Published on Nov. 6,2019
New Director of Secondary Education
Renee Lama moves from West Contra County Unified District to SLZUSD.
By Crystal Yeung
Photo | David Ye
Renee Lama attending session regarding her new position as Director of Secondary Education.
Having been teaching in the district for eleven years, Principal James Gray feels as if his worries are reassured and his ideas are going to made possible due to the new Director of Secondary Education.
“I feel a peace, a calming,” Gray said.
Renee Lama takes up the position of Director of Secondary Education in the San Lorenzo Unified School District as of July first. Although, having been teaching for 22 years and was an administrator as a Director of Curriculum and Instruction in the West Contra County Unified District, Lama wanted to take on the position of administration she has always wanted as Jeanette Hernandez stepped down from her position to pursue teaching college, giving the baton the Lama.
Gray believes that although change is inevitable, it can be a good thing.
“[A positive effect of having a new Director of Secondary Education is] new ideas. New ways of thinking about things and solving problems, and new ways of creating systems. For instance, she’s put in a couple of things in a couple of places that will safe-gaurd us [teachers] from having to do extra work. She’s got us looking at how to establish a few more protocols with making sure when we set up systems for compensation for teachers, that we do it in a stream line of fashion,” Gray said.
Now that Lama is the new director, Gray feels that his ideas can be put forth and be achieved as he faced some communication challenges with Hernandez. Gray feels that Lama has the same thinking and vision that he has; they both have the willingness to explore options and opportunities for students, such as, working towards a paid internship program provided to the SLCs.
“[To me,] it feels like we got the right person,” Gray said.
Science teacher Samantha Johnson shares her thoughts on the new change as well. Johnson has been teaching at Arroyo for nine years and has experienced three role changes of the Director of Secondary Education throughout her time working as a science teacher.
“I’m always optimistic when new people come in,” Johnson said. “I think that when you get somebody new, they bring in new ideas that we maybe haven't considered as a community because they aren't thinking the same way as everybody else, so I think that there’s a bigger opportunity for innovation when we bring in other people, which is good.”
As a Director of Secondary Education, Lama oversees the schooling of grade levels.
“I’m over the high schools, middle schools, and adult schools. I provide support to the principals and administration on those sites on running the programs, supporting them with instructions, curriculum, pretty much anything that happens that have to do with running a secondary site,” Lama said.
As Director of Secondary Education in the San Lorenzo Unified School District, Lama hopes to improve the consistency of systems throughout the district.
“I think we need to develop some systems that are common across the district. So what I’m finding, is the way we do things at Arroyo might be different than the way we do things at East Bay [Arts], and it might be different than the way that we do things at San Lorenzo High,” Lama says.
She plans to work on the Systems Alignment, which makes sure the process of schooling is consistent across the district.
Johnson also shares her hopes for the new Director of Secondary Education and new district. Because she is the head of the SLCs in AHS, Johnson shares her opinion on her hopes for the SLCs.
“I’m really hoping that she is supportive of small learning communities and continues to work with us to make sure that we’re doing the very best that we can to keep them as functional as possible.”
Lama further wishes to improve the relationships between counselors and students. She hopes to improve the way that counselors work with students, and the way they evaluate and respond to kids when they are not doing well academically.
“I will be working with counselors and I will be meeting with them once a month, so together, we could look at what does that look like, how soon do we know when kids are struggling, and what are the different things we can do to give support to families, to let families know kids are struggling, let kids know: ‘you’re struggling, let’s come up with a plan for how we can get up out of struggling into being successful,’” Lama says.
With her new position as Director of Secondary Education, Lama bears a big responsibility. However, with wanting to change how students in the SLZUSD learn, Lama will continue to work hard to achieve her goals for this district.
“Where I feel most comfortable is working with school sites and working with principals, assistant principals, [and] trying to figure out what are the ways we can make [education] better for the kids that we serve,” Lama said. •