Vista principal takes promotion, bids goodbye

The Claremont Unified School District has announced that Dave Stewart is leaving his post as principal of Vista del Valle Elementary School.

Mr. Stewart has accepted a new job as executive director of professional development for the Capistrano school district, according to Kevin Ward, CUSD’s assistant superintendent of human services.

“Of course we hate to lose him, but we’re happy for him. It’s really an outstanding opportunity,” Mr. Ward said. “With his emphasis in AVID and teacher training, it’s a great fit for him.” 

Mr. Stewart has been at the helm of Vista since the 2011-2012 school year. His tenure, though short, has been a galvanizing force at the school. For instance, he has gotten students active in Project Champion, a running club formed with the help of two-time Olympic medalist Bryan Clay.

The project, for which both Vista and Oakmont have served as pilot sites, involves students working towards walking, jogging or running 100 miles by the end of the year, while learning about the traits that define a true champion. Students who reach the 25-mile mark get a Project Champion T-shirt and bronze, silver and gold medals for making it to 50, 75 and 100 miles.

Mr. Stewart and his wife Stacey Stewart, who is principal at Oakmont Elementary School, were also the first site administrators in the CUSD to embrace the arrival of the AVID college-readiness program at the elementary school level.

In 2013, Vista Vikings and Oakmont Owls in fourth through sixth grades embarked on the AVID curriculum. During the 2014-2015 school year, third graders at the school were introduced to AVID. The plan has been for Vista and Oakmont’s second graders to become part of AVID in the fall. It is yet to be seen whether the administrative change-up will impact that plan.

AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination and is a program dedicated to closing the achievement gap. It’s a support curriculum covering everything from career planning to college shopping and from note-taking to organizational skills.

Despite her husband’s departure from the district, Mr. Ward said there is no indication that Ms. Stewart will leave her position at Oakmont.

Mr. Ward posted the job opening for principal of Vista on Friday, June 26, the day after Mr. Stewart gave notice, and will continue to take applications through July 17. He says a number of promising candidates have already applied.

“You’ve always got interest in Claremont,” he said. “We’ve got a reputation that pays off.”

While he wades through applications, Mr. Ward will be looking for candidates possessing characteristics CUSD stakeholders deem important. Parents are invited to paint a picture of their ideal principal at a meeting set for Thursday, July 9 at 7 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room of Vista del Valle, 550 Vista Drive in Claremont. Vista staffers will be meeting at the school on July 7 to share their opinions on the new hire.

On the Vista website, Mr. Stewart has posted a letter telling the school community that he has decided “after much thought and prayer” to accept the new position.

“As I think about what it is that I have left behind at Vista, I hope that it is similar to what I have received from you,” he wrote. “There have been few times in my life where I have been surrounded by a school family that were able to push me to achieve more from myself that I ever thought possible. I hope that I have been able to be that person for you—been able to help you to see, do, and achieve even more than you believed possible.”  

Mr. Stewart leaves behind fond memories of his colleagues at Vista, and of the students he has watched learn and grow.

 “All of our students at Vista have shown they are destined for greatness, and I look forward to hearing about your continued success,” he concluded.  “?Thank you for believing in me as your principal. ?I will miss you all greatly.”

—Sarah Torribio


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