This is the fifth in a series of articles featuring the principals of the Delano Union School District.
Delano Union School District’s longest-serving principals share neighboring campuses and instill their love of learning and serving the community to their students, staff and parents. Harvest Elementary School’s Christine Chapman and La Viña Middle School’s Jennifer Townson both started in the district as teachers and moved through the ranks to lead their respective campuses.
Hailing from northern California, Chapman is in her 24th year in the district, and 30th year in education. She started her career in a Fresno County school district after graduating from California State University, Fresno, before coming to Delano. She taught first, fourth, fifth and sixth grades, and also served as the district’s GATE and Mathematics Resource, before moving into administration as vice principal at Morningside and Terrace elementary schools. She later led Morningside as principal before moving into her current position at Harvest.
“I started my career in a very large school district,” the principal said, “and what I love about Delano is the small-town family atmosphere.”
Chapman appreciates how district administration is so accessible and supportive.
“We are encouraged at sites to be creative and put programs into place that are going to support the students we serve,” she said.
The principal stated that the team at her school has developed a positive school culture focused on student success. Ongoing interventions have been put in place, which serve students both during and outside the school day.
“We are prepared to do whatever it takes to move students forward on their educational journey,” she said.
Harvest staff strive to promote a rigorous academic program while making learning fun in a safe environment that encourages risk taking. These hard-working educators also provide students with a variety of extracurricular activities to support the whole child.
“We are grateful for the parent and community support that allows us to go above and beyond for the students at Harvest,” Chapman said.
Looking forward to the future, Harvest’s leader said her campus exposes students to 21st century content through Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) Days.
Chapman also represents the area on the state education front. In 2018, she began serving as Commissioner for the California Department of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission. Her term will continue through 2022.
Chapman has been married to her husband, Ken, a high school educator, for 26 years. They have two sons, Ryan, 20, and Ethan, 14. Ryan is following in his mother’s footsteps, attending CSU Fresno.
Growing up in nearby McFarland, Townson was familiar with the cultures and traditions of Delano prior to her employment in the district, but did not first pursue education as a career. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications from California State University Bakersfield, she had a life-long dream to become a news reporter. First employed by Bakersfield’s Buckley Broadcasting, Townson stated that she began thinking that something was missing, feeling as though anyone could complete the job she was doing.
“Teaching was also an interest of mine entering college,” the principal said, “but I had to follow my passion.”
After working for a few years in her dream position, Townson knew that it was not what she was meant to do. She found the missing piece in her life after her first day in her classroom at Fremont Elementary School.
“As I drove home that day, I felt complete,” she said. “My heart was full, and I was certain I had found what I was meant to do!”
During her 8 1/2 years at Fremont, she taught kindergarten and first and fourth grade. She also worked as site resource teacher at Morningside School (where she first worked with Chapman) for a year before she moved into administration as vice principal at La Viña, then at Cecil Avenue Middle School. She then returned to La Viña, where she has served as principal for 11 years.
Considering it a second home, Townson loves working at La Viña. She considers the staff and families with whom she works family.
“I appreciate the care and concern that each staff member has for every student,” she said. “We take care of them like they are our own.”
La Viña’s leader appreciates the trust from the families, and the staff with which she works.
“Their trust and support allow me to be the best I can be for them,” she said.
Townson has had some amazing experiences as an educator, and continues to be thankful for every adventure and experience in this profession. One of the most rewarding aspects is when former students visit her and share their successes.
“The most rewarding of these is when my former students return and work alongside me as a teacher,” the principal said.
Townson has been married for 20 years to her husband, Kurt, also a McFarland native. They have two children, Drew, 15, and Mia, 12.
Chapman and Townson are working in conjunction to create a shared technology lab to serve their campuses. Further information will be released on this collaboration.
Mike Bledsoe is the director of child development at Delano Union School District.