Carl Stice has started his sixth year as Principal at Calaveras Hills High School.
His affinity for alternative education has kept him in the field for the past 20 years. Prior to Cal Hills, he was an alternative education Principal in Kern County.
“I’m excited to be in this field, and to be working with at-promise students who are finding their voice in their lives…and also helping them identify themselves as successful students. Even if they haven’t been in the past, they can still be successful,” said Carl.
Already several weeks into the school year, things have been busy over at Cal Hills.
This year, the Cal Hills team is putting a lot of attention toward increasing academic rigor. They’re currently implementing some new AVID strategies centered around presentation skills, where students are getting up in front of the class and presenting their research. A series of vocabulary exercises have also been added to develop academic vocabulary. And finally, they’ve been using what’s called Philosophical Chairs, which is based in inquiry and answering critical thinking questions. Students are able to debate on topics, and share their opinions, research, and ideas. Throughout the debate, students physically move to different sides of the room to show where they stand on certain issues; and they’re able to keep changing their minds and moving throughout.
"We also have an Engineering program here, which is not common in continuation schools. We just added a third section this year,” said Carl. “We have Intro to Engineering, Computer Aided Design (CAD), and also Environmental Sustainability, which looks at how engineers can impact the environment in positive ways and make things more sustainable in the future.”
Cal Hills has welcomed in a new counselor, who is already making a huge impact on students. “He has an ability to relate to students really well,” said Carl. "He also really follows up and checks up on them consistently, to make sure they’re taking advantantage of all opportunities.”
There’s also a new math teacher, who is bilingual in Spanish and English. “He’s doing a great job of relating to the students also, and really working on relationships,” said Carl. (Relationships are a key focus of what the Cal Hills culture is all about!)
Throughout the year, Cal Hills has between 120-140 students. At the beginning of the year, that number is toward the lower end. And as the year moves forward, it goes to the higher end, sometimes increasing to 150 students.
Building partnerships with businesses has recently been a big focus for Cal Hills. This past summer, one of their students, Daniel Hoady, did a paid internship at View, and had an amazing experience. Carl hopes to continue supporting students with experiences like these, so that they’re better prepared for the future.
"This district has been very supportive of the alternative education program. Which is not true in all districts. But in this district, we’ve been able to really close the achievement gap. Because these kids are getting what they need. It’s a very powerful thing, because you don’t see that everywhere,” said Carl. "A lot of times, these kids are the afterthought, or may not be the priority...But not here. It’s almost the opposite here. It’s great to work in a district that’s so supportive of this program. It’s not a sink or swim mentality here. We’re all in this together. We’re a team and will do whatever we can to help students on that path toward graduation, and career and college readiness.”