals in everything we do. This is seen every day in our classrooms and it is infused in our curriculum.
Alli, why did you decide to come to St. John’s Catholic School?
Alli Perlin: I came to St. John Catholic School right out of college. I knew that this was going to be a great place to work because everyone was so friendly and supportive.
As a new teacher fresh out of college you are very nervous and need a great support system, and I got that as soon as I stepped through the door. I was given the freedom to create my own classroom environment, hands-on lessons, and I got to implement and teach art any way I wanted.
What sets St. John's apart from other schools you've worked at in the past?
Alli Perlin: What sets SJCS apart from all the other schools is the kids and their families. They are truly amazing.
They are kind, considerate, helpful, funny, smart and talented. I have never had so many kids and parents say good morning to me each and every morning. Some kids even shout it across the parking lot. I am constantly being asked how my new baby boy is, and this makes me feel appreciated.
Alyssia Schwartz: We learn, pray and laugh every day at SJCS. Our students are eager to learn and have positive attitudes when it comes to learning. The families are also extremely supportive and work with us in forming the spiritual, academic and personal lives of their children. I love our students and their families! They are the lifeblood of our school.
The staff also makes this a great school. We work well together and have fun while doing so. Each and every staff member loves and appreciates the kids. There isn’t anything a teacher wouldn’t do to help a student at this school. You can see the love and dedication these teachers have for these children every single day.
What do you each hope to accomplish for SJCS this upcoming school year?
Alli Perlin: A teacher’s job is never done, so this year my goal is to be here to help the teachers. When a teacher has less on their plate and the load is a little lighter it makes it easier for them to focus on producing the very best, smartest and most well-rounded students that they possibly can.
I am looking forward to my new position. I feel like I have had so many ideas in the past seven years and now I have the chance to implement some of thesm. I hope my ideas will help make this wonderful school an even better place.
Alyssia Schwartz: After earning a full six-year accreditation from the Western Catholic Educational Association and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WCEA/WASC), my goal is to implement our school's action plan.
Our teachers have been diligently working on strengthening the curriculum through curriculum mapping and we are in the process of creating a junior high liturgical team to increase participation in the weekly celebration of Mass. I want to continue the many traditions brought to us by our founders, the Presentation Sisters, and start new traditions as well!