Continuation/Ed Options Administrator and Superintendent/Principal
of the Year

Oct. 6, 2017

ACSA is honoring this year’s Administrator of the Year Award recipients, and each is being profiled in EdCal leading up to the formal awards gala at the 2017 Leadership Summit in San Jose.


Finding the potential: Jeremy Powell, Superintendent/Principal of Sequoia Union SD

When one thinks of a school administrator, generally one thinks of a principal or a central office leader. But one position encompasses both aspects: superintendent/principal. They must take on the roles of both district and site leaders.

Among the best in this regard is Jeremy Powell of Sequoia Union School District. Powell has been selected as ACSA’s Superintendent/Principal of the Year.

Powell is driven by a desire to see students do well. But, beyond that, he loves seeing students achieve beyond their own highest expectations. That led to him becoming an administrator.

“As a teacher, this idea drove me to be my best every day for each of my students, Powell said. “I never imagined myself going into administration. However, after seven years of teaching, I realized there were pockets of greatness in classrooms throughout the school, but there wasn’t a system in place to link all of these pockets of greatness together.

“After sitting down with fellow teachers and creating a plan to implement this, I shared the idea with Steve Greybehl, principal of Porterville High School in Porterville USD, and after a long conversation, he brought me to the realization this was the core of what school administrators do and I should consider school administration.”

Powell draws inspiration from students achieving beyond their dreams.

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“This could be a kindergartner putting together phonemes for the first time to read, a high school freshman realizing they have the potential to go to college, or a teacher assistant who realizes she has a gift for mentoring struggling students,” he said. “My goal each day is to find the gifts we all possess, but maybe are not aware of, and bring those gifts out for the world to see.

“I am a strong believer that success grows success and our job as educators is to help students experience meaningful success and then foster that self-efficacy so that when they leave our school, they have the belief in themselves they can achieve,” he said.

ACSA has helped Powell by offering the support needed in his career. He currently serves as the Region 11 representative to the state Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability Council, as well as serving on the Region 11 Board of Directors and being very active at the charter level.

“ACSA has provided me with amazing support throughout my administrative career,” Powell said. “Early in my career, both the Tulare County Charter and Region 11 provided me both with professional support and personal support needed for a new administrator. As a superintendent/principal, ACSA has continued to provide me with meaningful professional development during this transitional time in education, as well as, a close network of colleagues who are there to listen and support me during those difficult times that administrators face.”

It’s not just ACSA either. Powell said there have been many people along his career journey who have inspired him.

“I have been honored to work with amazing administrators and board members in my career who are constantly pushing me to think beyond what we are currently doing and look forward on how the school and district can serve students in a more meaningful way,” Powell said. “In particular, Joe Santos, principal at Sequoia Middle School in Porterville USD, has been a model of Leading Beyond Limits for me. He introduced me to ACSA. His enthusiasm for education and creativity in providing students with an education that not only serves them in middle school, but continues to serve them as they progress through high school and college, is amazing.”


The value of education: Elsie Briseno Simonovski, Principal of Richland Continuation High

At Richland High School, all students are expected to graduate college and career ready. For Elsie Briseno Simonovski, ACSA’s Continuation/Educational Options Administrator of the Year and 18-year veteran educator, that outcome is just the beginning.

The desire to become a school administrator comes from many different sources, each decision reflecting a unique effort and interest. Simonovski credits her upbringing with her focus on education.

“Coming from a poor, working class family and growing up most of my life with a single parent, I saw the struggles of what not having an education will do to a person,” she said. “As soon as I started teaching, I realized the impact that my principals had on the school, especially with parents and students. I knew, after observing so many positive interactions with administrators that I wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of my school community and support my teachers the same way my past administrators had done for me and other educators as well.”

After working hard to integrate 21st century teaching and learning in an alternative high school environment,Simonovski has taken on the additional tasks of expanding Richland High’s current CTE program to include opportunities for students to participate in professional internships, receive technical certifications, enjoy a rigorous science curriculum through the new Paxton Patterson STEM Lab, as well as develop several community partnerships with local civic offices and the public library.

Simonovski is quick to credit her mentors as a significant element of her success.

“My mentors have inspired me to take great risks in the name of doing what is best for students,” she said. “One of my greatest mentors shared with me to always remember your purpose. Today, as an educator and proud ACSA member, my goal is to hopefully inspire by educating and serving others. In doing so, I hope to continue to invite educators to consider the possibilities for all students, to know no limits other than what we see in our mind, and work hard to break down barriers that limit opportunities for students. I want to continue to champion and promote opportunities that will enhance and elevate student success.”

In Simonovski, students and staff alike find a caring and committed educator, dedicated to a student-centered approach to building a school community that prioritizes the needs of those it serves. When asked what inspires her, she is quick to give all credit to her students.

“The students always inspire me in my work. I see the potential in all the students I meet,” she said. “I wonder, wow what if we can build more or do more for this student? What limits can we push students to do and excel in at the high school level? I often ask, what opportunities has this student lacked or not yet accessed in their high school years?”

She added, “It is from this standpoint that I work with my team to establish programs, services and opportunities that will help our students become successful in meeting their goals and achieving their post high school dreams.”

Last year, Richland received an award for Most Improved Attendance for secondary schools in Orange USD – no easy feat.

“I am very proud to be a part of this journey with my staff and students. It is a real blessing and honor to work alongside so many great teachers and staff that genuinely care about the great work we do at our continuation high school,” she said.

For the moment, Simonovski is excited to learn more about the new state accountability model.

“I would love to see the impact it will have on continuation high schools and educational options. On the Region 17 Educational Options Council, our team, under the amazing leadership of Erin Simon, holds conversations about the model and its impact. The leadership and insight of this team is amazing, and I am so excited to be a part of the journey. I look forward to learning more about the new accountability measure and its impact for our specialized group of learners.”

Simonovski is an active learner, as well as a leader who believes strongly in the principles of servant leadership. She regularly attends both board meetings and professional development trainings and maintains a regular presence at university informational sessions to stay abreast of the latest research in K-12 education.

Her passion and her boundless enthusiasm for her work has also carried her deep into the process of technology integration at Richland. She was the only high school principal in the area to pilot a 1:1 device program and regularly shares SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) best practices with staff. Teachers in each classroom are provided access to AppleTv, Smart light raises, iPad carts, Chromebooks and two MAC labs. Students are steeped in STEM technology as they prepare to face the world after high school and are ready for anything the 21st century throws their way.

Simonovski is an active member of ACSA, serving as the Educational Options Council representative for Region 17 and is a regular presenter for various professional learning sessions. She credits ACSA with being a part of her development as an educator.

“With the vision of ACSA and the goals that it supports, I believe that ACSA has served as a positive reinforcement and reminder that it is always important to do what is best for students,” she said. “That means in my daily duties as an administrator it is critical to promote and serve my community by being a champion for our underserved population of learners.

“I am very proud and humbled to be a part of my school community, and it is a great honor to be an ACSA member that supports every student and our teachers in providing the very best opportunities for each student.”

All ACSA Administrators of the Year will be honored during Leadership Summit in San Jose, Nov. 3. Go to www.acsa.org/leadershipsummit.


All ACSA Administrators of the Year will be honored at the President’s Gala and Awards Celebration during Leadership Summit in San Jose, Nov. 3. To register, go to www.acsa.org/leadershipsummit.

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