Parsons, who has been principal at Heritage since the school opened in 2005, will retire from the Liberty Union High School District in June to take on an assistant superintendent position in the San Mateo Union High School District. But leaving Heritage was no easy decision.
“When I applied for the position, I didn’t think I’d get it,” Parsons said. “I threw my hat into the ring and ended up being one of the top three candidates. After an intensive interview process, the San Mateo district superintendent called me on a Friday to offer me the position and I told him I’d need until Monday to think it over. I wanted to make sure I was ready to move on.”
Parsons, 51, believes he’s accomplished what he was hired to do when he signed on as principal of Heritage. He helped launch the school and establish a community along with the faculty and staff. Now that the culture at Heritage is sustainable, Parson feels it’s the right time to move on.
“I’m so convinced that education isn’t about the administration,” Parsons said. “It’s about what goes on in the classroom. It’s the teachers who make the difference. It doesn’t matter who sits in this chair. Heritage has an amazing staff and their commitment to education and this school is what makes Heritage a success.”
It wasn’t till later in life that Parsons’ discovered his passion for education. He wasn’t the best student and admits he would rather have been at the beach than in a classroom during his high school years. But when he finally went to college at 32, he realized he had a passion for teaching.
Parsons pursued a handful of careers, including building boats and managing restaurants, but discovered an interest in history and decided to try his hand at teaching. His career in education began as a student teacher at Liberty High School, where he went on to become a full-time faculty member before being promoted to assistant principal. He served as Liberty principal for one year before taking on the challenge of opening the district’s third comprehensive high school.
Parsons said he and the faculty faced many challenges in the school’s first years, but he believes the school is well beyond its infancy and moving out of its adolescence toward adulthood. He’s most proud of Heritage earning the designation of California Distinguished High School in 2009. He was honored as Principal of the Year by the Delta Chapter of the Association of California School Administrators in 2010, but as he often does, he credits his staff as the reason for the school’s many successes.
Parsons will miss the everyday interaction with faculty, but he said he’ll miss the students most. Over the years, he’s acquired the heartfelt nickname Papa Parson, and since two Parsons will depart Heritage in June, he knows this year’s graduation ceremonies will be especially emotional. His daughter Kelsey graduates next month and will attend Cal Poly in the fall.
“The other day my daughter said to me, ‘You know what? It’s like we’re both graduating.’ And in a way that’s how it feels. It’s been a great ride. I’ve received so much support from staff and the community, and I couldn’t have asked for a better district to train me to do this. This is my family. This district has given me the knowledge and leadership to do this and that’s all thanks to my time at Heritage and Liberty.”
As assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at the San Mateo Union High School District, Parsons will oversee education plans for six comprehensive high schools, but he believes he’s ready for the challenge. He doesn’t, however, expect to spend his days behind a desk. As with the Liberty district, Parsons plans to be out at the San Mateo district schools getting to know teachers and students, forming relationships and making connections to the school communities.
“High school students are fun to work with because they’re on the cusp of adulthood,” Parsons said. “But they still need guidance, and when they’re at that age, it’s your challenge to find a way to keep them engaged.”
While Parsons is excited about this new opportunity, he plans to keep an eye on Heritage. He’ll still live in Brentwood with wife Kelly and he looks forward to working within the community on a larger scale. But Heritage will always occupy a special place in his heart.
“This is my baby. I’ve nurtured it and watched it grow,” said Parsons. “It will be an extreme pleasure to be a principal and father at this year’s graduation. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to serve the students and the community. It’s going to be tough to walk away, but I know I’m leaving the school in very capable hands.”