From devising and overseeing academic goals to managing all daily operations, principals serve as the public face of the institution they lead. When they are not meeting with superintendents and legislators to request needed funding for their schools, they are managing budgets, counseling pupils, talking to parents and evaluating teachers. Moreover, they are tasked with accessing and preparing student-achievement reports.

(Photo Courtesy of Sandra Gephart Fontana)

(Photo Courtesy of Sandra Gephart Fontana)

The principal is also responsible for setting solid educational objectives and motivating others to achieve them. For Sandra Gephart Fontana, readying enterprising teenagers for Los Angeles’ expanding workforce has become a constructive initiative on which to embark.

“We’re actively preparing students for the world of work by modeling and promoting professional work habits and requiring that all students develop a portfolio, demonstrating their proficiencies for graduation,” said Fontana, principal at Arleta High School. “Every day, we expect punctual attendance and collaborative conduct. Each Tuesday, we expect professional dress for students and staff.”

How are your staff members keeping pace with employment trends?

“Arleta High School teaches that tomorrow’s work force requires training and education beyond a high school diploma. We inspire all students to pursue the career path of their choosing. Our graduation rate is above 92 percent, and 98 percent of our graduates continue on to college or university.”

What are your students learning about L.A.’s job prospects?

“All our students participate in an advisory class each day. This type of learning environment encourages them to explore both college-bound and career-driven options, while creating a personalized plan to help them achieve their goals.”

What is the best way for high school students to plan for a vocation?

“Soft skills are the keys to success in tomorrow’s changing job market. That’s why it’s imperative for us to promote our school-wide learning goals by helping to produce critical thinkers, effective communicators, community collaborators and self-directed learners.”

What is your message to career-minded high school students?

“Ambitious students are the future of our society, economy and government. We need them to pursue their dreams, set focused goals and work hard to accomplish them so that we all can succeed together.”

Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist. Some news articles she has authored are archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

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