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Dublin High School Principal Maureen Byrne Reflects on her First Year at the Helm

June 16, 2017

DUBLIN, CA–The Rotary Club of Dublin hosts weekly meetings on Tuesdays. The most recent guest speaker was Maureen Byrne, Principal at Dublin High School. As an Assistant Principal for many years, she was elevated to the position of Principal in 2016 upon the retirement of Carol Shimizu.


At the Rotary meeting, Ms. Byrne’s presentation was a focused look at how the now three-year old Freshman Mentoring Program (FMP) at Dublin High School is faring. This concept was modeled after several members of the District staff made visits to Stevenson High School in the Chicagoland area. This is a high school with an enrollment in excess of 4,000 students. The reason why this institution has been hailed is two-fold: as a public school, the leadership of Stevenson had made a concerted effort to reduce the number of “D’s” and “F’s” attained by a portion of their students. One of the vehicles that provided this opportunity was a dedicated period throughout the day to prepare freshmen students with a mentoring program that directed their focus on how to successfully navigate high school. Further, this period could also be utilized to provide subject-specific tutoring to help ensure that student success goals could be clearly identified and achieved. While the overall program continues to be refined, it is clear that it is making a positive impact.

We sat down with Principal Bryne and to reflect on the significance of this past year. Describe your tenure at Dublin High School and evaluate your first year as Principal.

Maureen Byrne: “This was my 13th year at DHS. I was Assistant Principal for the previous 12 years, which did a lot to prepare me. I know the culture. I have relationships with the students, staff and community. I love the school and the stakeholders. I knew the transition would be hard work but I have been working hard since I started. So, I think I was as prepared as I could have been. That said, I do not think anything quite prepares you. While the volume of work may not have changed the type of work that I did, I am not used to being in the center stage so that was a hard adjustment. I prefer to be a behind the scenes person but this job asks for a different skill set. It is both challenging and exciting to have to learn those skills. The emotional aspect and responsibility to be the site head for the students, staff and community was harder than anticipated and I am still learning that.

“I think this year had a number of wins and losses. The losses have been centered around my learning curve in having difficult conversations in a way that allows all parties to feel heard and understood, even if they are not happy with the answer. I think timing and communication also can be improved. Having lived through a year, my admin team and I spent time last week calendaring out different reminders. In the win column are: our Gold Ribbon declaration, the continued positive feedback regarding the GAEL period and of course the energy and character of our students. We continue to have a special and unique school while we grow. This says a lot about our staff and their commitment and dedication. It also speaks to our students and parental support.” Your presentation to the Rotary Club largely centered upon the Freshman Mentoring Program (FMP). You demonstrated how the program has evolved in three short years. How do you project how the program will further evolve as the student population increases over the next few years?

Byrne: “I see the Freshman Mentoring Program as our primary structure for training students to be GAELs. As we grow, this becomes more and more critical. We want to have a common message that students receive not only about rules expectations but the social emotional/ connection as well. Key to this program is training of our mentors and the monitoring piece. Jennifer Angel-Diaz, our teacher in charge of FMP, has done amazing work with this and she is constantly improving upon the program.” Please specify how portable classrooms that are being currently installed will help to alleviate the enrollment increase at DHS in the upcoming year.

Byrne: “We have 13 new portables in the back of our school being outfitted to be first day ready. This will be more than enough to address the growth for next year. We will receive 12 more portables the following summer. In deciding which classes to move to the portable, we concentrated on groups of teachers who teach primarily upperclassmen. Our juniors and seniors can navigate the campus with ease and this was a factor in deciding. We want to put a fun spin on the portables, and will be finding names for our ‘back campus’.” While the last school calendar year just concluded, 2017-18 will be upon us shortly. What message would you like to share with your leadership, certificated and classified staff as we prepare for the next school year?

Byrne: “As an admin team, we live the growth mindset. We do this because we love the challenge and the learning that occurs. We want to improve every year and are grateful for the opportunity to have a new year before us. I know there is a good amount of uncertainty about the future, in terms of growth and other aspects and I do believe that as a community we are going to figure this out. We have intelligent creative minds that put kids first and seek solutions and are not afraid to work hard for students. That is what you need.” There have been staff changes – particularly in the performing arts. However, it would seem that we have capable replacements that are eager to get started. Care to comment on some of these folks?

Byrne: “We are so grateful for Band Director Paul Evert’s years of service. He grew the program and leaves it in a good place as he moves on. Due in part to his success, we attracted a number of qualified candidates from all over the country. The interview process consisted in a screening, an interview and in a sample lesson. We chose Melissa Williams, from New York City as our new director. Melissa is a successful, experienced director, an excellent musician and a strong teacher. I think the kids are going to love her.

“We followed a similar process for our Choir Director. Allie Lopiano had made a powerful impact on our students and helped them grow in their craft and we feel our new ​Director, Adam Serpa will bring a sense of expertise, experience and excellence. Melissa and Adam join a great department with Kat DeLapp, Sharlene Sabonis and Michael D’Ambrosio. We are going to see great things from them all.” Anything else that you would like to add?

Byrne: “I know in the upcoming year there is a concern with overcrowding, yet that is not the reality we experience. The campus, in large part I think due to the schedule, has a calm feel to it and our students are doing great. I will be having Quarterly Principal’s Coffees​ and invite the community to come and ask questions and see us in action. One of our biggest issues is of course, traffic. We want to help shift the mindset that in order to help the problem, carpooling and using public transportation will help. I am getting a letter out to families next week with a few changes to our parking permit program. The biggest change is we are going to have Carpool Parking Spots. This will give priority and incentive for students to bring two other students with them in the morning. If we work together, we can help the traffic challenge.

“Finally, I love feedback. I try to have the mindset that all data gives information and I try to use feedback to grow as a leader and as a school. I welcome comments, even if they are not positive.”

Based upon her presentation to the Dublin Rotary and our recent interview, the immediate future of Dublin High School appears to be in steady hands. The challenge of enrollment growth and where to house these incoming high school students will exist as an “evergreen” issue. But for those that will continue to matriculate through and for those that will enroll as incoming freshman in August, Dublin High School will continue to foster a positive environment and one that is built upon student success. would like to thank Principal Maureen Byrne for sharing her thoughts for this profile. As is stated on the school marquee, “Enjoy a fun and safe summer.”


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