Dr. Baker, lifelong Southern Orange County resident and champion of education, is Dana’s new principal. His first time being the principal of a high school, Baker has taken a long journey to get to this point.
After graduating from San Clemente High School, Baker got a degree and played football in Europe for two seasons. Upon his return, Baker knew he wanted to enter the education field, so he asked his old teacher for a job at San Clemente.
Baker worked his way up from a supervisor and coach at SCHS, to a teacher at JSerra Catholic High School. He went on to teach science, and his love of helping students grew. Baker began helping at lunch and with activities beyond the classroom. He received his masters in education and administration, allowing him to become an Activities Director at Capistrano Valley High School.
Baker has worked at many schools, moving from SCHS to JSerra to CVHS in just his first years of teaching. Adding onto that list is Marco Forester Middle School and Niguel Hills Middle School. A lot of Dana’s students are actually remembered by Mr. Baker as middle school students, noticing how odd it is to see those “Juniors and seniors [who] seem like just yesterday they were crossing the street and now they’re driving.”
Baker returned to SCHS as assistant principal of guidance, furthering his wide administrative experience. In recent years, Baker gained experience as a principal for at Shorecliffs Middle School. Four years later, and he has finally come to join Dana’s staff.
The opening week “was the cherry on top” of his bright expectations for Dana. The first day, “seeing all the smiles and positivity, was very hopeful, everything [Baker] heard was actually true.” He was also “extremely satisfied” by football’s early victories. Sitting in the front row of the Welcome Back Pep Rally, Baker was in awe of the spirit at Dana, saying, “I like middle school, but I really like high school […] I’ve never seen a pep rally so inclusive, no one was booing the freshmen. People are good to each other from what I’ve seen.” From what he’s experienced, Baker is confident that “if we start thinking differently, we start feeling differently, then we start doing differently.”
Baker has been nothing but pleased with Dana so far, elaborating that the meetings he’s had with teachers have been “extremely positive expectations-wise.” The staff has been having leadership meetings, where the department chairs discuss how to work together and what goals to set. Small task forces or committees, like facilities committee and positive behavior intervention committee, have been created to start tackling what can be done to help DHHS reach its full potential. Other goals of the new principal’s include getting familiar with the students, teachers, and staff.
The most important thing to Baker is finding out “who they are and what they want. To [him], leading a school is about serving. It’s not a top-down decision. A lot of [his] job is making our teachers feel valued. If [he does] that, they do amazing work in the classroom and that’s how you create a positive school culture.” Many students have also been curious about the photos of renovations near the front office. Baker clarified that those plans come from the district. They would be possibly put on a ballot next year. The district would tax residents based on home values and that money would go to renovations for Dana. Despite it not being the main priority among his plans, Baker is very hopeful because of the facility issues we have. He explains, “What makes a good school is the people, but at the same time, having a nice facility raises the level of education. It inspires good treatment of each other and our school. I’m hoping to be a part of that in the next couple years.”
Outside of school, family is Baker’s main focus. From trips to the beach, to cheering on his kids’ sports events, Baker is just as busy off campus as on it. He has a daughter, Grace, who is 10. She does taekwondo, softball and is described by Baker as “a ball of light.” Ben is in eighth grade and enjoys football and basketball. As a family, they like to read and travel. Baker also boasts a talent at making salsa, giving some out to staff members and sharing glory with Mr. Darnold, who gives him the peppers.
Not only is he a skilled leader and salsa connoisseur, but Mr. Baker is also an author in the making. He is currently finishing a book for “parents and students about avoiding labels. People can’t let labels determine who they are,” he says. In his book, Baker talks about his story of overcoming learning challenges early on.
Feeling very passionate about “kids believing in themselves and educators believing that all kids can learn,” at the end of the day, Baker’s wish is to get a school culture in which everyone believes that all kids can learn with proper support, love and help. With a promising and refreshing outlook on learning environments, Dr. Baker appears to be a perfect fit for Dana.