PIEDMONT -- Piedmont High's new Principal Brent Daniels plans to use his depth and breadth of experience to focus on a strong educational experience for every student.
"Different students need different support," said the 45-year-old Daniels. "There are different pathways for students -- different opportunities, different challenges."
Daniels has worked in many different school settings, from being a physical education and physical science teacher for the Oakland school system from 1992-94 to serving as assistant principal the past 10 years at Burlingame High School.
In the intervening years, he taught biology, physical education and physical science in various Bay Area schools. He also coached varsity boys basketball at his alma mater, El Cerrito High School, leading to the North Coast Section Division III championship. Daniels grins when basketball is mentioned.
"I plan to meet the varsity coaches and captains, the athletic director and discuss our visions," Daniels said. "You win or lose games with class."
The new principal supports getting students involved in a variety of programs in addition to their academic studies.
"Varsity sports, plays, music, service projects (expand the student's experience)," he said.
Daniels, who is working on his doctorate at UC Berkeley, has led or attended numerous workshops over his 21-year career including gang awareness in San Mateo County, understanding diversity in schools and a "stressed-out students" workshop he attended at Stanford University. Stress for students is the elephant in the room, particularly for Piedmont high schoolers who face high expectations from parents for getting into a "good" college, and achieving high grade-point averages to do so. Daniels said stress is a part of life.
"No one can ever expect to not deal with stress or hardship at some point in their life," he said. "But you can learn to deal with stress in a positive way."
For that purpose, the high school established the Wellness Center, where students can talk to someone in a confidential setting and get referrals if needed. The principal believes each student should find a college that pursues their passion and meets their needs, even if it's a small liberal arts college or one that is not on the "A" list.
"There is not just one pathway. Learn about as many (options) as possible," Daniels said.
Daniels said he has grown and learned with every experience along his career. The son of retired East Bay school principals, he grew up in El Cerrito. He and his wife, two sons in college and a daughter in high school, live in Berkeley. Daniels never wanted to uproot his family, so he commuted to all his various positions from Oakland to Pinole, Castro Valley, El Cerrito, San Mateo and then Burlingame.
In a letter he wrote to high school students and their families, Daniels encourages honesty, self-learning, intellectual growth, respect and character development to "Achieve the Honorable." He looks forward to meeting everyone on the "team" from custodians to parents, counselors, the school board, teachers and parent clubs.
"A good principal listens to others, hears new ideas, is open and does not lose sight of the job," he said. "We try to support each other as a family."
Superintendent Connie Hubbard is enthusiastic about Daniels and what he brings to the job.
"He has that rare combination of a fresh voice and deep level of experience in teaching, coaching and administration that will support high academic standards while not losing sight of the nurturing of well-rounded young adults," she said.
"He shares our commitment to serving the 'whole child' as part of an academic experience."
School board member Ray Gadbois said: "We are very excited to have Brent Daniels as the new principal of PHS. He brings with him a wealth of knowledge, experience, and ideas. And he is a thoughtful, calm and approachable person, so the students will like him, too."
Said school board President Rick Raushenbush: "We are very excited to have Brent as principal and are looking forward to his leadership at the high school."