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Five Minutes: High School Principal Dylan Farris

The former assistant principal tells us how he wants to prepare more students for college and increase the camaraderie on campus.

Dylan Farris has followed a steady path to his current position as Culver City High School’s new principal, succeeding Pam Magee. After finishing a six-year stint in community college, he transferred to UCLA, where he studied history. Moving on to graduate school at Cal State Northridge, he says he “lucked out” and found his way the Culver City High School, where he has been for 10 years. Starting first as a teacher, he then got his administrative credential and moved over to the attendance and activities offices and then the counseling department. Patch sat down with Farris to discuss his background as an educator and what he plans to do in his new position.

Culver City Patch: Why did you initially want to go into teaching?

Dylan Farris: It all kind of goes back to that experience where I was working at Logan Street Elementary School where I was just having these really positive connections with kids. I saw teachers who were very effective, and what a positive thing that was. I also saw teachers who were frankly pretty awful and wasting a year of a kid’s education.

I thought that it was doable for me. It was something I knew I could handle as a career and I thought it would be something that would be valuable. I could contribute something.

Patch: How will your experience at Culver City High School fuel your position as principal?

Farris: I think the biggest thing is that I have a very strong knowledge of the school. I know the kids, I know the teachers, I know the community and I know all the programs. I know where we’re very strong and I know where we have some room to grow. So I’ll know coming in here where to target some of my efforts. Also, since I’ve been here the whole time, it’s not like I’m walking into a new school where I have to figure it all out. We can keep the momentum that we have because we have some momentum.

Our scores have continued to increase each year and we’ve targeted certain programs each year. We’ve built a team within our teaching staff and our faculty. We’ll just be able to keep that pace because I was really working hand-in-hand with Dr. Magee for the last four years. I’m trying not to have any kind of break in that momentum.

Patch: What goals do you have for the school? What would be your No. 1 priority?

Farris: We have a lot of goals. Our primary goal right now is to increase the number of students who are completing the A-G requirements. The A-G requirements are those classes that students have to take in order to be eligible to go to a Cal State or a UC right after high school.

We have a strong school and we have kids taking lots of honors and AP classes. We have a very good program with not a lot of holes in it, and yet we have some students not quite finishing that portion. They’re graduating, but they’re not quite finishing the requirements necessary to be eligible for college. Maybe it’s because they got a D in Algebra II or maybe there’s just one hole somewhere along the way, they didn’t get through Spanish II or whatever it is.

One of our primary goals is to increase the percentage. Forty percent of our students are hitting that mark and we think with the quality of kids and teachers that we have here, it should be much higher. So one of our targeted efforts is to get students the counseling they need and everything to ensure that they meet those college entrance requirements. We want to see more of them going there, straight to a four year. Most of our kids are going to Santa Monica College and West L.A., the majority of those that are not making the A–Gs, but we want to see a larger percentage.

Patch: What changes are you going to make?

Farris: Any new principal would be wise to not start out making changes. We’re going to continue doing what we all know for the time being. I’m not going to come in here and make any radical changes, in fact I think that’s one of the appeals of me coming in to this position is that we are going to continue on the path that we already have in front of us. And we’re not going to start moving in a different direction.

I do hope to be very student-centered. I like to see that the students might feel a little bit more inclined to walk into the open door that will be my office. I am looking to build a stronger, more friendly faculty environment, not that it’s not friendly. It’s friendly.

But I’m really looking to have the school function as a community where the teachers are friends with each other and they’re friends with students. They will thereby be more apt to spend time doing student activities and showing up to the football games, and coming to the basketball games, not to mention making an appearance at all those dances. It’s a lot to commit to for a teacher when they’re here every day all day and it’s work and they’re asked to come to more things in the evening and on the weekends, but I think if we can have this be enjoyable for them because they’re all friends, we’ll see a lot more participation.

Patch: What would you want parents to know about you?

Farris: I think a lot of parents already know that I’m very accessible, I’m very even-keeled and although there are going to be certain times that I have different points-of-view on things, my door is always open to have discussions and to listen to other people’s perspectives. This is an open door office.

Jenny Manriquez August 20, 2011 at 12:05 AM
Regarding “some kids not being academically inclined, which doesn’t correlate to intelligence” – I understand the idea but part of me feels that there’s more to it than this. Could it be that some kids learn differently and yet we test them in one way? Are these kids identified early on and is help offered? The flipside – are these kids identified early on and labeled as not academically inclined, something the kids pick-up on, resulting in a lack of confidence on their part…? So much to consider! Thank you for this great conversation. I think it helps all of us to put things in perspective and share ideas.
Mary Van Loo August 20, 2011 at 01:56 AM
I would love to be able to say that no student ever falls through the cracks and that CCHS always pegs the strengths of every student and develops those talents completely. That isn’t true, unfortunately. Our class sizes are way too large and the school year way too short. Some kids, however, do find their strengths in abilities such as automotive, fashion merchandising, hospitality industry, plumbing, electrical etc etc. When they choose these industries, I don’t believe these are “lesser” or less intelligent choices. If the school leaves ONLY a junior college or trade school choice because students haven’t been given the opportunity to master the A-G requirements, then the school has failed its students. It’s too bad we can’t make all students accept and master the opportunities that are offered to all.
Nanci August 31, 2011 at 07:16 PM
@Peter. The high school (with Mr. Farris as part of the leadership) and the district made several significant changes in the past year or so to increase the percentage of kids who meet the A-G requirements and generally are better prepared. Most significantly (as far as I know), the high school graduation requirements were changed to add a year of language and a year of math to graduate. This is a big change and I believe Mr. Farris was saying that he's going to continue with the plans to make this change a success (i.e., continue on the path that he helped create).
Corky Jackson September 07, 2011 at 07:19 PM
I'm curious what Mr. Farris thinks about the Culver City School District's continuing using Polystyrene (Styrofoam) trays for hot food for the students, after the U.S. Dept of Health has deemed the Styrene in Styrofoam a "carcinogen?" Our students are being exposed to this every day. Here's the link to the story about the carcinogen designation: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/11/health/11cancer.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss
Dennis Sluman September 25, 2011 at 01:19 AM
Six year stint in community college, found his way to UCLA and "lucked out" finding his way to CCHS? Are you kidding? "Our scores have continued to increase each year and we’ve targeted certain programs each year. We’ve built a team within our teaching staff and our faculty. We’ll just be able to keep that pace because I was really working hand-in-hand with Dr. Magee for the last four years." Of course our scores have increased, there was only one way to go, UP. He has been at CCHS for 10 years, but we are going to stay the course for now. We have a second rate high school right now. "They’re graduating, but they’re not quite finishing the requirements necessary to be eligible for college." Are you kidding? This has mediocrity written all over it. This was the best we could find? As an alum this explains a lot about CCUSD. We can kid ourselves, but our reputation is not what it once was.

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