2013-08-23 / Schools

He’s a familiar face

New Dos Caminos principal returns to grade school he attended as a boy
By Daniel Wolowicz

BACK TO SCHOOL—Mark Asher, the new principal at Dos Caminos Elementary School, grew up a few blocks from the campus on Appian Way and was a student there. 
SUSAN WEININGER/Acorn Newspapers BACK TO SCHOOL—Mark Asher, the new principal at Dos Caminos Elementary School, grew up a few blocks from the campus on Appian Way and was a student there. SUSAN WEININGER/Acorn Newspapers Mark Asher may be the new principal at Dos Caminos Elementary School, but Wednesday won’t be his first time starting the school year on the midtown campus.

The freshman principal has returned to the K-5 school where he first set foot as a second-grader 30 years ago.

“I grew up a few blocks from here,” Asher said.

The 37-year-old now makes his home in Ventura, but said he’s happy to be a Dos Caminos Dolphin once again.

“I thought if I had a chance to be a principal, what better opportunity than to be back where I started?” he said. “Because I grew up in this area and love this community.”

He replaces Erica Williams, who took over for Jay Greenlinger at La Mariposa Elementary School. Greenlinger is now the director of instructional technology for Pleasant Valley School District.

Asher’s road back home— he’s also a graduate of Adolfo Camarillo High School—began at UC Santa Barbara, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history. He went on to get his teaching credential from San Diego State University, a master’s in counseling from Cal Luthern University and eventually his credential in administration.

He got his start in 1999 as a teacher at Los Altos Middle School. He then moved to Monte Vista in 2007, where he worked as a teacher and a Title I coordinator before he left Pleasant Valley to take an assistant principal job with the Ocean View School District in Oxnard.

Asher returned to PVSD in 2012 to become the assistant principal at Monte Vista.

“He’s great with people,” said Monte Vista Principal Joe Herzog. “It’s a smart choice. (Dos Caminos) is really lucky to have him. I was really sorry to lose him.”

Asher said he strongly believes in the positive impact teachers can have on students during the school year regardless of whatever problems or challenges a child may face off campus.

“It may be a cliché in education, but I’ve always believed that every child can learn,” he said. “It may sound too simplistic, but that’s been my core belief since I was a teacher.”

Dos Caminos, a Title I school, has about 340 students and 20 teachers this year. The campus is also home to a preschool.

“It’s a great number,” he said. “It still offers that family-type of environment which is hard to find at bigger schools.”

This year will mark the first since the 2007 financial meltdown that California public schools aren’t faced with looming budget cuts. Educators credit that to a rebounding economy and the passage of Proposition 30 last November.

“With the budget taking a turn, it definitely does relieve a little pressure,” said Asher, who lives in Ventura with his wife, Danielle, and their two children. “I don’t think it’s as bleak as it has been the last couple years.”

The new principal does face another challenge. Pleasant Valley— like its counterparts from coast to coast—is preparing to transition to the new Common Core curriculum, the new statemandated standards that will take effect next year.

“This is our last transitional year the district is taking us through before implementation,” he said. “The district has done a great job of providing staff development opportunities.”

Asher will help set up a new technology shift at the school. Students will work with tablet computers, one of the requirements for Common Core.

Despite the big and not-so-big challenges a principal faces on daily basis, Asher said he’s ready for classes to start on Wednesday.

“I’m very excited to see some familiar faces that I may have grown up with in this community. I’ve already run into many families that I’ve known from my upbringing.”

It appears he’s already feeling back at home.

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