Kenny Kasper, senior

There’s a new reason for students to be sitting in the principal’s office at Maria Carrillo High School, and it’s not for disciplinary reasons. Rather, when his door is open, students will find that Principal Rand Van Dyke, though dressed in a button-down shirt and tie, is perfectly willing to engage about motorcycles, flying planes, predictive texting, and the iPad. Meanwhile, these students may not realize that Van Dyke has been working in education longer than they have been alive.

A Petaluma High School alumnus and Sonoma State University graduate, Van Dyke brings 21 years of experience to the principality at MCHS with stints in nearly every position in the education system including teacher, department chair, technology advisor, assistant principal and vice principal. Needless to say, Van Dyke knows the system.

“I could probably do every job at school, and I think the best principals have that broad base. But what they really have to have is what’s the vision for your students,” said Van Dyke.

His own vision includes improving the “personal responsibility and respect” of the student body for themselves, taking advantage of programs to make students more successful, and integrating technology into MCHS where it may be beneficial to organization or teaching classroom material. It’s a broad challenge to take on, but Van Dyke is optimistic.

“We’ve got great things in place. Is there some tweak? Is there some other piece or small component that would help hook that student into school here? That’s what I want to find out,” said Van Dyke.

These challenges are enhanced by the constraints of budget cuts, which is largely a function of the budget crisis and the economic health of the state of California. As counselor Keith Donaldson put it, “Any day that I wake up and realize that California isn’t on eBay, I think is a good day.”

While MCHS has programs to address students in need like English learners, English Department Chair Paul Vanek feels these programs, which have already experienced significant cuts, are endangered even further by the current budget situation.

“I’m hoping that Mr. Van Dyke will fight for the budgetary authority to keep our successful programs going,” said Vanek.

Van Dyke hopes to also support a subset of students that lie somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between English learners and Advanced Placement (AP) students, who are often not successful due to “boredom,” according to Van Dyke. Some students struggle because of not being actively engaged, which cannot be directly solved simply through tutoring programs because, as Van Dyke put it, “You can lead a student, but you can’t make them think.” Thus, Van Dyke believes the challenge becomes identifying the reasons behind their boredom and finding ways to motivate them based on their conclusions.

“There’s a chunk of students out there that are kind of scattered throughout the middle. They’re successful in some areas and not in others,” said Van Dyke. “What can we do to help them be more successful? And that’s kind of the basic thing: what’s best for this student right now.”

As MCHS enters a Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) evaluation period in the coming year, Van Dyke feels this is an ideal time to be tackling these issues, as the school will receive direct feedback on its strengths and weaknesses. Math teacher and Santa Rosa Teachers Association site representative Margaret Bradylong concurs with this conclusion, adding that WASC groups will work to improve areas like freshman transition.

“We’re going to have high expectations.  We need to help [a freshman], as a struggling student, figure out how to meet those expectations,” said Bradylong.

Van Dyke’s vision also includes improving “personal responsibility and respect” of the student body, based on the concept that students should treat school like the work place. Some students were taken by surprise by the increased level of enforcement at the Under the Stars dance on Aug. 27. However, Van Dyke maintains that dances represent the social aspect of a workplace, where appropriate behavior and dress is still a requirement.

“You wouldn’t dress that way in you’re job. Why would you dress that way for school,” said Van Dyke.

Although some may call his values “old school,” Van Dyke certainly remains in touch with the latest in technology and demonstrates a type of passion for its capabilities. He happily discussed the mathematical implications of predictive texting in an interview, noting the concept of algorithms behind the function. Meanwhile, always the Apple enthusiast, his cell phone of choice is the iPhone 4, and he continues his own debate on the potential purchase of Apple’s other latest and greatest gadget: the iPad.

“I’m trying to figure out how the iPad fits into my life…and I think I’ve figured it out,” said Van Dyke, who would like to use the Apple tablet gadget as a lightweight alternative for a laptop in the years to come.

Students may have noticed that the principal’s space in the parking lot is now occupied by a motorcycle–a 2001 Yamaha V-Star 650. Additionally, Van Dyke proudly notes that he has a private pilot’s license, something he aspired to since his teen years.