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Valley High School Welcomes New Principal Thomas Orput, Thanksgiving Food Drive

November 25, 2014
Valley High School Principal Thomas Orput

Valley High School Principal Thomas Orput

DUBLIN, CA: While the Dublin Unified School District moves into a “quiet” week for the Thanksgiving holiday, it was a very busy week on the campus of Valley High School. Not only do they have a new Principal, but the community banded together to provide some families a happier Thanksgiving Day celebration. Earlier this summer, long time VHS Principal Rinda Bartley, accepted the position of Director of Student Services in the Castro Valley Unified School District. Ms. Bartley was also responsible for running the Adult Education at the locale adjacent to VHS. It was an unexpected departure and the district was left to fulfill a critical position in relatively short order. The process went into motion and the interviewed candidates were winnowed down to the finalists. In the end, the district and the Board of Trustees advanced with a nomination for Mr. Thomas Orput. Mr. Orput commenced his position a week ago and was graced with the opportunity to meet him.

Thomas has an interesting and varied background. After a successful career in the United States Coast Guard, he took advantage of the “Troops to Teachers” program which provided a path for veterans to continue their lives in the educational field. It was also a mechanism for him to achieve multiple college degrees. We asked Mr. Orput to share his journey and to help us understand how he ultimately secured his position as Valley High School Principal. He comes to Dublin from the Newark Unified School District. You had mentioned the “Troops to Teachers” program upon exiting the armed forces. Please detail how the existence of this avenue motivated you to pursue a path in education.

Thomas Orput: “My active duty service in the Coast Guard unknowingly prepared me for my service in the California public schools. Throughout my Coast Guard career I developed curriculum, assessed the efficacy of training programs and was a full time instructor. After I completed basic training in Alameda, California, I attended Gunnersmate School in Governors Island, New York and was then transferred to the Coast Guard Cutter WESTWIND (WAGB-281) home-ported in Milwaukee where I was a navigator, rescue swimmer, law enforcement trainer and small arms instructor.

“My journeys on this cutter took me to Guantanamo Bay Cuba for naval refresher training, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for a humanitarian aid mission, throughout the Great Lakes and to Arctic East 1981 where we provided relief to the Air Force Base in Thule Greenland as well as a host of scientific research on the climate change 200 miles from the North Pole. I was then transferred from Milwaukee to the Ninth Coast Guard District Command in Cleveland, Ohio, where I served as law enforcement and small arms instructor as well as running a weapons repair facility supporting all of the tactical law enforcement missions and training for the entire Great Lakes region.

“My college plans were altered when I re-enlisted and accepted orders to the Coast Guard Base Sand Island in Honolulu, Hawaii. I served one tour of duty in the Operational Readiness Branch of the Fourteenth Coast Guard District where I provided law enforcement boarding officer and small arms training throughout the Hawaiian Islands, Samoa and Guam. I was then transferred to a buoy tender named the Coast Guard Cutter SASSAFRAS (WLB-401) home-ported in Honolulu Hawaii. On the SASSAFRAS I served as a law enforcement instructor, boarding officer, small arms instructor, boom operator, navigator and boat coxswain. This tour of duty provided me with another rich opportunity to work on multifaceted missions, in a diverse working group throughout the pacific islands. On the SASSAFRAS I made three month long trips to Samoa, Western Samoa, Tonga and Tahiti as well as a host of smaller island nations repairing ocean buoys, conducting fisheries boardings, building water catchment projects in hurricane devastated areas and other humanitarian infrastructure projects.

“After various other deployments, I spent 10 years on the Chief Petty Officer’s list for promotion due to a lack of retirements and a reduction in force, I chose an early retirement. My pay grade, GM1, was offered and accepted an early retirement with full benefits as a “reduction in force” remedy to the lack of promotion problems. I was accepted into the Troops to Teachers Scholarship Program designed to help transitioning military personnel make the change to classroom teacher. I graduated with an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Columbia College of Missouri and a bachelor’s of science degree in liberal studies from Excelsior College, in Albany New York. Through my Troops-to-Teacher’s scholarship, I was accepted into the Teacher Credential Program at California State University East Bay where I earned a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential.

