Kenneth Gardner, a Brentwood resident, comes to Deer Valley with a wealth of experience in not only education, but law enforcement and the military. It was that kind of diversity, Superintendent Donald Gill said, that made Gardner the ideal fit for Deer Valley, a school of roughly 2,700 students.
“I’ve always dreamed about being a high principal in my community and this is it,” Gardner said. “I can’t tell you how honored and thrilled I am to be here.”
Before becoming a teacher in 1999, Gardner was a lieutenant for the Placentia Police Department near Anaheim. He held the position of major in the U.S. Air Force. And he has experience in pathway learning, a major tenet at Deer Valley, which boasts programs such as the Deer Valley Law Academy and the Delta Academy for the Performing Arts.
Gill noted that when Gardner took his first tour of the campus, his skills as a communicator shone – especially with parents. It was also clear that he had already given thought to his role in the school’s future.
“I was quite impressed during the tour; he was able to articulate a vision for what he would hope for,” Gill said. “He’s ready to take on that level of responsibility. He was a full package, I’d say. He’s already hit the ground running.”
Gardner was hired in June after the district decided to shift from a two-principal plan at Deer Valley to one, citing financial reasons. Former co-principal Clarence Isadore is now the principal of Antioch’s Carmen Dragon Elementary School. Scott Bergerhouse took a position as the vice principal of Black Diamond Middle School.
Though some parents have been openly critical of the district’s decision to part ways with the popular team of Isadore and Bergerhouse, Gill feels that Gardner’s positive attitude and leadership skills will win over students, parents and teachers.
“We’re anxiously awaiting to see what leadership he brings to the school,” Gill said. “His vast array of experiences will assist him in that effort. I’m sure that he will be welcomed and well-received by the community.”
Gill and the committee responsible for hiring the new principal were impressed with Gardner’s experience working in large high schools, and his history of instituting discipline. In 2004, he became the vice principal of Pacific High School in San Bernadino, comprising about 1,800 students and eight academic departments. He was part of a staff that raised Pacific’s Academic Performance Index (API) scores by 230 points in two years.
After leaving Pacific, Gardner moved to the Bay Area, becoming the principal of De Anza High School in Richmond, a position he held for three years. In his final year at De Anza, the school raised its API score by 44 points.
Most recently, Gardner was the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Designated Hearing Officer for Student Welfare and Attendance. He moved to Brentwood three years ago to settle down with his fiancée, noting that the children-friendly feeling of communities in East County was a major draw.
Two of Gardner’s major goals are to increase communication with the community and help enhance Deer Valley’s reputation. According to his opening statement on the school’s website, he promises that he and his office will reply to any communication within 24 hours. Gardner plans to go out and talk with nearby business owners and residents to gauge their thoughts on what the school is doing right and wrong, working together for solutions. He’d also like to do whatever he can to help the school’s API scores improve. “This is a great school,” Gardner said. “I think that the image of Deer Valley is one that can be polished up a little more. If we brought the good things going on here to light, I think that people would see.”