By Patric Hedlund
A mixture of excitement and relief was shared by members of the school board and the community in late August as two new principals were hired by El Tejon Unified School District, just a few days tardy. School started on August 15 with interim principals cordially greeting students and parents for the first day of the new school year. But the hiring of new permanent principals has now been announced.
Rosalie G. Jimenez is the new principal for El Tejon School’s 5th-8th grades in Lebec. She started on Monday, Aug. 26. Keri St. Jeor will be principal for Frazier Park School’s K-4th grades in Frazier Park. He arrived on campus on Tuesday, Aug. 27 after a marathon drive from Utah with his family. Sara Haflich continues into her second year as principal at Frazier Mountain High School, where she served before that as vice principal.
The new school year launched smoothly with the help of interim principals for the elementary and middle schools lent to the district by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office.
Both of ETUSD’s new administrators are experienced educators with strong backgrounds and compelling stories.
Keri St. Jeor
Keri St. Jeor grew up on an almond ranch in a small town in the northern San Joaquin Valley, going on to become a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and a helicopter pilot.
As an educator over the last four years, he has enjoyed adventure in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, including encounters with giant Kodiak bears.
St. Jeor was assistant principal from 2009-2011 at the K-12 Alakanuk School in the Lower Yukon School District with 250 students. Their new school is being built on 277 pilings driven into the tundra. He became principal at King Cove School in the Aleutian Islands in 2011. The 2010 census showed a population of 938 for King Cove. The prekindergarten to 12th grade school that he led had 105 students.
St. Jeor said in an interview just after arriving on Tuesday that 13-foot tall Kodiak bears raided King Cove nightly and that “a 12-gauge shotgun with bear slugs” was a necessary accessory to most activities.
He has a masters degree in school administration from Cal State San Bernardino with his teacher’s credential and a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University. His credentials are in Spanish and Political Science. St. Jeor taught Spanish at Little Rock High School and Palmdale High School for 15 years in the Lancaster, Palmdale area. He has experience in special education and has led a school in the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) school improvement plan.
Enrollment at Frazier Park School this year is 253 students, after the 5th and 6th grades have been returned to the middle school following two years on the Frazier Park campus.
St. Jeor’s son is a junior in high school this year. He said the family enjoys outdoor sports such as fishing, hiking and backpacking.
“I used to do a lot of mountain biking, but it was a little hard to do that and watch out for bears in King Cove,” he laughed.
Rosalie Jimenez was born near Coolidge, Arizona where her parents were migrant farmworkers. She has three brothers and two sisters. Together they traveled through Texas, Michigan, Arkansas, Nevada and California as she was growing up. They picked grapes, apples walnuts, onions and garlic.
“I worked in fields until I was 16. It was a way of life for us. But we always went to school. Mom made sure we enrolled and attended school wherever we were,” Jimenez said in an inspiring interview last weekend. Jimenez speaks with a vibrant enthusiasm about the central role education has always played in her life.
She credits her mother, who was born and raised in Texas, but with a 3rd grade education, as being “very strong; she was the brains.” Her father was from Monterey, Mexico. “My dad was a strong role model. They instilled a strong work ethic in us,” she says with affection.
When her youngest sister was born the family settled in Weedpatch, and then bought a home in Bakersfield.
“By the time I was in 7th grade we didn’t travel anymore,” she recalls, telling what it felt like to “grow roots.” She worked part time jobs to buy her own car so she could attend her senior year at Arvin High School where she had friends.
“It was a $300 Camaro, orange, red and yellow with a hole in the floorboard. I had to keep a mat on the floor to keep the fumes from coming in. That was how I got to high school.”
Jimenez found she loved going to school so much she couldn’t stop. Graduation from high school was a great accomplishment in her family. She went on to Cal State Bakersfield for a degree in Business Administration, then went on to work toward an MBA. Along the way she married and had a daughter, one of three, and began substitute teaching.
That path led to an impressive list of professional assign-ments in Bakersfield area schools. She now has an administrative credential from Fresno Pacific University, a masters degree in Educational Management from the University of La Verne and a Multiple Subjects teaching credential from Cal State Bakersfield, with specialties in Business and English.
In addition to teaching, she was a principal for seven years in the Bakersfield School District, then came to Frazier Mountain High School last year as vice principal.
“Part of my duties last year included going to El Tejon School every Wednesday. In addition to discipline, I participated in the Student Assistance Team process to assist struggling students. This important process links the home and school as we take steps towards eliminating barriers that prevent the student from succeeding. These weekly visits created a personal connection that inspired me to apply for the middle school position.
“This will be my 24th year in education as I begin my new assignment as Principal of El Tejon Middle School,” Rosalie Jimenez wrote this week. She is looking forward to her new job.
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This is part of the August 30, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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