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CUSD Announces Appointments of New Principals at Aliso Niguel and San Clemente High Schools
Posted 5/7/15

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) maintains an unwavering commitment to the success of our students and to creating places of learning that are unparalleled. Building solid infrastructures, fostering engaging classroom instruction and supplying the necessary supports for maximum student achievement is the focus of our work. The success of our students necessitates that the District continually look inward to evaluate our structures and systems, to be certain they best serve the needs of our students and communities.

CUSD is excited to announce the assignment of Principal Chris Carter to lead San Clemente High School effective July 1, 2015. Principal Carter is a 20-year CUSD employee who has served as a teacher and as an assistant principal and principal at our middle and high schools. His successful leadership career is founded on building strong rapport with students, teachers, staff, parents and the community. He maximizes learning experiences for all students by developing and implementing sound operational systems that focus on strong instruction and classroom success. The Carters are a San Clemente family and Principal Carter is looking forward to serving the educational needs of his community.

“Both of my children have been fortunate to have Chris Carter as their principal at both Don Juan Middle School and Aliso Niguel High School,” said PTSA President Johanne Padilla. “He is an exceptional leader and a pleasure to work with and we have always been able to count on him listening to parents’ perspectives on issues. Chris believes in our community and he’s made meaningful connections with our students and families alike. I wish him the best of luck at San Clemente High School and know that his work ethic, leadership style and belief in putting students’ education first will serve them well.”

CUSD is equally excited to announce the assignment of Deni Christensen to lead Aliso Niguel High School as its principal. Christensen brings experienced and exceptional administrative leadership to her new position and she will continue the great work at Aliso Niguel. She has more than 20 years of experience as a high school teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal. She also served as CUSD’s Executive Director of Secondary Schools as well as Laguna Beach Unified School District’s Assistant Superintendent of Education. Her assignment as principal at Aliso Niguel High School will also be a homecoming for Christensen, who began her teaching career there in 1994 and whose daughter is presently a senior.

“Returning to Aliso Niguel High School as principal is an incredible opportunity and a dream come true,” said Christensen. “My roots in the community run deep and the school is an important part of my career as an educator. I am looking forward to returning and continuing the fine work of Chris Carter, his staff and the entire Wolverine community.”

“The CUSD community will have many opportunities in the coming weeks to meet these extraordinary leaders who will help steward our students’ success,” said Superintendent Kirsten Vital. “The Board of Trustees, as well as myself and our District leadership staff, are confident that Mr. Carter and Ms. Christensen’s previous successes, in addition to both of them being parents and community members of the District, will provide for a seamless transition in leadership.”  

The decision was made by the Superintendent and Board of Trustees that current San Clemente High School principal, Michael Halt, would be non-reelected for the 2015-2016 school year. The District has rigorous standards for principals and other administrators as well as a fair and relevant system for evaluating their performance.  Principals or administrators who are not meeting the District's rigorous standards are provided assistance to improve their performance. Support includes personal meetings with evaluators, remediation plans and other professional counseling regarding how to meet standards. The District does not take the decision to non-reelect administrators lightly. By law, probationary certificated employees are required to receive notice of their non-reelection by March 15 of their second complete, consecutive school year. Due to the privacy interests of employees, we are unable to comment further regarding specific employees.

Change is a natural part of moving a system to the next level and essential when ensuring the futures of our students. Carter and Christensen bring many years of leadership experience to their new assignments and they look forward to getting to know their new schools and meeting with their students, staff and communities in the coming weeks. During this transitional period, Carter will continue as principal of Aliso Niguel High School and Christensen will serve as Interim Principal at San Clemente High School.