Hughson High School is getting a new principal with the retirement of Debra Davis, who is retiring after more than three decades in the district as a teacher, coach and administrator.
A block away, Hughson Elementary School will also be getting a new principal when the 2019-20 school year starts on July 1.
Loren Lighthall was hired as the Hughson High School principal by the Hughson Unified School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday, April 9. During the meeting they also ratified the appointment of Megan Reisz as Hughson Elementary School principal. Reisz succeeds Eric Peterson, who is moving to Fox Road Elementary School.
Lighthall comes to Hughson from Paradise, the Northern California city destroyed by last fall’s tragic Camp Fire. For the past two years Lighthall has been principal of Paradise High School which was fire and smoke damaged. The fire disrupted power and water supplies to Paradise so classes were moved 30 minutes away to a facility in Chico. Like nearly 12,000 other families, Lighthall, his wife and their seven children lost their home. They lived with another family for a while but are now renting an apartment in Chico.
Having a place to call home once again – especially in a tight-knit community like Hughson – was a big draw for Lighthall.
“We began to look at several areas in California and knew that we wanted to continue to live in a rural area,” said Lighthall. “Hughson fits that bill and also has big city conveniences very close.”
The native of upstate New York worked in large school districts in Southern California before moving to Paradise.
“My kids come to school with me (I have a graduating senior and an incoming ninth-grader), so the place where I work is very important,” he said. “I have to believe in the school because my kids will go there and Hughson has some amazing things in place. It seems to be a school that the community can easily support.
“I had to pick between Hughson and two other offers and the thing that stood out was that Hughson has a lot of longtime employees that seem to enjoy their work. That speaks to the morale and workplace environment in place and something that is easy to want to be a part of.”
Hughson Superintendent Brenda Smith said Lighthall’s “passion for students and forming relationships with the school and community” separated him from other contenders during the search process.
“We are confident that he will be a great fit for our community and look forward to the work he and the HHS staff will do together for our students,” she said.
Reisz jumped at the chance to become principal since she and her husband own a ranchette south of Hughson and because all three of their childen attend Hughson schools.
“The community has really embraced us when we moved there,” said Reisz, who has been principal at John Muir Elementary School in Modesto for three years. “Our kids have met some great families and made some great friends.”
Reisz previously worked as an elementary teacher in Oakdale and San Jose.
Smith said Reisz is a “a great match for Hughson Elementary” and noted that her background “is in elementary education and she has a strong skill set in early literacy and our adopted curriculum. Being a primary elementary teacher and administrator has given her the ability to lead a staff and school successfully.”
A meet-and-greet will be scheduled later this spring to introduce the community to the new school leaders.