“Through the support of the United States Armed Forces, I earned two college degrees and teaching credential while working full time during the day and attending school in the evenings, whenever I was stationed on land, over a ten year period. My training, service, experience and education are certainly non-traditional and, some would even say, an “alternative path” to becoming a school teacher and later a school administrator.” Your current position is two-fold – serving as Principal for a continuation high school and running an Adult Education program. Please share how your previous experiences will provide you with an advantage as you move forward.

Orput: “My journey to becoming the Principal at Valley High School and Dublin Adult School is, I feel, a very unique pathway. I began teaching middle school at Carter Middle School in Oakland California which was a 90, 90, 90 school. The school population was 90% free or reduced lunch, 90% people of color and 90% below basic or far below basic in skills measured by standardized testing. Teaching at Carter with at-risk, inner city kids showed me the meaning of challenge and reward. It was at Carter that I committed to preparing kids for college and career by teaching writing to mastery. Write, edit, rewrite until perfect. I accomplished this through multi-media projects and web page design. I also fell in love with language arts and mathematics enrichment.

“I then moved across the bay to Roosevelt Middle school where I continued the classroom work I began in Oakland and added a whole women and men in technology work group where we, kids and staff, took teaching and learning to a whole new level. It was also at Roosevelt that I decided that, if I ever left the classroom, it would be to become the Director of Technology at a school district level.

“I accepted a job in South San Francisco at Alta Loma Middle School as the vice principal. I purchased a home in Oakland and moved back across the bay and took a position as the vice principal of Willard Middle School in Berkeley. It was there that, after four years as the middle school VP; I turned down a middle school principal position to be the vice principal at Berkeley Adult School. I saw the career technical education possibilities, the advanced technology networks for classroom instruction and the shear mas of serving 10,000 students a year in English and High school programs as well as developing the community education programs as an interesting challenge. Here, I could work with at-risk adults, some of whom I knew from middle school. It was here that I felt I could really make a difference in people’s lives and improve their economic opportunities.”

“Ultimately, I accepted a new position as principal or Alameda Adult School where I served for two years until that position was eliminated due to budget cuts when the District reorganized its resources and combined positions.

“I accepted a position in the Newark Unified School District as the principal of the MacGregor Alternative Learning Center consisting of four schools; Bridgepoint (continuation) High School, Crossroads (independent studies) High School, Newark Adult Education and the Transition to Adult Living and Learning program (18-22 year old, moderate to severe disabilities).

“I love alternative education because I know that not all kids or adults learn in traditional settings. I have a passion for serving kids and adults who are at-risk or, on occasion, reluctant or challenged learners. Perhaps my own alternative learning, alternative career path and vast experience with kids and adults in diverse educational environments has provided the skills I need to serve the same population of Dublin learners. Dublin is a destination district committed to all students. They walk the talk and have very high expectations for excellence. I love the challenge and the supportive environment in Dublin and feel it is here I can continue the work of helping all students achieve.” For many families, understanding what occurs at Valley High School remains somewhat of a mystery. Help our readers to unlock this “black box” and to truly understand what it means to work with these students and staff.

Orput: “Great question! I wish I could dispel some of the myths regarding alternative education – continuation schools in general.

“Think of Valley as a high school with the same academic rigor, the same high standards, the same technology rich environment and the same level of expectations and professionalism as a contemporary high school – we just do it in a different way. Since all kids at Valley High School share one common attribute; they are all credit deficient, there are some differences from a contemporary school. For example, the teachers can connect with each student. The school and classroom populations are smaller so all of our staff knows all of our learners. This creates a small learning community that can be uber supportive, caring, warm, understanding and accountable. The relatively small class sizes (less than 20), the first class, multi-media diversified instruction, the sense of belonging and community as well as clear expectations that are monitored very closely make us different.

“People are pleasantly surprised when they visit our school and see kids reading, writing and doing math at or above grade level. They see evidence of academic rigor and standards-based instruction in all our classrooms. They see achievement in a population of learners that has had to overcome barriers. I cry at each graduation I attend. I am especially moved when the graduating class is all alternative learners because their accomplishments are the result of a lot of work and investment from the entire learning community.” During our discussion, you had mentioned a “million reasons” why some students can fail in high school.  Please share your personal philosophy as to why we should not accept this.

