Dear Editor,

I grew up in Visalia and was a student at Mt. Whitney High School in the era of the new school way out on the edge of town – Golden West High School. It was harder to be the new school than it was to be one of the established schools that had been in town forever, with their individual cultures and a healthy cross-town rivalry firmly in place.

As assistant principal shortly after El Diamante opened, I experienced the struggle to get it built because of the economy. A new school is incredibly expensive.

But the most challenging aspect of being the new school in town is just that – it’s new. There is no culture in place. No accreditation yet. No logo, school colors or CSF club. The school opens with only a freshman class, so the kids have no upper-classmen to serve as role models. Only JV sports – and not enough kids for a band or dance program.

I share this because today I’m back at Mt. Whitney, proudly serving as principal of my alma mater, and there is the common refrain about the fancy new high school vs. the “old” schools.

We are very fortunate to have been the recipients of modernization work at Mt. Whitney. We have all new classroom furniture, new air conditioning units, new paint – and frankly, the structure of this “old” school is solid. Maybe the school is showing its age a bit, but it is well built. In 1986, the school was the recipient of matching funds for modernization upgrades, and we will see modernization work through Measure A if Visalians support the bond. Dual-pane windows and new science labs are at the top of our list.

The “old” schools are being cared for as fairly and efficiently as possible, given funding constraints, and they have the benefit of a rich and well-established culture and image. The new kid on the block will need to spend many years developing its culture once the school gets beyond the Camelot years. It will be fun, but some of the hardest work the staff will ever do.

Visalia is growing and we have to respond to where Visalia is growing, and that’s in the northwest. Redwood is over capacity and so is El Diamante – we have to build a new high school.

Change is hard. Parents are concerned about where their students will attend school and they want a quality education for their children, but there is not a bad school in this town. All have equitable programs, great teachers and school spirit.

I’m proud to have served as teacher, assistant principal and principal in Visalia. Visionary leadership has helped our schools keep pace with growth and Measure A on the November ballot is another important step. With the community’s support, great things can happen.

Rick Hamilton
Mt. Whitney High School

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