Oceana Principal April Holland speaks with students

Oceana Principal April Holland speaks with students in the quad during break on their first day of the 2021-2022 school year. Adam Pardee / Tribune

Steering the ship, as local schools continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, are the principals. When local school districts shut down in March 2020, principals jumped into action, taking charge to ensure the safety of students and staff, organizing staff to design a virtual curriculum, and supporting the school community through a global crisis. 

“The loss of direct access with the staff and students was really hard to overcome,” said Terra Nova High School Principal Megan Carey. “Our soul is really fed by interactions with the kids, and losing that was very difficult for many of us. Terra Nova is considered a second family for many of us and it was hard to find a suitable replacement for it in our lives when everything else was shut down.” 

Carey has been working in the Jefferson Union High School District for 15 years. She started her career as a counselor at Westmoor High School and went on to serve as the dean of students at Jefferson High School. In 2014, Carey joined the Tigers as vice principal of guidance before becoming principal in 2016. 

“You work as hard as you do because of your love, not just for the students but for all those around,” said Carey. “When you feel that real strong connection, the power is unstoppable. The last year and a half were a testament to how far we would go for each other, and it’s really gotten us off to a great start this school year.”

Oceana High School Principal April Holland was drawn to the school when her three daughters attended. 

“I loved the personalization they experienced at Oceana, and that's one of the many qualities that drew me to Oceana to begin my administrative career,” said Holland in an email to the Tribune. 

She joined Oceana’s parent organization when her oldest daughter began high school in 2001 and remained involved in the school throughout the years before becoming vice principal at Oceana in 2007, a position she held for six years.

Holland has been an educator for 38 years. She worked in San Francisco, primarily serving students from Bayview and Hunters Point, and has taught English, drama, study skills, reading recovery and social studies in her 23 years of teaching. This is her fourth year as Oceana’s principal. She also worked as an administrator for a combined five years at Westmoor High School and Westborough Middle School. 

“The most rewarding part of the job is getting to know students as individuals,” said Holland. “I love watching as they grow into independent young adults.”  

As principal, Holland also faced the challenge of guiding the school and its students and staff through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the biggest challenges of the COVID-19 crisis was keeping engagement high when we couldn't see our students in person and many of them didn't have their cameras on for distance learning,” said Holland. “It was hard not to see the sparks fly as students grasped concepts and deepened their understanding.” 

The curriculum had to be adjusted to accommodate virtual classes and the school community had to adjust to a global pandemic.

“Such a huge change was difficult, but the teachers managedit and they rocked at it,” said Carey. “The students and parents did a phenomenal job of supporting us. I think all in all, it was a success. I don’t ever want to go back and do it again. It’s great to have everybody back in person to meet again and to be able to connect, big and small.” 

When it became safe for students to return to the school campuses, the staff continued to ensure the safety of the students and families by monitoring cases and state safety guidelines as students and staff returned to the campus and a new normal. 

“Addressing people's real-life fears when faced with the dangers of COVID-19 has also been challenging,” said Holland. “As we all transitioned back to in-person learning, remediating learning loss and bolstering well-being has been at the top of our list. We recognize that people have been out of practice interacting with large groups, and there have been a few bumps in the road as people readjust to being together again.”

Emma Spaeth is a staff writer for the Half Moon Bay Review covering community, arts and sports. Emma grew up in Half Moon Bay before earning a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Oregon.

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