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New Principal, CEO for Samohi

By Teresa Rochester

April 21-- When award-winning Lincoln Middle School Principal Dr. Ilene Straus left for spring break, she had landed an assistant superintendent job. But sometime during her weeklong cruise down the Panama Canal, Straus was tapped to be the new principal at Samohi.

Straus had turned down the position four times during the last nine years, but this time was different.

"I did a lot of soul searching and I really thought it was for the good of the kids, staff and community," said Straus, who has spent the past 16 years at the helm of award winning Lincoln. "I think people are very hopeful I will do what needs to be done."

"It finally became clear to me it's the work I need to be doing. The challenge is to make that school work for all children and staff."

Straus, whose appointment still needs School Board approval, will lead the 3,400 student as not only its principal but also its CEO, under a radical restructuring plan announced by Supt. John Deasy in January.

When Deasy announced his intention of recommending Straus for the job, he told the board that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, she was the best person for the position.

As the CEO, Straus will be charged with providing vision, communicating with constituent groups, managing communications and exercising and overseeing instructional leadership.

Current co-principals Kirsten Hibert and Mark Kelly will serve as associate principals.
Two assistant principals will fall under the associate principal of arts and humanities, along with a dean of students. Under the associate principal of sciences and technical sciences will be student services coordinators, an assistant principal and dean of students.

Straus said that having Deasy's support was key because it assured her that she won't be assuming the role alone.

Straus has already begun meeting with various groups that make up the mammoth high school. On Thursday she faced tough questions from the editor of the student newspaper. A tour of the school from the students' perspective is also scheduled.

Based on her meetings with students, Straus has already decided that she will include students in the hiring process of all new school personnel because they would call it as they see it.

Several themes, Straus said, have come out of her conversations with a number of parents and student groups. The most repetitive themes center on discipline and attendance, making instruction interesting and engaging for all students and reorganizing the school so it is more personal.

Straus said that part of her is excited to be taking on the job, but that at the same time she is leaving a school she has been at since her 19-year-old son was three.

Under Straus' direction, Lincoln Middle School received national honor as a National Blue Ribbon School and also was selected as a California Distinguished School and Disney's Learning Partnership's 2001 Spotlight School of the Year.

Straus was named Santa Monica YWCA's Woman of the Year in 1996, Distinguished School Principal in 1994 and 1999 and as California's Secondary Principal of the Year in 1991.

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