Expectations are high when you take over a school that just achieved California Gold Ribbon status.
And that’s just the situation new Gridley High School principal Justin Kern finds himself in.
Kern takes over for the departed Joey Adame, who left at the end of the 2016-17 school year to take a position as superintendent at Los Molinos.
Kern, who grew up in Southern California, was most recently the principal of a K-8 school on the sprawling Camp Pendleton Marine base about 40 miles north of San Diego.
Kern was born in England; his father was in the U.S. Air Force. The family moved back to the U.S. when Kern was a child. He grew up in Vista, in inland San Diego County. A 1993 Vista High School graduate, he attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton, where he played baseball and earned a bachelor’s degree in sport sciences.
Kern initially wanted to be a physical therapist, but he wasn’t ready to give up baseball. He ended up coaching baseball for awhile at a school in Louisiana, where he worked on his master’s degree in education. He said he may pursue a doctorate at some point.
“You’re always learning things,” Kern said.
Kern has two young children, 3 and 5. He said that and the demands of a new job may preclude formal schooling for a while.
Kern has been a school-based resource teacher, an assistant principal and a principal. He spent six years in the classroom as a science and physical education teacher.
An avid football fan, Kern grew up a Raider fan but now follows the Green Bay Packers.
Kern said the appeal of the Gridley job was the chance to get to a rural area with outdoor recreation opportunities.
“You get kind of tired of the concrete jungle in southern California,” Kern said. “Outside of the weather, I don’t think there’s much we’re going to miss.”
Kern said he and his wife have been impressed with Gridley’s small-town ambiance and sense of community.
“Everyone has been so welcoming,” Kern said. “Even the person that delivered the washing machine.”
And the challenge of taking over a school like Gridley with recognized high academic standards was part of Kern’s decision to take the Gridley job, as well.
Kern said he especially likes Gridley’s pathways program, which helps students gear toward either a college program or technical education.
He also likes Superintendent Jordan Reeves’ vision for the district.
Kern said he’s getting acclimated, meeting the staff and getting ready for the 2017-18 school year, which starts for students Monday, Aug. 28.
Staff returns for in-services Aug. 21-23.