As two longstanding education leaders prepare to say their goodbyes and begin retirement, two new principals are ready to begin their journeys.
Ben Sherley, director of educational services at Kern High School District, and Megan Gregor, director of instructional services at the district, are the incoming principals at Bakersfield and West high schools, respectively. The positions are effective July 1.
Sherley succeeds BHS's principal of 20 years, David Reese, and Gregor succeeds Terrie Bernardin, who has been at West for a total of 29 years.
While both Gregor and Sherley have filled a variety of roles at KHSD — from being English teachers to assistant principals to district officials — they both share an excitement for interacting with students on a daily basis and working their dream job.
Becoming the principal at West High School is homecoming for Gregor, who previously served as assistant principal.
"I love our staff and school and kids," she said. "To return to a school site where I developed relationships and know our campus and demographics is really exciting."
When it was announced Feb. 4 she would be succeeding Bernardin, Gregor was with her family and "beyond excited" because she always hoped she would have an opportunity to lead a school.
Education was an obvious career choice for Gregor, she said, because both of her parents worked in the field. Her father was the principal at Columbia Elementary in the Fruitvale School District for 22 years, and her mother was the director of special education for Fruitvale School District.
"My dinner conversations as a young girl were about leadership and education," she said. "I was in awe of how they handled certain issues but with a certain heart and going out of their way to help their staff."
After graduating from Centennial High School, she attended Cal State Monterey Bay and Claremont Graduate University.
Gregor began her teaching career at Golden Valley High School as an English teacher. She was the co-chair of the English department, and after a few years became assistant dean.
"I absolutely loved the community and students. I taught a variety of courses and worked with English learners," Gregor explained. "They taught me more than I ever taught them — perseverance and commitment."
Afterward she headed to Ridgeview High School for a year and a half to serve as the dean of students, which was her administrative-level entry point.
Gregor worked her way up to assistant principal of administration at Foothill and assistant principal of instruction for three years at West.
"That allowed me to really become engaged with instruction and curriculum and teachers," she said. "I have a tremendous respect for the teachers at West High because they work collaboratively, free of judgement, to build engaging lessons where we’re doing hands-on activities where students can learn."
Though she has been to several different high school, Gregor said she "falls in love with the students, staff and community" wherever she goes.
After West High School, she headed for the KHSD office and served in the communications department and is now director of instructional services. In her current role, she focuses on professional development and supporting teachers throughout the district.
As she prepares to return to West High School July 1, Gregor said one of her focuses as principal will be on school-wide literacy.
"One of the best gifts we can give people is to be literate — whether it's writing, reading, research, being computer literate," she said. "We want to teach them how to think critically, question and encourage the inquisitive nature of the mind, listen and articulate our beliefs."
She also wants to create special moments with students, faculty and staff members.
This past school year, West played against Ridgeview in a baseball game. A student with special needs was at bat, and the Ridgeview coach called a time out to inform the West coach about the student. West players encouraged the Ridgeview student, and he hit a home run. Gregor said that was "a huge moment of pride."
"When we talk about success, I’m most proud when staff members create special moments, even more so when kids create moments, and when others feel valued and appreciated," she said.
The saying "Once a Driller, always a Driller" has come full circle for Bakersfield High School alumnus Sherley, who said it has always been his dream to return to his old stomping ground.
"Anybody in education wants to go back to their alma mater," he said. "There’s a lot of teachers that graduated from BHS and being able to go back in any capacity to BHS was surreal."
Though he did not have any teachers in the family, Sherley knew he wanted to pursue education by the fourth grade and be a mentor to students in the classroom and as a coach. His dream was to be an English teacher and wrestling coach, a sport he was involved in since fourth grade.
After attending Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield, Sherley's dream became a reality at West High School. For nine and a half years he taught English and coached the wrestling team.
"It was the best time of my life. I love the school and kids," he said.
Sherley said his favorite moments as a teacher and coach were when he would see "the lightbulb turn on."
"They grasp the skill or concept, and you see the excitement. You can visually experience them growing, whether it’s mentally or athletically," he added.
Sherley later earned a doctorate in educational leadership from Fresno State and went into administrative roles at Centennial High School as dean of students and assistant principal of instruction. Afterward he transitioned to the district office where he has been the director of educational services the last four years.
The biggest difference Sherley noticed was the impact he had on students when he was a teacher versus as an administrator.
"Teachers are with them 180 days and having that much exposure, you have that ability to have that influence on them," he said. "You don’t really have that same time with a student or with a class."
He was hoping to get back to a school site, and when Reese announced his retirement in December and an opportunity opened up, Sherley said it was a surreal experience.
"'Principal' was synonymous with David Reese, and he’s been a figure head for years," he said.
But it became real. Sherley said he immediately thought of his father, who passed away in December, when he heard the news. His father was "a proud Driller fan ... and I thought of him and how proud he would be."
BHS, with its 125-year history, is rich in tradition, and Sherley plans to continue carry that on. One of Reese's bucket list items was to create a BHS Alumni Association before he retired, and with that officially up and running, Sherley said he will continue that "Once a Driller, always a Driller" motto.
He is also looking forward to expanding the number of electives available for students and implementing dual enrollment classes so students can start earning college credit while they are in high school.
"To earn college credit in high school is beneficial, and they can walk out of high school with their college transcript already started," he said. "The saying 'The sky is the limit' really is true."