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Principal LeMaster Leaves RB High--by Harshawn Ratanpal

“Be good, be safe. Broncos.” If you’re like me, you heard the unmistakable voice of Principal David LeMaster in your head as you read that. And due to the school closures keeping us away from campus since March 13, we may have heard it for the last time. In an email sent out to RB High families, LeMaster announced that he would be vacating his role as principal at RB High and accepting the role of Executive Director II of Learning Support Services at Poway Unified, effective July 1.

After eight years as RB High’s principal, LeMaster decided to apply for the district position in early 2020. In his new role, he’ll be working under the Assistant Superintendent of Learning Support Services and working directly with middle and high school principals. At their schools, LeMaster will work with and help administrators in a variety of different areas, including educational services, attendance and disciplinary issues, staff development, and planning for the future, the latter of which is especially vital amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

When LeMaster heard the position was open, the opportunity to help more students and schools while advancing his career was too great of an opportunity to pass up. After working in PUSD for 18 years, LeMaster believes he had the qualifications that this job demanded.

“I’ve been at three different high schools,” LeMaster said. “I’ve been a teacher, assistant principal, and principal, so it seems to be a good fit.”

Dr. Marian Phelps, Poway Unified’s superintendent, agrees with LeMaster’s sentiment and is excited to have him on board.

“Mr. LeMaster is very respected inside and outside of the district,” Phelps said. “He has a lot of experience and expertise around instructional leadership. . . When you have highly successful principals, you want to [place them] in a situation where they can coach other principals so that they can lead successfully.”

With his track record in the district and the superintendent’s backing, the question of whether or not he is qualified to take this job seems to be answered. However, the timing of his departure from RB High may seem odd considering the COVID-19 pandemic. To dispel any confusion, LeMaster made it clear in his letter to parents that he threw his hat in the ring months ago “not knowing what the future would hold or that we would be in the situation we are right now.”

“I was very concerned that the optics were that we’re in the middle of this crisis and I’m out looking for other jobs: that wasn’t the case,” LeMaster said. “In fact, I’ll be working closely with whoever is selected as the principal for RB.”

According to LeMaster, he’s only received positive feedback since his announcement. The response has so far been both congratulatory at his success and disappointed that it means his departure as RB High’s principal.

LeMaster first took up the mantle of RB High’s principal in 2012. In the four years that the graduating class of 2020 has known him, LeMaster has overseen significant changes and pioneered new initiatives aimed at improving the school, including the new 4x4 schedule and the RB Experience. He’s also led RB High during some of the community’s most challenging times, including the 2017 lockdown, the 2018 threatening vandalism, the 2019 Poway synagogue shooting, and this year’s COVID-19 pandemic. According to LeMaster, it is these events, the hard times, that have taught him the most during his time at RB High.

“I think that the spirit of overcoming those challenges, and picking ourselves back up and moving forward is something I’ve really learned to appreciate,” LeMaster said. “The resiliency of [the 2020] class is what I’m most impressed with and that’s helped shape not only me as a principal, but also our students and our community. We’ve gone through a lot but we’ve become stronger as a result.”

Principal LeMaster bears his title until July 1 of this year. One of his priorities until then is working together with the community and district to figure out a way to recognize the graduation of the 2020 class. Additionally, he is preparing to leave RB High in good shape for next year by working on hiring staff to fill the spots of those retiring this year. In the last few months of his principalship, LeMaster remains dedicated to fulfilling the duties he signed up for back in 2012, even if it means constant Zoom calls with the community, the district, and the student journalist who haven’t stopped bothering him for four years.

If the response to his departure is any indication, LeMaster will be missed by the RB community as he moves up to help students on a grander scale than he ever has before. We can only hope that in his new role, he serves with a level of quality that elicits similar sentiments from the Poway Unified community as a whole. Tackling this new position in the midst of a global pandemic, we also hope that he helps schools in the district move forward and he and the rest of Poway Unified’s students and staff stay healthy and well in the process. In short: be good, be safe, Bronco.

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