Darin Pace returns to Exeter Union as new principal

(Rigo Moran)

After 20 years of working in the school district, former assistant principal returns to Exeter Union High School as its new principal

EXETER – The sky’s the limit for Exeter Union High School’s new principal, who is looking to lead the school with 20 years of experience behind him, and an empowering message he wants to share with others.

This year, Exeter Union High School had to say goodbye to their previous principal and welcomed Darin Pace back to the school to take on the role. Pace, who just finished the summer school term as principal, is preparing for the new school year starting Aug. 10, with plans to lead staff and students by being a good example and fostering an environment of positivity.

“I’ve been in Exeter for 20 years now. It’s exciting to work with people that I haven’t worked with in a while and reconnect with families and people in the community,” Pace said.

Pace was assistant principal back in 2003 before becoming the principal at Kaweah High School in 2013. During Pace’s time at Kaweah High, the school became the state’s first continuation school to outperform the comprehensive high school. Pace explained what aspects of working at Kaweah he is expecting to take with him as he makes his return to Exeter Union.

“I think my time at Kaweah changed a lot of my views about what people can do,” Pace said. “I’d like to bring some of that philosophy to Exeter Union, like empowering students to learn and empowering parents, (as well as) empowering teachers.”

He continued to explain that his philosophy is the main thing he wants to instill in students as well as teachers. The mindset he thinks is the most important is to “teach people to be limitless.”

As principal, Pace is planning to instill this mindset in the school by – first and foremost – being a good example for people to follow, as well as always being available for anyone who needs help.

“I try to model everything that I would expect from anyone else. I believe that I should be that model first,” Pace said.

The school Pace is retiring from, Kaweah High, only had around 50 students compared to the nearly 950 at Exeter Union. Despite being a larger student body, one of Exeter Union’s main strengths that he wants to continue to foster is their strong sense of community.

“I think one of the things that Exeter Union does – that I love – is (the way everyone) supports each other,” Pace said.

From his account, the upcoming school year will pose its fair share of challenges. Regardless, Pace is confident going into the first school year as principal.

“I’m a non-traditionalist – and that sometimes scares people, not having parameters in mind. Like I said, my goal is to teach people to be limitless, and that’s difficult,” Pace said. “I want to reignite that, that sense of community.”

Many of the tactics that Pace employed in his 20 years working in education actually derive from his previous time working as a therapist. Pace originally received his master’s degree in psychology and used to work as a children’s counselor before he worked in education.

Thanks to his time as a children’s counselor, Pace uses the positive psychology model in his work to help people reach their full potential. The positive psychology model is a psychological framework that focuses on understanding how recognizing an individual’s strengths contribute to their mental health and well-being.

“I have a very different mindset about education and what motivates people, and it’s not books,” Pace said.

He claimed that no one looks back at studying as their motivating factor, but usually, they are more motivated by personal connections with people.

These are sentiments that Pace shares with Exeter Union’s previous principal Bob Mayo, who was the principal at Exeter Union for nine years. However, Mayo recently accepted a job working for the Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE). Mayo described his thoughts on what he thinks the key to impacting students is.

“Empathy, patience, determination, perseverance and kindness – dealing with the world now, as our kids experience social media and mental health struggles, all of those coping skills that we can help develop are all key,” Mayo said.

Mayo is now pursuing those goals by taking a more managerial position in running after-school and intervention programs at TCOE. He continues to see the students of Exeter Union as his kids, but is confident he is leaving them in good hands.

“Darrin was a colleague my entire time at Exeter. He and I share a lot of the same values and views. I’m very happy that he is going to be the principal at that high school,” Mayo said.

Mayo expressed that he is excited to continue supporting the students of Exeter and the rest of Tulare County in a new way as Pace supports them at the high school. After nine years at Exeter Union, he is grateful for all his community in Exeter.

“I want to thank the community for welcoming me, entrusting me with their students for as many years as they did. Exeter has now become my home and it’s my community,” Mayo said.

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