RUHS 4 under 40 again

Principal Nicole Wesley (left) and her administrative team of Jens Brandt, Anthony Bridi and Lindsey Corcoran bring a youthful enthusiasm to Redondo Union High School that matches their students’ energy.

The stars have aligned in the Redondo Union High School administration office, or so to speak, Principal Nicole Wesley jokingly said Monday morning about her team of four, who are all under 40 years old.

When the administration team of the 2,607 pupil school gets together, there is no denying they execute a dynamic energy. Wesley explains they all have at least one thing in common: each is an upbeat, progressive overachiever. The team of Wesley and assistant principals Jens Brandt, Anthony Bridi and Lindsey Corcoran, has helped the school make its mark on the educational map.

“Redondo Union has become a destination school,” said Wesley, who is 38. “Our student population has been increasing by approximately 100 students annually for the past three or four years. So many people have moved to Redondo Beach just so their children can go to school here. This year, we were unable to offer any out-of-district permits. We’re at capacity.”

She said in the past four years she and staff have worked to reach out to Hermosa Valley School because those students graduating from eighth grade can choose to go to Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach or to RUHS. Four years ago, only about five freshmen had come from Hermosa Valley. Each year that number has been on the rise. For the 2014-15 school year, approximately 30 percent of the Hermosa Valley eighth-graders chose to attend RUHS.

Wesley points to the strides toward excellence that RUHS has made and the laundry list of achievements the school has earned during the past four years. She attributes the school’s success rate to her administration team and school staff.

Wesley is proud that RUHS was ranked 360 of out 735 on the Newsweek’s “American’s Best High Schools” of 2014. And U.S. News & World Report ranked RUHS 170 out of 415 in California and 838 out of 4,707 nationally on its Nations Best Public High Schools list.

“We’ve made a strong push to enhance our existing programs, offer more Advanced Placement courses, increase the passing rate in those courses and to create an educational community that has something to offer everyone,” Wesley said. “We have a ‘why not’ attitude to trying new things and creating learning opportunities for each of our students. We are excited; the teachers are excited and that makes the students excited. If there is a student interest in a program that we don’t have, we’ll create it.”

Bridi, 36, chimed in saying the energetic, progressive attitude that each of them shares comes from the top and trickles down.

“The district and Superintendent (Steve) Keller are not afraid to take risks, that is why I believe we have such a young ambitious administrative staff here at Redondo Union. Keller doesn’t care about how old or young someone is, he seeks out people with potential and grooms them,” he said.

Brandt, 39, agrees. He also attributes the administrative team’s high energy to the positive and engaging attitude in which they all embody.

“We’re all in our 30s and that comes with a certain level of energy. We engage with the staff and students. We relate well with the students and have created a culture here where the students feel they can come to us when they are faced with a challenge,” Jens said. “We are always actively involved in whatever is going on, from playing dodgeball with the students to going to the sporting events and student activities.”

Corcoran, who is 32, says the teachers at RUHS share the administrators’ level of enthusiasm. She said the district’s culture allows them to use their own creativity in the classrooms and encourages them to take risks that will enhance the learning process for the students. In the past four years RUHS has added 19 new courses.

“Being able to give the teachers the ability to create their own curriculum and to try something new gets them excited about the educational process. This in turn gives our students the opportunities and interests in challenging themselves to take new courses and explore their interests,” she said.

As evidence, Corcoran points to the spike in requests for newly added courses such as multicultural literature. During the course’s first year, there were 105 student requests for it and this year that number jumped to 500.

“It is so exciting to see the students get excited about a higher level subject and it’s fun to see the interest ignite and catch on like fire among them,” she said.

Brandt said the district embracing technology is another source of both pride and excitement at RUHS. By the end of this week 2,600 RUHS students will have Google Chromebooks in their hands.

“This is a very exciting time to be here at RUHS. The introduction of the new technology will enable our teachers to be even more creative with different types of software and having students learn to turn in assignments in a new way. I am looking forward to seeing the Chromebooks implemented,” Jens said.

Wesley said the 2014-15 school year is a crucial one. It is an accreditation year for RUHS.

“We will be evaluated this year. We are working to create sustaining programs that will continue to grow and enhance after we leave,” Wesley said. “A lot has come aligned here at Redondo Union and the vision is for us as an educational community to continue along this progressive path. If our student numbers continue to grow, that’s going to be a problem, but that is a good problem to have.”

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