While the school year is over for Nevada Union’s students, it’s just beginning for the school’s new principal, Dan Frisella, whose contract begins on July 1. Frisella says his first priority as principal is to improve communication on all levels.
“We’re revamping our website this summer, and we have a new learning management system that we’re getting,” Frisella said.
“That should help with our communication with teachers, students and parents. Our use of technology is behind, however, we do have the infrastructure in place. We’re also shifting to Gmail as a school, so we’ll be using Google docs and shared drives, which should be helpful.”
Frisella said the faculty will be collaborating with NU’s new technology director, Bob Lyons, to get training for both classified and certified employees.
“We have a lot of teachers that are stepping up to the plate as leaders and staff that want to get involved,” Frisella said.
“Recently we spent two hours re-evaluating our values as a school and our core beliefs. Everybody had a voice in the conversation, and we got it whittled down to 12 belief statements and nine vision statements. So we’re meeting again as a group to narrow it down again.”
Originally from San Mateo, Frisella graduated from Serra High School, a Catholic school in the Bay Area. Frisella received his bachelor’s degree in recreational administration with a focus on outdoor and adventure education from Chico State University, and as a student he worked in outdoor programs and activities.
Upon graduation, Frisella began to work for Outward Bound Wilderness in Oregon, an educational program that focuses on teaching students through hands-on outdoor activities. Frisella later obtained his teaching credentials and went into special education.
“It was just a good group of kids that I felt like my work would have an impact on,” Frisella. “I learned a lot from that experience.”
Frisella, a snow sports fan, said he then moved to Sacramento to “get closer to the mountains” and continued his education at Sacramento State, where he earned a master’s degree in special education along with an administrative credential.
It was there that he became an assistant principal in the Natomas High School District.
“It was great, the second most diverse school district in the nation, tons of ethnic diversity and just a very rich cultural experience,” Frisella said. “It was the inner city so there were challenges with drugs, violence and gangs and stuff like that. So they were all kids in need, a lot of broken families down there, so there were just a lot of good connections I got to make with kids who are in need, especially of male adult role models.”
Frisella served for two years in Natomas before becoming NU’s assistant principal.
“It was kind of a culture shock. But what we lack up here in ethnic diversity, we make up with cultural diversity,” Frisella said.
“We have anyone from as far right-wing as you can possibly get, to as far left-wing off the grid as you can get. So I initially had to get my bearings, but I’ve learned to appreciate all the different culture that there is to offer up here and the different people.”
Over the past three years, Frisella said NU has seen a dip in violent acts on campus. But the school has issues with drugs and alcohol, which is one of the reasons it is reverting back to a closed campus during lunchtime.
“We’re still looking to combat the issues with drugs,” Frisella said.
“Consistency, communication and articulation of what’s out there for our students and our discipline policy and how we handle things around certain parts of campus, all those things need to be communicated better to our school’s stakeholders in the community.”
In the classroom, Frisella says teachers have been doing a superb job, but with the statewide changes being implemented, such as Common Core, he wants to make sure that he helps teachers and staff collaborate more.
“My job is to give our teachers the professional development and training that they need to develop their classroom around Common Core, but really the information is going to go to them, and they as teachers are going to share in collaboration what works and what doesn’t,” Frisella said. “There’s really so much we can learn if we are systematic in how we teach things and share results and what we all learn as educators.”
Frisella said he has a “loose-tight” management style and has high expectations for the school’s faculty and teachers.
“I plan on being out and about in the hallways and in classrooms,” Frisella said.
“I need to see what’s going on in order to do my job. Our students spend almost six hours a day in classrooms, so that’s where the magic happens, that’s where the learning happens, and if I want to have influence on them, that’s where I need to be.”
In recent years, the district has gone through several changes in the principal position. In 2011, the district decided to transfer three of its administrators to new positions. Cathy Peterson, a longtime administrator at NU, was moved to Bear River High School. Mike Blake, who was then Park Avenue Alternative’s principal, was reassigned to Nevada Union to replace Marty Mathiesen, who took over at Park Avenue.
Mathiesen served as NU principal for seven years, the longest stint at NU since Kurt Stenderup’s 10 years came to an end in 1999. Frisella will become the seventh principal hired at NU in more than 15 years. When asked about his thoughts on turnover rates, Frisella said he’s not worried.
“I moved my family up here a month ago, I’m invested in being here,” Frisella said.
“An individual personality can keep the boat afloat and help it sail, but you can’t survive in this job without some systems in place. So my goal is to put some systems in place that will help with longevity, and that will help with my sanity, because I’m planning on being here a long time.”
Addressing NU parents concerned about having a second principal in less than four years, Frisella added, “I’m grateful to be here. I’m going to give them 110 percent, and my doors are open. I want to involve them and involve the students in making this school the best place it can be.”
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.