There is a new principal in town, and his name is Dr. Mario Fernandez. A native of South Florida who has served as principal at various stops in New York for the better part of the last decade, Fernandez is thrilled to now be the leader at New Paltz High School (NPHS).
“Coming to New Paltz was an easy choice,” said Fernandez, who was appointed on June 19. He officially took the reins from now-retired Barbara Clinton on July 10. “It [New Paltz] has a tremendous reputation as both a high school and a community. It is a college town and, as a high school principal, I have had a great deal of success linking to colleges and giving kids opportunities to succeed.”
Prior to NPHS, Fernandez spent nine years as principal at Stillwater High School in Stillwater, NY and most recently served as an elementary school principal in East Ramapo. His goal at NPHS is to foster a learning environment that includes and reflects the community.
“If you are going to pay attention to diversification, then you must pay attention to those in the community who support you,” he said. “Empowering the next generation means giving them a sense of worthiness within the high school environment. A high school is a microcosm of a community, so it’s my charge to make sure that microcosm is inclusive for everybody.”
Working closely with the community is nothing new to Fernandez.
“I started out as a middle school Math teacher in Miami and took on a lot of administrative duties,” he said. “The school had a population of 2,400 kids but didn’t have an intramurals program. I started one and eventually we had upwards of 1,000 kids participating. As a high school teacher at East High School in Rochester, I was the two-plus-two coordinator working with kids who wanted to start going to college early, varsity baseball coach, JV volleyball coach, a department head and was responsible for introducing and explaining the World Wide Web. There was a whole series of things that I did outside of the classroom with students, parents and members of the community.”
Fernandez, who has a son in college, said he and his fiancé plan on moving into the district once things are settled.
Fernandez was recruited through an extensive search conducted by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in educational leadership recruitment. He underwent an extensive multi-step interview process, which included interviewing with student representatives and parents from four groups: parents of general education students, parents of color, parents of students with disabilities and parents of English as a New Language (ENL) students.
New Paltz Superintendent of Schools Maria Rice is pleased to have Fernandez onboard. “I’m look forward to seeing how his leadership experience will contribute to the continued success of the New Paltz High School,” she said.