For the first time in its nearly 100-year history, Beverly Hills High School (BHHS) will have two interim co-principals this upcoming school year: Assistant Principal of Instruction Kim Decatrel and Assistant Principal of Student Services Drew Stewart. With former BHHS Principal Mark Mead being promoted to Director of School Safety in June, the district began searching for candidates to replace him, but ultimately did not move forward with any applicants. According to Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy, a nationwide search for a new permanent principalship will resume this December.
The 2022-23 school year marks the beginning of Stewart’s sixth year in the district and Decatrel’s fourth year.
“The last few years were really tough, andwehadtogrowinalotofwaysasa school,” Decatrel told the Courier. “We had to band together to make it through some very tumultuous times, but now we’re in a position to reengage with the momentum we had in building our culture, in moving our test scores, and addressing student’s social emotional needs, so that we have a program that addresses the whole student. We’re feeling very well positioned to make progress in all those areas.”
Prior to BHUSD, Stewart taught at Steele Canyon High School in East County, San Diego for 13 years, where he primarily taught 11th and 12th grade history. Before starting at the district, Decatrel was an education administrator at the New York City Department of Education.
“Part of the reason we’re feeling so optimistic is because we have a great team this year with our Assistant Principal Phil Chang and new Assistant Principal, Samantha Jung,” Decatrel told the Courier. Chang remains on the administrative team in his role as Assistant Principal of Operations, and former Horace Mann Assistant Principal of three years, Jung will now serve as the second interim Assistant Principal for the 2022-23 school year. “We have a wealth of institutional knowledge, loyalty, enthusiasm for our community and really highly skilled people on the team,” Decatrel said.
Of primary importance to district administrators was maintaining continuity for students and being able to make more progress as a result. With shared leadership styles, Stewart and Decatrel stressed that the bedrock of their work is in maintaining communication and fostering relationships with staff, students, and families.
“My leadership is collaborative, empathetic, and goal and relationship oriented,” Stewart told the Courier. The duo has adopted a “fail forward” mentality, hoping to instill a sense of trust and safety for students to learn, grow, and experiment. “We’ve worked together closely as assistant principals for three years,” Stewart said of Decatrel. “So, I think it’s just a matter of making sure that we’re not duplicating efforts.”
For Stewart, the challenge ahead lies in continuing to bring students and staff together out of isolation and out from COVID-19 restrictions. “I want to really try to bring not just a feeling of normal back, but of progress and pushing forward,” Stewart said.
“It’s a very huge job,” Decatrel added. “On any given day, any administrator will say, ‘I wish I could clone myself to be able to be multiple places at once.’ So, this is a great opportunity for that. We can engage with students and families and teachers a lot more than we would have been able to before.”
“We’re super grateful to be given this opportunity by the district, and to be able to work with the community,” Stewart said. “Beverly Hills is a special place, and we can’t believe the amount of support from all our community partners and how welcomed we feel by the community.”