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Meet Fallon Middle School’s New Principal Sheryl Sweeney

July 5, 2013
Fallon Principal Sheryl Sweeney

Fallon Principal Sheryl Sweeney

While the commencement of the 2013/14 academic school year is still eight weeks away, there was activity on the Fallon Middle School campus on a quiet and very hot day. The newest member of the Dublin Unified School District staff was busy unpacking boxes and turning her workspace into an office. Her name is Sheryl Sweeney and she is the new Principal at Fallon. recently had the opportunity to sit down with Sheri (this is what she prefers to go by) to discuss her background and to gain insight into her approach to leading a middle school. During Superintendent Dr. Hanke’s tenure, a point of emphasis has been for the District to attract the best and brightest employees – be it Certificated/Classified staff or in Leadership. The discussion with Sheri was an eye-opener, both in terms of her experiences and principles.

Even as a young girl growing up in Oklahoma, Ms. Sweeney had a passion for learning – one that might someday translate into a teaching career. She attained a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology from the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. While some of her peers pursued larger institutions, she was attracted to the smaller campus size and the opportunity to gain more one-on-one exposure with her professors. Subsequently, she gained admittance to Yale University where she earned her Juris Doctorate at Yale Law School. This was an amazing period of growth for her as she ended up being a Rhodes Scholar finalist. Her love of the law blossomed and it was a period of time where she could explore new ideas, expand her critical thinking skills and to examine social policy concepts.

However, the “candy store” of being in academia needed to make way for a professional path. She practiced corporate law for several years in Houston and also supported a housing development program for the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast. After marrying her husband, Mark in 1993, they moved to the Bay Area. After earning a teaching credential from Chapman University, she taught for several years in middle schools. Upon starting a family, she took a break and was an active parent, joining PTA’s and School Site Councils.

Five years ago, Sheri returned as a teacher to the classroom. Never quenching her thirst for knowledge, she also managed to complete a Masters in Educational Leadership from Brandman University. For the past three years, Sheri has functioned as an Instructional Program Specialist – essentially a “coach” for classroom teachers at Oak Grove Middle School in Concord. Sheri applied for the Fallon opportunity, interviewed twice and was appointed at the June 25th Board of Trustees meeting. For the last three years, DUSD has embraced the concept of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) in order to advance learning and to create a more collegiate atmosphere. Do you have experience with PLC?

Sheri Sweeney: “As a matter of fact, yes. It was our Principal at Oak Grove that was ahead of the curve on this concept and enacted it before the District did. Oak Grove is a “high needs” school that is populated with a significant percentage of English Language Learners and Socio-Economical Disadvantaged students. Particularly in this information age, it is not reasonable to think that teachers know how to do everything. So much value is found in the assessment of data. Teachers actually have a collective responsibility to all students. The way to achieve this is to work together – to share strategies with each other. Together, we are stronger.” The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) was formalized into law this week by Governor Brown. Though some of its initial language was watered down, the early analysis is that DUSD would be one of the “losers” in the program based upon fewer English Language Learners in our District, thus lower funding. What are your thoughts?

Sweeney: “I am optimistic that it will work out for Dublin. What I’ve learned is that it is not always about the level of funding, but how resources are actually allocated. I’m confident that our board will utilize a clear focus in managing the funds that we receive. While the funding levels are not the same as 2008, they will be higher than they have been in recent years.” While there has been a great history of family/parental support in Dublin, some of our school sites have experienced a drop off in volunteer activity. Some of this could be attributed to the economy as some spouses return to the workforce. What is your take on this development?

Sweeney: “As an avid parent volunteer, I recognize that it is more critical than ever to support our respective schools through volunteering. As a former School Site Council leader, there is great value in becoming active in the academic discussion and to understand your school’s goals. Beyond that, I know that parents know and understand their children the best. Why not enhance their experience during these years?” How do you plan to put your imprint on Fallon MS and for the students that you will serve?

Sweeney: “I’m pleased to be here and I’m ready to make a positive difference. My teaching career has been largely devoted to 6th -8th graders. While I can understand the importance of shepherding our young ones through elementary school and the vitality of focusing in on graduation requirements and beyond in high school, middle school is sometimes overlooked or thought upon as an “after thought.” I would beg to differ. Physiologically, these students are changing. At the same time, they need to reinforce the disciplines that will help them to succeed at the next level.” would like to congratulate Sheri Sweeney on her new position. As she has demonstrated with her devotion to life-long learning, the students and families at Fallon Middle School have landed an impressive role model for what success looks like in the 21st century.

Sheri and her husband, Mark, reside in Moraga. Their children, Sarah and Eric will be 11th and 9th graders, respectively, at Campolindo High School in the fall.

Fallon Middle School Dublin California

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