Orput: “Because kids fail for countless reasons, we have to be professionals that are knowledgeable and empathetic to the needs of the credit deficient learner. Some kids moved frequently. Some kids had deaths in the family. Some kids had acute or chronic illnesses. Some kids experience poverty or joblessness in their families. Some kids may have had drug or alcohol issues with themselves or in the family. Some kids fell behind in school because of outside of class interests. Some kids made poor choices and fell behind. Some kids did not work to their potential. Some kids may have had a scrape with the criminal justice system. Some kids just had difficulties with the high population numbers of a contemporary high school. These examples are not in any way different than some of the learners in a contemporary high school. I hope that people don’t assume a child’s intelligence is related in any way to the school that they attend. That may be the “black box” of alternative education and the difference between what people think and what people know about students and learning.

“Dublin Unified School District believes all kids should have a first class education that prepares them for success in college or career technical education and we believe this might be accomplished by a choice in their learning environment if the traditional school doesn’t work. Valley is the place where dreams will be realized and students can graduate and contribute the community in a meaningful and positive way.” Since you have worked both in the classroom and as an administrator, what best practices do you plan to bring to DUSD based upon your previous experiences?

Orput: “I am excited to contribute my knowledge, skills, experiences and abilities to improve the learning environment at Valley High School and Dublin Adult School.

“I plan on continuing the outstanding work performed by my predecessor, Ms. Rinda Bartley. I plan on listening to the Dublin Board, Superintendent and his team, students, parents and staff so that I can better understand the Dublin vision and goals. I will foster and promote open and honest communication. I will assess the efficacy of the practices we use to further the vision and goals. I will look to maximize all resources that have a student benefit. I will be in classrooms each day so that I can support both the teaching and learning. I want to help kids and teachers work in concert to improve student cognitive development and teacher professional development.

“One area of expertise that I would like to apply at Valley High School and Dublin Adult School is the use of technology in learning. I believe that a 21st century learner must be able to use technology resources to both communicate effectively and to perform functions in college and the workplace. I will continue the writing to mastery across the curriculum where students demonstrate their ability to write to mastery in all domains.” Anything else that you would like to add?

Orput: “I want to thank all of the people who have gone out of their way to welcome me to Valley High school and Dublin Adult School.

“I have only been here one week and I was visited by the Superintendent, the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, the Assistant Superintendent of Educational services, the Director of Special Education, the Mayor of Dublin, numerous parents and community based partners and volunteers. This has been a welcoming of unparalleled comparisons. The staffs at both Valley High School and Dublin Adult School have accepted me into their home with welcoming open arms.

“I think I have won the educational lottery when the Board appointed me principal of Valley High School and Dublin Adult School. This is where I want to perform my vocation. This is where I believe my work can be done to the highest degree. Thank you Dublin Unified School District!”

Thanksgiving Dinner Donations

Thanksgiving Dinner Donations

While the school calendar cited that all activities would be quiet until reconvening on December 1st, there was still plenty of activity at the Valley High campus on Saturday. Despite a few raindrops, a small but mighty army of volunteers were present in the morning to hand out Thanksgiving food packages to those that would appreciate them. This effort was led by City Serve of the Tri-Valley and its coordinator, Gloria Gregory. The packages included a turkey, side dishes and a frozen dessert.

The program is called “Operation: Cranberry Sauce” and was initiated by the Crosswinds Church in Dublin 12 years ago. While based in Dublin, many of the families benefitting from the program have been residents in Livermore, Pleasanton and Oakland. Two years ago, City Serve joined forces with Crosswinds to increase awareness in Dublin. They anticipated providing or delivering up to 1,000 Thanksgiving meals to families in need.

The association of City Serve and Valley High School was sort of a natural progression based upon the relationship of the two entities. Last Thursday, the annual Thanksgiving lunch was conducted at VHS with the support of City Serve and the alternating Friday Breakfast Club has become a staple at the school site.

So, a highly productive week came to a close at Valley High School and it represented a bit of everything. It ushered in the new era of leadership in the form of Principal Thomas Orput. And, it also included the continuation of a Thanksgiving tradition that will hopefully brighten some family tables. would like to congratulate Tom Orput on his new appointment and to thank Ms. Gloria Gregory for her contributions to this story. We wish all of our readers a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Valley High School Thanksgiving Food Drive Volunteers

Valley High School Thanksgiving Food Drive Volunteers

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