Editor’s Note: This is the first of a five-part series on the Point Arena schools written by District Superintendent Warren Galletti. He returned to the District as Superintendent at a time when school staff turnover and absenteeism were unsustainably high, and, when student achievement rates were below state standards. We have asked him to introduce himself to our readers in this first column.
I’m back in Point Arena but I really never left.
Three of my four grandparents graduated from Point Arena schools. My great grandfather came from Lugano, Switzerland in the early 1900s and began the Galletti Ranch in Elk. His son, my grandfather, was one of three brothers who owned and operated the dairy ranch.
My mom’s family logged and farmed here. Both my parents were born and raised on the Coast, and both graduated from Point Arena High School (PAHS) in ‘63.
Back then, the students were mostly country kids and the vehicles in the school parking lot were mostly pickup trucks with racks full of fishing rods. The schools were very much the hub and entertainment center of the community, along with the bowling alley. My dad bowled every Thursday night. That’s what we did. The stands at the high school were packed for football and basketball games.
I was born in Manchester, attended Manchester Elementary, and lived on Creamery Lane until I was eight years old when my father received a promotion with Pacific Bell.
We moved to Ukiah for the school year and I went to high school there. In 1984, I made Student of the Year and Athlete of the Year. (It might have been “rigged” because I knew almost everybody and got along well with the teachers and staff.) But in the summers, I always came back to help out on my grandfather’s farm on the Coast. I loved the outdoors — all of it, even bucking hay, arms itching.
After graduation, I went to Mendocino College because I didn’t know what I wanted to do — forestry, fish and game, or education. I played baseball and basketball, and made the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. From Mendocino, I went to the University of San Francisco (USF), where I pitched and played shortstop, graduating with a degree in physical education.
As you can tell, sports have always been a big part of my life. I credit sports with teaching me the value of teamwork, how to get over disappointment, and how to work harder to win the next one.
As soon as I completed my BA degree at USF, I came back to the Coast to live with my grandparents on Curley Lane, work on the farm, substitute teach, and work construction.
I began coaching baseball at PAHS in ‘89, and basketball in ’90. During the first three years we didn’t win much, but we steadily improved and I currently have 351wins as basketball coach at PAHS.
I got my teaching credential at Dominican College in Ukiah on weekends and my first full-time teaching position was at PAHS in ’94 where I taught shop, geography, industrial math, physical ed, and coached basketball and baseball. I taught at PAHS seven years and added a health class as well. I became the Athletic Director, a position where you never heard anything, unless something went wrong!
The interim principal then was Jack Marlowe, a wonderful man. He told me to get my administrative credential. I respected him, and was really motivated to get it. I attended Sonoma State on Wednesday and Friday nights, and Saturday afternoons. There were some good classes – especially finance and law --and some were just “seat time”.
I completed my administrative credential in 2000, and became principal of Point Arena High School in 2001.
The school was challenging then. There had been three principals in three years. It was somewhat fragmented, and there wasn’t a lot of continuity. These times now are similar, but even more challenging.
My focus then, as it is now, was building a culture to support student success through transparency, strong community involvement, and setting and meeting goals for student achievement. We chose not to focus exclusively on test score goals. Instead, we looked at the student as a whole.
Our demographics weren’t then, and aren’t now, the same as Mendocino County’s as a whole. We’re a more diverse community, not so much in ethnicity, but socially and culturally. I’d like to say I do understand our community. As in sports, it’s important to know everyone who’s on your team.
During this time in the early 2000’s, the schools were operating successfully. Mark Iacuaniello was Superintendent. Communication between the two of us was great. I knew what he was thinking without either of us talking. He was a wonderful man. The culture of the school was positive. The kids could see how the teachers and administrative support people wanted to go to work!
Regrettably, Mark retired in 2010, and I resigned as principal in June 2013 because I didn’t feel I was making the difference I had once made.
I accepted the position of Director of Student Services at the District Level for Ukiah Unified School District. Later, I was approached by the Mendocino County Office of Education to run for Mendocino Superintendent of Schools, a position I kept until February 1, 2018.
I resigned to take the interim superintendent position in Point Arena.
I love our community, our schools, our students. I’ve spent most of my career in the schools here and most of my life on the Coast. My wife, Jennifer, and I and our children see this as a time to make a difference.
I stepped into an environment with little organizational trust. The climate here was fractured, maybe broken. With all of the turnover, there was a lack of trust. We needed to streamline communication, provide consistent answers, and give support to individuals who had earned it.
Since I left as Principal in 2013, PAHS has had 5 principals, two superintendents, and a top-down mentality in administration. The lack of communication had created a lack of trust in the stake holders.
But I can tell you change is now happening here. Teachers and students are in the classrooms, teaching and learning, bell to bell! Plus, we again have a PAHS football team, a Homecoming Dance, a Pep Band, and a school newspaper. Our Back to School Nights are well attended. Our lasts Native American Advisory Committee had 25 parents attend, which is a huge turnout.
The PAHS entire staff volunteered to go to New Technology High School in Napa for training and to learn more about NTN in a high school where it’s working well.
People are asking questions when they have concerns. They’re supplying ideas. People are coming to me, which is not always fun, but healthy! I feel a real sense of becoming a family. We’re working together collaboratively to achieve our goals.
As I said, I’m back but I never really left. I’m not always going to make perfect decisions. I’m not afraid to make mistakes. I always admit if something’s not working. The important thing is recognizing the mistake and fixing it.
My roots are here. I have a passion for this place. The PAHS gymnasium, that feels like a second home to me!